Over at my new blog Innings Eaters where I write about the top MLB News, things are going well. In only 2 days I’m watching my ranking climb upwards through the site and the unique views top more than I deserve.
Each week beginning right now, hopefully on Sundays, I’ll update you with some of the top posts from the site. If you also happen to read this and are interested in joining the team, please let me know. We will have room for more writers!
Since I’ll be writing there very frequently, I will not post them individually here as it takes a little too much time. Don’t worry though, with plenty of baseball coming up there’s something to write about somewhere each day and I’ll be back with more exclusive action on The Cleat Report tomorrow.
The 2014-2015 offseason for the New York Mets is best highlighted by the signing of outfielder/first baseman Michael Cuddyer. Just two years ago Cuddyer won a batting title with the Colorado Rockies. A great addition to a lineup lacking offensive prowess, the Mets may think he’s a much better player than he actually is because they have decided to get a bigger scoreboard.
Why get a bigger scoreboard when your team’s biggest problem is scoring runs? The Mets must like seeing large zeroes broadcast to the fans.
As much of a Mets’ hater as I am, they do have a good pitching rotation. This still doesn’t change the fact that we’re going to be reminded in bolder and larger font how ineffective their bats are in 2015 and beyond.
Maybe, the plan is to make it more obvious when Matt Harvey finally does pitch that no-hitter they keep talking about.
The Nationals apparently were going to receive the package of Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar that the Tampa Bay Rays sent to the Oakland Athletics. Desmond would have gone to the Mets and they would have sent a couple of prospects to the Rays to complete the three-team deal. This information comes after Zobrist is no longer available and the Nationals spent plenty of time denying they had any interest in Zobrist.
Had the Nationals made the trade I think they would be better. Desmond isn’t that much better than Zobrist – if at all. Plus they would have gotten Escobar who would have become the new shortstop with Zobrist playing second base. Zobrist would also have a good opportunity at starting the season in the outfield for Jayson Werth if he was not ready on opening day.
Since the deal never happened we don’t know whose fault it is that it didn’t. The Rays may have just liked the prospects the A’s had better and didn’t feel like waiting around for their National League East counterparts to finalize everything.
So instead of the Nationals and Mets getting better, the two enemies may have sabotaged each other.
The captain of the New York Mets and a hater of the fences at CitiField, David Wright remains one of the best third basemen in baseball in spite of the struggles. I hate the Mets, but I did meet Wright years ago and he was a nice guy. So feel a little bad that I’m paying tribute to him; just don’t expect any gushing.
Wright is a very talented base runner with some speed even though he plays a position that traditionally does not require it. Wright’s stolen base totals and percentage showcase this talent. In 11 seasons, Wright has stolen 191 bases. In 2007, he stole a career high 34 and was only caught 5 times. The number of stolen bases each season has slowed down since however we can still expect him to reach double digits when healthy.
To even things out with my Mets’ hate, let’s discuss Wright’s strikeout numbers. When given the chance to get enough at-bats, Wright always surpasses 100 for the year. Even in 2011 when he played in just 102 games Wright had 97 strikeouts. There doesn’t seem to be any direct trend or correlation on why he seems to strikeout at a larger rate other than his walk numbers. When Wright walks 80 or more times, his strikeouts are between 110-120. When he walks less, he strikes out more. This could simply be a matter of not having a good eye or patience.
All-Star Selections: 7
When Wright is having a halfway decent season we can expect him to get the selection to play third base for the National League in the All-Star Game. He has already gone there 7 times in 11 seasons. The only year he should have gone and didn’t was 2005 when he hit 27 home runs, had 102 RBIs, and hit .306 with a .388 on-base percentage.
CitiField has not been kind to Wright or the Mets in general. Opening in 2009, Wright has seen his offensive numbers drop off. His home run totals and RBIs had been climbing each year at Shea Stadium. Ever since the team moved to the new ballpark he has been rather inconsistent. Only in 2010 when he hit 29 home runs and had 103 RBIs has Wright looked back to normal. From 2009-2014, Wright is averaging only 17 home runs per season in 134 games. From 2004-2008 in an average of 141 games Wright was hitting 26 home runs per season.
