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Posts Tagged ‘Colorado Rockies’

This past week has truly been a time for mediocre pitchers to shine.  I cannot remember the last time when in the span of a week we saw two starting pitchers throw complete game shutouts in which they allowed only one and two hits apiece, no walks, and still only managed to strike out three batters each. 

First up we have Jason Marquis of the Colorado Rockies.  On June 29th, I was looking at my fantasy baseball team and saw that he was starting the next day in Dodgerland.  Expecting a blow-out, I benched him.  He proceeded to limit the Dodgers to two hits with 86 pitches (66 strikes).  It’s not every day you see a pitcher with a career ERA of 4.47 toss a two-hitter against the team with the best record in the majors, but that is what happens when you induce seventeen ground balls.  To top it off, Marquis followed this outing by shutting out the lowly Nationals for eight innings, helping him earn a spot on his first NL All-Star team.

Then last night, Jarrod “Seattle literally tried to give me away to the Yankees last year” Washburn chucked a one-hitter against the Orioles.  Now you are probably thinking, ya but it is the Orioles.  However, their offence is actually decent this year.  It is their terrible pitching that is holding them back.  Washburn’s line was even more perplexing, as it took him 110 pitches to sit down twenty-seven O’s.  He also gave up thirteen fly-balls, and for a guy with a career HR/FB rate of 8.7%, he is lucky one of those did not leave the yard. 

These two outings are just one of the many reasons I love baseball.  As much as the sport has become dominated by statistical analysis and expected outcomes, something like this could happen.  Retreads like Marquis can put together masterful two-hitters.  Give me a call when Luke Ridnour drops 40 points or Donald Brashear scores a hat-trick.

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A couple of days ago I wrote an article for Inside The Majors discussing the future of Albert Pujols in St. Louis.  As much as Cards fans hate to admit it, the end of the 2011 season is quickly approaching and Pujols could be gone.  While I covered all of the factors that affect the Cardinals, I did not discuss in depth something that applies to every Major League club.

“The other big question is whether it is even worth it for a team to spend 25-30% of their budget on one player, but that is a story for another day.”

That day has come.  While it is very rare for a player to make more than 25% of a team’s total payroll, it could be the reality in St. Louis, with Pujols eating $25 million out of approximately a $100 million payroll.  I want to look at the success rate of teams where they have a player who takes up more than 20% of the team’s financial resources.  After examining the numbers from 2006-2008, I lowered my threshold to 18%, still very high, to get a larger sample size of data.  All salary information is from USA Today, and these were my discoveries:

Over the last three years there have been eighteen occasions where a single player has made up over 18% of a team’s total salary.

20082008 25%

 

  

  

  

  

  

 

2007

2007 25%

 

  

 

 

 2006

2006 25%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, these teams as a whole have not been very successful, with an overall record of 1398-1517 for a winning percentage of .480.  The only playoff clubs among the group are the 2007 Rockies, and the 2006 Tigers, A’s and Padres.  That means 22% of these clubs have made the playoffs, while the rest of the teams in the league made the playoffs at a 28% clip.  Not a huge drop off, but significant enough.

There is also a lot of repetition among the teams, with the Rockies appearing all three years, the Royals with three players in two years, and the A’s, Marlins, Pirates and Giants all making two appearances each.  Other than the Giants, these are all small-budget teams, and it does not take much to eat up 20% of their payroll.  You will never see a Yankee make 20% of the team’s salary simply because the denominator of $200M is way too big.  On the other end of the spectrum, Willis ate up 29% of the Marlins salary in 2006 while only making $4.35M

So far, I have shown that these eighteen teams have performed below the major-league average in terms of winning percentage in playoff appearances.  However, what I have failed to mention is the total payrolls of these teams.  If you sort all of the MLB teams by total payroll each year and rank them, the eighteen teams on this list rank an average of twenty-two.  The 2006 teams are an average of $16M below league average, the 2007 teams are 20$ million under, and the 2008 squads are a whopping $31 million under the league average.  Only three of them ( ’06 Giants, Astros and Tigers) are in the top half, and thirteen out of eighteen are in the bottom third.  These teams are actually quite successful considering their financial limitations.  If you were to tell me I could run a team for $20 million less than the average but only have a 6% chance less of making the playoffs, I think I would take you up on the offer.

I honestly thought going into this that I would discover that it would almost without fail be disastrous to have one player take up a huge chunk of your payroll.  There are occasions where this is true, most notably the 2008 Royals who spent 40% of their money on Meche and Guillen, two barely above average players.  However, it is also very possible for these small market teams with one high-paid star, like Todd Helton, to succeed.

After my analysis, the original point from my Inside the Majors article stands.  John Mozeliak, get Pujols locked up.  If there is one player that is worth of that much money and such a large percentage of your payroll, it is him.    

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Tonight was the first 111 picks of the 2009 MLB Draft.  The first round was broadcast on MLB.com, adding a new dimension of excitement to the event.  Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting picks of the evening.

#4 – Tony Sanchez, Catcher – Pittsburgh Pirates

This was a huge stretch at fourth overall for the Pirates, as he was not projected to go anywhere near the top five.  He led Boston College with a .346 average and tied for the team lead with 14 home runs.  However, this power is not projected to continue in the Majors, which is not surprising for a catcher.  A solid defender, Sanchez will be a reliable starting catcher if he develops his bat and stays in shape, which has been a problem in the past.  This is not what you want with such a high draft pick, and GM Neal Huntington does not seem to be righting the ship in Pittsburgh. 

