Showing posts with label Pablo Sandoval. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pablo Sandoval. Show all posts

Monday, November 24, 2014

Here's why the Adam LaRoche signing is worth the risk for the White Sox

The deal hasn't been announced yet, but reports over the weekend indicated the White Sox have agreed to terms with first baseman Adam LaRoche on a two-year, $25 million contract. The left-handed slugger is expected to share duties at first base and designated hitter with Jose Abreu.

The signing of LaRoche, 35, has been called foolish in some quarters. While I'm not necessarily printing playoff tickets as a result of this move, I don't blame the Sox for taking the risk on the veteran middle-of-the-order hitter. I'll explain why.

To start off our discussion, let's do some player comparison. Which of these five hitters would you say is the best?:

Player A: .283/.369/.448, 35 2Bs, 13 HRs, 71 RBIs
Player B: .219/.337/.415, 18 2Bs, 22 HRs, 64 RBIs
Player C: .259/.362/.455, 19 2Bs, 26 HRs, 92 RBIs
Player D: .231/.281/.405, 22 2Bs, 21 HRs, 58 RBIs
Player E: .279/.324/.415, 26 2Bs, 16 HRs, 73 RBIs

Without knowing the names of the players (these are all 2014 stats), who would you go with? Maybe Player A? Or how about Player C? I wouldn't take Players B or D. Player B's batting average is too low, and Player D's on-base percentage is by far the worst of the group. For that matter, Player E's OBP leaves something to be desired, as well, and that slugging percentage isn't the greatest either.

For me, I'd have to take Player A. Player A hits for the best average, has the most doubles and is solid in the OBP and slugging components. But Player C is worthwhile, too, because he leads the group in slugging, home runs and RBIs, and is a close second in OBP to Player A.

Player C is LaRoche. Player A is Hanley Ramirez, who just agreed to terms on a four-year, $88 million contract with the Boston Red Sox.

Now, Ramirez never would have fit in with the White Sox' plans. He's a right-handed hitter, and the overly right-handed Sox were looking for a lefty bat. But, I inserted him into this discussion because you could make the case he was the best hitter available in free agency after Victor Martinez re-signed with Detroit.

Ramirez is a better hitter than LaRoche, but not drastically so, and you could argue LaRoche is a better value at $12.5 million per year than the oft-injured Ramirez is at $22 million per year.

Who is Player E, you ask? That would be the other guy the Red Sox are reportedly going to sign: Pablo Sandoval. Boston is giving out a reported $90 million over five years to a guy who had a .739 OPS last year. Good luck with that. Sandoval was a postseason hero in San Francisco, and his fans wear panda suits, but I'm not convinced he's a better hitter over 162 games than LaRoche, who had an .817 OPS in 2014. I do know that LaRoche costs about $5.5 million less a year than Sandoval on the current market.

Player B is Adam Dunn, who was the Sox' DH for most of last season and the guy LaRoche is essentially replacing on the roster. Player D is Dayan Viciedo, who was the Sox' best internal option at DH had the club not acted in free agency. I'm not going to spend any time telling you why LaRoche is better than Dunn and Viciedo. Just look at the numbers and see for yourselves.

The Sox needed an upgrade at DH, preferably a left-handed one, so they signed one. It's not an overpay when you consider the contracts other free-agent hitters such as Ramirez and Sandoval received, and LaRoche is clearly a better option than the players the Sox had internally. That makes the signing worth the risk.

Let me leave you with this parting thought: There were only seven left-handed hitters in Major League Baseball who hit 25 or more home runs in 2014. Only one of those seven was a free agent.

The White Sox just signed him.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What if Alex Gordon had tried to score in the bottom of the ninth in World Series Game 7?

Let's start with this: Kansas City Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele made the right call when he threw up the stop sign and held Alex Gordon at third base with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night in Game 7 of the World Series.

Let's also give credit to the San Francisco Giants, who secured their third World Series title in five years with a 3-2 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. In particular, we give props to San Francisco left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who fired five innings of two-hit shutout relief to earn his third victory of the Series. He is not only a worthy World Series MVP, he deserves credit for one of the best postseason performances of all-time. Who would have thought he could come back on just two days rest and pitch five dominant innings like that? Not me. That's a helluva job by him.

But, I want to focus on the play that created all the drama in the bottom of the ninth inning. Leading 3-2, Bumgarner easily retired the first two hitters, and Gordon was at the plate representing Kansas City's final hope. He ended up hitting a sinking liner toward left-center field.

Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco got caught in between. He seemed unsure whether to dive and attempt a game-ending catch, or pull up, play the ball on a bounce and concede a single. He did neither. He pulled up and tried to play it on a hop, but the ball skipped past him and rolled all the way to the wall. San Francisco left fielder Juan Perez was backing up the play, and he bobbled the ball, as well.

By the time Perez's throw back toward the infield reached Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, Gordon - carrying the tying run with him - was cruising toward third base.

Jirschele faced a split-second decision with everything hanging in the balance. Were Gordon's odds of scoring on that play better than the odds of the next hitter (catcher Salvador Perez) getting a game-tying base hit off Baumgarner? The Kansas City coach's answer to that question was "no," and I agree with him.

Crawford has a strong, accurate arm. He already had the ball as Gordon reached third base, and if he had to, he could have relayed it to San Francisco catcher Buster Posey in about two seconds. Gordon has decent speed, but not he's not a burner, and there's no way he would have been able to outrun the ball in that situation. A good relay throw, and he's a dead duck and Jirschele doesn't sleep for a month.

So, Gordon was held at third. Perez popped out to third baseman Pablo Sandoval to end the game, and now the second-guessing has begun.

Even though I agree with the decision to hold Gordon based on logic, there's a big part of me that wishes he would have been sent. On that play, the San Francisco fielders were handling the ball as if it had grease all over it. Could Crawford have executed a good relay throw under that type of pressure, with the outcome of the World Series on the line? We'll never know for sure.

Moreover, would Posey have caught the ball and tagged Gordon out without being called for blocking the plate?

It's an interesting thought: Gordon, Posey and the ball all converging on one spot in front of home plate, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7 of the World Series in a one-run game, with that silly home plate collision rule that nobody understands in effect. Can you imagine the World Series coming down to a replay review of a play at the plate? That would have been outgoing commissioner Bud Selig's worst nightmare.

Man, what if Gordon had tried to score? It might have created a play that would have been talked about for decades.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Giants win the pennant ... and Mike Matheny doesn't

Second-guessing managers is part of the fun of watching baseball -- especially during the postseason -- and we're putting St. Louis Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny on the hot seat tonight.

Here's the situation: Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. The Cardinals trail the San Francisco Giants 3 games to 1 and face a must win. The game is tied 3-3 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. St. Louis must hold or its season is over. And the pitcher Matheny turns to is none other than ... Michael Wacha?

Really? 

Yes, Wacha was one of the postseason heroes for the Cardinals in 2013. He won the NLCS MVP award, in fact. But that was then and this is now. It's been an injury-plagued season for Wacha. He missed two and a half months with a shoulder problem, and he wasn't good enough or healthy enough to make the St. Louis postseason rotation.

Wacha hadn't pitched in a game since Sept. 26, yet there he was to start the bottom of the ninth inning with the season hanging in the balance. Four batters later, the Giants were National League champions.

In fairness, I can't say Wacha didn't look healthy. His fastball touched 98 mph on the Fox Sports 1 radar gun. However, his command was absolutely terrible, which is exactly what you would expect from a pitcher who hadn't seen the mound in nearly three weeks. That's why he shouldn't have been out there.

Pablo Sandoval led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a base hit, and the pressure was on Wacha immediately. One out later, he walked Brandon Belt on four pitches. Then, he fell behind 2-0 to San Francisco left fielder Travis Ishikawa and was forced to challenge him with a fastball. Ishikawa answered that challenge, knocking the ball over the right-field wall for a three-run homer.

Giants win, 6-3. Series over. Season over for St. Louis.

It isn't like Matheny didn't have other options. His starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright, gave him seven innings of two-run ball. Reliever Pat Neshek worked the eighth and surrendered a 3-2 lead, giving up a solo home run to pinch-hitter Michael Morse. Everyone else in the Cardinals bullpen should have been available.

Why not bring in closer Trevor Rosenthal? Or hard-throwing Carlos Martinez? A left-handed reliever such as Marco Gonzales or Randy Choate wouldn't have been a bad call in that inning, either, because Belt and Ishikawa are both left-handed hitters, and Sandoval -- a switch-hitter -- is far less dangerous when he's hitting right-handed.

If Matheny had brought in any of those four relievers, it would have been a defensible move. Instead, he went with Wacha. Terrible choice.

The San Francisco victory sets up an wild-card World Series with the Kansas City Royals. Thanks to the stupid TV networks, we have to wait until Tuesday for play to begin.

Am I the only one who thinks it stinks there won't be any baseball on this weekend?