Splits Versus Righties and Lefties
If only every pitcher could throw left handed then Wright would not need to die and go to heaven; he would already be there. His career average against right handed batters is a very good .285. Against left handed pitchers though, he’s hitting .340. Even more impressive might be his 233 walks against left handed pitchers and only 216 strikeouts. Should Wright ever find himself old and less effective, he will always have a job in Major League Baseball platooning with another and taking his hacks against south paws.
Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, or Kang Jung-ho depending on what part of the world you are from, will be the latest Asian important to the United States arriving with the mission to play some baseball. Since he will be coming here after the Winter Meetings when several teams have already solidified their shortstop, there are fewer options for him to consider.
Nevertheless, plenty of teams around the MLB still need a shortstop. Where will he go?
We can immediately count out teams like the New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs, and others who have already picked up a new shortstop, have an already established superstar, or currently employ a surplus at the position.
The immediate answer to the question of where Kang goes is the New York Mets. Playing in New York, they have money to spend. Wilmer Flores is also not a dependable everyday player so it’s up to the Mets to take a risk on Kang.
There are additional reasons to like him other than what he can do for your team in the standings. Kang brings in a new audience for whichever team he signs for. We have seen in the past how a foreign-born player can increase the fan-base significantly with people whose ancestors, or they themselves, hail from the same country. Kang to the Mets or anywhere else means more Korean fans in the stands. This equals more money even if he’s a bust.
And we know how much money matters even in a game.
Take for instance in the NHL where Latvian-born Zemgus Girgenson leads in the All-Star voting despite not being the best player. We have seen similar trends in the NBA when guys like Yao Ming received more votes than anybody else just because they had an entire nation headed to the ballots in their favor.
Not that I believe the Mets or any other team should sign Kang specifically for the promotional benefits. This is just one of those intangibles to also consider when teams begin to make excuses as to why he’s not worth the investment.
Two other teams interested in Kang are the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants. Both have their abundance of an Asian community and I see Kang being a good fit in both places from that standpoint. From a strictly baseball stance, he would be a fool to sign with the Athletics. The defending champion Giants are a much better option and have a lot more going for them. Let’s not forget Kang is already 27-years-old. By the time the A’s are good again, his best days may be over.
Unlike most shortstops in baseball today, Kang is known for his power. He won the league’s MVP Award last season in the Korean Baseball Organization with a .354 batting average, 39 home runs, and 115 RBIs. It should be noted, the KBO is known for being an offense-oriented league. So assume these are the numbers he would put up at Coors Field if the Rockies were to ever trade Troy Tulowitzki.
Kang will post as early as tomorrow and the bidding can begin for his services. He’s the perfect age to jump right into a team ready for a pennant race. It will just be a matter of him making the right decision on what organization he would like to be a part of.
In the 1990s and into the 2000s it was commonly believed that the American League East was the superior division. Thanks to the dynasties the New York Yankees had followed by a lot of success from the Boston Red Sox, it became an incredibly competitive group of five teams.
The Yankees have since devolved from those days at the top of the mountain and the Red Sox are a bit of a mystery. The best division in baseball still may be the AL East as you can never count out those two organizations and suddenly the Baltimore Orioles are great while the Toronto Blue Jays have been getting to that same point. Plus, do you really think the Tampa Bay Rays won’t be good ever again? They have been to the World Series more recently than both the Orioles and Blue Jays and will be back there again at some point.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the worst division in baseball. None of the six to choose from have really set themselves as absolutely dreadful although the American League Central may be it since the 2005 Chicago White Sox are the only champion from the division since it came to exist.
Historically, the divisions and their champions breakdown like this:
AL East: 8 championships
AL Central: 1 championship
AL West: 1 championship
NL East: 4 championships
NL Central: 2 championships
NL West: 4 championships
***It should be noted, it was the 1995 season when baseball was broken down into the three divisions in each league. It would be far too tedious and require a lot more reason (something I lack) to fully analyze the history of Major League Baseball. Plus, it used to just be the American League and National League. How do you breakdown something that didn’t even exist?
Now I could go through the win totals from the 2014 season and equal them up for each division. Then to be extra mathematical, I could reveal my own win total predictions for 2015 and average them to find a very scientific answer.