#11 – Tyler Matzek, LHP – Colorado Rockies

Matzek was considered by many to be a top talent on the mound, but big contract demands caused him to slide down the draft board as the seventh pitcher drafted.  Maybe he was hoping to drop to a big market team that would meet his demands, but he was nabbed by the Rockies at number eleven.  This was probably not what he was hoping for as pitchers do not exactly salivate over the opportunity to pitch at Coors Field.  He also loves hitting, which would give him extra incentive to play for Oregon rather than turning professional.  I could see him being this year’s Aaron Crow, and Colorado may have difficulty getting him to sign on the dotted line.

#12 – Aaron Crow, RHP – Kansas City Royals

After being drafted ninth overall by the Washington Nationals last year and failing to sign, Crow spent the year pitching for the Forth Worth Cats.  He does not have nearly as much leverage this year, as it is unlikely that he would improve his stock by going back for another year of independent ball.  This is a great pick by the Royals.  They are getting a premium talent that they will be able to sign because they will have the leverage in negotiations.  He should join Greinke within the next couple of years to give the Royals a strong 1-2 punch. 

#19 – Shelby Miller, RHP – St. Louis Cardinals

As a high school pitcher, Miller is obviously still several years away.  However, scouts love his mid 90’s fastball and potential plus curveball.  Some seasoning in the minors will also give him time to develop a third pitch.  While high school pitchers are generally considered risky picks, I like this choice by the Cardinals.  He was arguably the highest potential pitcher left on the board, and the Cards cannot continue to rely on reclamation projects like Kyle Lohse and Todd Wellemeyer to fill out their rotation.  Miller is a step in the right direction.

Pick #34: Rex Brothers, Rockies

Pick #34: Rex Brothers, Rockies

 #34 – Rex Brothers, LHP – Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have another quality pitcher fall into their laps in the supplemental round.  Brothers was expected to be a first round pick but dropped to the Rockies at number thirty-four.  His fastball can reach the high 90’s and he has a devastating slider.  This pick is not surprising, as the Rockies have spent the last three years using their top draft picks to stockpile pitchers.  With the lack of interest from free agent pitchers in Colorado, it is up to them to develop their talent from within.  Brothers fits this mold perfectly.

 Max Stassi, Catcher – Undrafted on Day One

Stassi was projected as one of the top catchers available and arguably the top high school catcher, but somehow went undrafted through the first 111 picks.  While his stock had fallen slightly and some expected him to be drafted in the second round instead of the first, it is still surprising to see a guy who had a personal workout with the Red Sox go undrafted thus far.  With the Nationals and Padres on deck to begin day two, expect Stassi to be off the board early.  If not, expect to see him exercise that full ride at UCLA.

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The current economic recession has proven that professional sports are not immune to swings in the economy.  Every team has their own personal attendance pattern based on the success of the team, success of other professional sports team in the city, new ballparks, and a myriad of other factors.  However, it has been a long time since we have seen essentially every team suffer a simultaneous drop in attendance.  So far this year, MLB games are averaging 29,082 fans per game, which is about 66% of capacity.  This is down from the past two seasons, which averaged 32,516 (72% capacity) and 32,770 (72% capacity) respectively.  Not only is this a 12% drop in the number of bodies in the ballpark, but an even greater decrease in revenues.  It is the premium seats and corporate boxes that are going unsold, which are a main source of revenue for major league teams. 

Two of the main offenders are the Yankees and Mets, which is especially curious considering teams that build new ballparks generally realize an increase in attendance, known as the Honeymoon period.  However, these teams gravely overestimated how much fans would be willing to pay to watch a ball game, which has led to entire empty sections.  The Yankees are down 8,500 per game, while the Mets have suffered a 4,500 decrease per game. 

While this decrease in attendance probably will not deter the free-spending New Yorkers, there is another team that is in much bigger trouble.  The Detroit Tigers have seen their attendance plummet to 28,126 from 39,538 only a year ago.  The demise of the auto manufacturer’s has hit the Detroit area very hard, and even the best team in hockey, the Red Wings, are not immune to attendance problems.  With one of the highest payrolls in baseball, I would not be surprised to see owner Mike Ilitch shed some salary this summer.  This is very unfortunate as the Tigers have come out strong this season, and are leading the AL Central by 1.5 games.

Oops

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Some other teams of note:

Washington Nationals: Down 8,300

Atlanta Braves: Down 6,800

Houston Astros: Down 5,700

Colorado Rockies: Down 5,500

However, I am not all about doom and gloom here at MLB Insights.  The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies are up 1,200 for obvious reasons.  The bandwagon is filling up in Kansas City with the Royals averaging an extra 2,400 per game, although this should regress amidst the teams eight game losing streak.  Strong performances in the Lonestar state have led to a 2,800 per game increase for the Rangers.  It would be great to see that franchise finally win a playoff series and shed the stench of the A-Rod contract.

We can only hope that the economy is on the road to recovery and fans are able to once again afford tickets to the sport they love.  If we can take one positive from this, it is that other than the Yankees, the recession helped bring free agent contracts back under control.  Only in 2008 would the guy who broke the single season saves record get $12 million per year, not a whole lot more than BJ Ryan got two years prior.

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