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Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota Twins’

With The Jays collapsing this year, and the dangling of Roy Halladay on the trade block, it appears that JP Ricciardi’s days in Toronto could be numbered.  Hailed as one of Billy Beane’s golden boys, expectations were high in Toronto when he was hired following the 2001 campaign.  Since then, the Jays have had only once finished above third place in the American League East, and most fans consider his tenure a failure.  I am one of the few who disagree, but unfortunately did not really have any numbers to back myself up. 

I decided to undertake a small project to put some numbers behind my claim. As I was working through the data, I became unsure that I was going to be able to find a solution.  However, the end product gave me the results I wanted.  Given the financial resources relative to their division, the Toronto Blue Jays under JP Ricciardi were outperformed in terms of winning percentage compared to their division only by Billy Beane’s Oakland Athletics and depending on your point of view, Terry Ryan’s Minnesota Twins.  These are arguably the top two GM’s in baseball over this time frame, so I would say JP is in pretty good company.  Now to the data.

Ricciardi was hired following the 2001 season, so I plugged the records of every team in the American League from 2002-2008 into Excel.  I then tabulated each team’s winning percentage over this time period, as well as the winning percentage of the other team’s in the division.  For example, the “Division Winning Percentage” box for the Tampa Bay Rays would include the records of the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles, but NOT the Rays.  I then calculated how much each team had spent on payroll (information from Cot’s MLB Contracts), and figured out what percentage of the division’s total payroll was spent by each team.  The results for the three AL divisions are as follows:

 AL East

 AL Central

AL West

 *Because the AL West only has four teams, I added a hypothetical fifth team that has a payroll that is the average of the other four teams.  This helps make the Percentage of Payroll constant across all divisions.

The numbers are not perfect, and could be refined further, but I think the general point I am trying to make is apparent.  Given his financial resources, JP Ricciardi did very well with the Jays.  He achieved a winning percentage only .010 lower than the rest of the division, while playing in the toughest division in baseball with the two best teams in the league.  You might be saying, well that is not very good, he was below average.  However, if you take a closer look, he did this while spending only 14.39% of his division’s total payroll.  The only other teams to spend similar or less were Baltimore (.087 lower winning % than division), Tampa Bay (.107 lower), Kansas City (.095 lower) and Oakland (.039 higher).  Among these teams, only Oakland was better.  With regards to Minnesota, they did spend 3.5% more than Toronto, but I would argue the .088 boost in winning percentage relative to the division is greater than the financial surplus.   

The two big failures were Detroit and Seattle.  Detroit spent 24.10% of their division’s payroll to be .058 below the rest of their division, while Seattle spent 23.18% to be .053 worse. 

So there you have it.  In my opinion, the JP Ricciardi era in Toronto has not been a failure, and he has actually done very well.  Other than a brutal 2004 season, the Jays have remained extremely competitive with the Red Sox and the Yankees despite financial limitations.  A lot of this depends on how you label success.  Some would argue that Tampa Bay has done a better job because they won a division title and a pennant with even smaller resources than Toronto.  To that I would say, “oh really, how did you enjoy the six 90+ loss seasons prior to 2008?”  I do not think success can be attributed to one good year, so overall, I think the top three general managers in the American League from 2002-2008 were Billy Beane, Terry Ryan and JP Ricciardi.

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It was a busy day for GM’s yesterday, with several contenders adding key pieces to their post-season drive.  Let’s take a look at the moves and the effect I think they will have.

Boston Red Sox Acquire Victor Martinez

The Red Sox added a big bat in Martinez, while holding onto prized pitching prospect Clay Bucholz.  Instead, they sent reliever/spot starter Justin Masterson to the Indians along with minor league pitchers Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price.  This is an excellent trade for the Red Sox, as none of the players they gave up are irreplaceable.  It also gives them incredible line-up flexibility.  Martinez can catch or play first base while Kevin Youkilis can play first or third.  This will allow the Red Sox to rest either Jason Varitek or Mike Lowell and his achy hip on any day. 

Red Sox Acquire Casey Kotchman

The Red Sox traded recently acquired Adam Laroche back to Atlanta, where he started his career, for first baseman Casey Kotchman.  I am not totally sure what the point of this trade was.  Kotchman will be a defensive substitution at best for the Red Sox, and has a lot less pop than Laroche.  For Atlanta, I would consider Kotchman a superior player, so I am not sure what their plans are either.   

Detroit Tigers Acquire Jarrod Washburn

With the White Sox hot on their heels, the Tigers were in need of a veteran presence to settle their rotation.  Washburn is a perfect fit, and is having a career year in 2009, with a 2.64 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.  He will combine with Verlander and Jackson to give the Tigers a strong trio of starting pitchers, but I do not think it will be enough to get them past the big dogs in the AL East in the post-season.

Chicago White Sox Acquire Jake Peavy

Finally, the Jake Peavy saga has ended in San Diego.  He agreed to waive his no-trade clause to head to Chicago, something which he refused to do earlier this year.  While the White Sox gave up a lot, including pitcher Clayton Richard and top prospect Aaron Poreda, it gives them the ace they need this year (if Peavy is health).    

Twins Acquire Orlando Cabrera

Despite a .500 record, the Twins fancied themselves a buyer at the deadline due to the fact that they are only three games out of a playoff spot.  They needed an upgrade at SS, and Cabrera’s .694 OPS provides a significant upgrade over the .639 that they have gotten from the position this year.  He is also a career 5.0 UZR/150 fielder at short, although he has slipped this year.  While the intention was good, it does not match what the two teams above them did, and the Twinkies are headed for a third place finish.    

Yankees Acquire Jerry Hairston Jr.

Hairston’s particular talent is not with the bat or his glove, but that he can play pretty much anywhere on the diamond.  This will be huge for the Yankees, who are an old team, and this will allow them to rest some regulars down the stretch.  Do not be surprised if you see Hairston come up with a big play late in the season or in the playoffs, just a funny feeling.

Marlins Acquire Nick Johnson    

I almost cannot believe it, but the Marlins added a piece to their team instead of selling for once.  Johnson is an on-base machine, and will give the Marlins greater flexibility in their infield.  However, they are already six games behind the Phillies, and it may be a case of too little, too late.

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