I won’t though.
It’s dubious to do the obvious and rely on numbers so instead I will point out that each division in the American League and the National League Central all had 3 teams finish with a record above .500. The National League West had 2 teams do it and the National League East only had 1 team with a winning record.
This is a fair assessment and one you could agree with; referring to the National League East as the worst division in baseball. Ignoring the Washington Nationals, I don’t see the Atlanta Braves as one worthy of contending in 2015, the New York Mets are still several position players short of allowing their pitching staff to benefit, the Miami Marlins don’t go beyond Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, and the Philadelphia Phillies are the reason why I’m so bitter.
It honestly wouldn’t surprise me to see all four of those teams finish with fewer wins in 2015 than they had in 2014. It’s pretty difficult to do though because of the unbalanced schedule. Instead I see the Marlins and Phillies taking the brunt of the losses and a possible 82+ win season for the Mets. My fingers want to break themselves typing that.
The NL East has also thus far made the fewest improvements. The biggest moves might be the Mets acquiring Michael Cuddyer or the Braves signing Nick Markakis. Neither move is exactly one that will ultimately be remembered by non-fans of the respective teams.
My pick for the worst division in baseball is the one I pay attention to most. It’s sad to see, but it has been this way ever since I can remember. The NL East has traditionally always had at least one horrible team in it. Remember the Montreal Expos?
For the teams in the NL Central and West and even the American League from all over thanks to expanded interleague play, a trip from Miami up to Queens will be a lot of fun in 2015. Hopefully, the NL East does a bit better than the NBA’s horrendous Atlantic Conference.
What’s more valuable than a bucket of used baseballs yet still less than an actual human being? Apparently, it’s what the Oakland Athletics had to give up to acquire first baseman Ike Davis.
After being designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates a few days earlier, Davis was shipped to Oakland for a better international bonus slot.
The way I understand the international bonus slots is it works similar to the draft. The difference is it restricts teams from paying more for a player than allowed. For instance, the worst team in baseball is allowed to spent $5.8 million. The second worst team would be allowed $5.6 million. The third worst team would be allowed to pay $5.4 million. Those would continue all the way to the bottom aka the best team from last season. It’s a fair way to balance things out and still allows the good teams to work around it.
So now you know what Davis is worth: the potential to pay an international player.
Onto more important matters, what can the A’s expect from Davis in 2015?
They already signed Billy Butler who looks to be used exclusively as a designated hitter now. I really liked that deal. Butler’s power numbers were down last season, but he continues to get on base. I see Butler having a bounce back season in 2015 with the Athletics and the doubles piling up.
For Davis, his major league career has been highlighted by some very bad seasons with the New York Mets. It’s impossible for me to hear his name without imagining WFAN’s Steve Somers criticizing his play in his disgusting voice. Associating any player with Somers is definitely a difficult handicap to get over.
However, looking at Davis’s statistics, he may be a decent fit for the Athletics. He does have power and the environment change could be good for him. A former first round pick in 2008, the 2015 season might be one where Davis gets back to some semblance of what he should have been.
A career .240 hitter, Davis does have a career .336 on-base percentage. He achieves this by drawing walks. In 2014, Davis struck out 78 times while still managing to walk 63 times. This is a fascinating rate considering he hit only .233. It did wonders for his on-base percentage though, which at .344 was higher than a lot of really good players. Although this was only in 360 at-bats, the on-base percentage last year was better than notable guys like Dustin Pedroia, Todd Frazier, and his new teammate Josh Donaldson. Enough at-bats at the continued pace he was on and Davis would have had a top 50 on-base percentage.
The big change with Davis on the roster is what happens to Brandon Moss. A man who played first base, left field, right field, and slid into the designated hitter position–Moss will probably be playing a lot more left field in 2015 if Josh Reddick remains healthy. This is assuming Davis plays well though since the A’s could always put Moss in to substitute at first. Nothing is of course set with the Athletics and if 2014 is any indication, they will not be afraid to platoon several players.
I don’t believe Davis will save the Athletics. The numbers he has though, it’s hard to go against him producing favorably.