Thursday, January 29, 2015

So Long, Ranaudo. Welcome Robbie Ross.

While New England was prepping for Snowmaggedonpocalypse earlier this week, the Red Sox dealt away one of their younger arms for some bullpen help.

In their quest to acquire more left-handed bullpen depth, the Red Sox dealt away one of their top starting prospects, trading Anthony Ranaudo to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Robbie Ross.

A three-year big league veteran, Ross made 123 appearances out of the Rangers’ bullpen from 2012-13, posting a 2.62 ERA in 127.1 innings with a 2.5 strikeout to walk ratio. But the 25-year-old struggled in 2014, as the Rangers used him both out of the bullpen and in the rotation, and Ross saw his ERA balloon to 6.20 in 27 appearances – 12 of them starts.


I will admit, up front, that it is a little hard for me not to be biased against this deal. I have watched Ranaudo come up through the Sox system. He was the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year for the Portland Sea Dogs in 2013 and International League POY for Pawtucket last year. He wasn't spectacular in his Boston call-up last year but he was 4-3. I watched this kid develop, and that will give you rose-colored glasses.

But when you dig into the Boston numbers, you get a sense of why he was available. For a team that signed pitchers that can induce ground balls, Ranaudo is a fly ball pitcher. A 4.81 ERA that translates to an ERA+ of 81. A WHIP of 1.4 and more walks than strikeouts. That, combined with his dominance in the lower leagues paints a picture that maybe Ranaudo was the classic AAAA player; too good for the minors but not quite able to translate that talent into a major league career. But even if he never moved beyond what he did last year, that could be good enough for a fifth pitcher in a rotation if he was also an innings eater.

What will make or break this is whether the Sox get 2012-13 Robbie Ross or 2014 Robbie Ross. The first Ross was dominant out of the bullpen with a K/BB ratio of 2.5, a 1.257 WHIP and an ERA of 2.62 (ERA+ 163). The other Ross is a mess, with a 6.20 ERA and a WHIP of 1.698.

What is clear is that Texas screwed Ross up by moving him into a starting role. What isn't clear is whether Ross can regain his earlier form as a dominant bullpen arm. The Sox desperately need that kind of lefty in their pen.

This obviously doesn't threaten Boston's depth in minor-league pitching, though I considered Ranaudo the best of the bunch to stay with Boston come Opening Day. And I always worry about trading with Texas for a bullpen pitcher, since the last time we did this we got Eric Gagne. And the less said about that, the better.

But if Ross can find his old form, this could end up working out quite well for Boston.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Max Scherzer and the Amazing, Deferred Contract


Yeah, I'd also be pretty happy with this contract
Seven years, $210M.

That is the official terms of the contract that former Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer signed with the Washington Nationals. A contract that not only gives the Nats the nastiest rotation in the majors, but allows Scott Boras to say that Scherzer makes almost as much as Clayton Kershaw.

Except both those things aren't exactly true.

The second point first. While Scherzer will get paid $210M, half of that is deferred money for another seven years. So what he really gets is $15M over the next fourteen years, with his massive $50M bonus paid up front.

Now, this sounds like semantics until you take into consideration two things; inflation and the increasing money that comes from television contracts. Money today is (unless the global economy utterly collapses) worth more than money 10 years from now. And the Nationals will most likely have more money to spend in the future than they have today. So while the yearly hit over the seven year deal is somewhere in the 20s (the bonus structure isn't available yet) the financial hit isn't as extreme as you would think.

However, it is more than the Nationals were paying at this time last year. Even using a rough estimate of $22-23M (15+ 1/7 of the bonus), that is a large chunk of change that the Nats cannot use now.

Which brings us to the first point.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

HOF Voting Needs to Change

With the results of the 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot coming out yesterday, I think three things are clear:

  1. The Johnson/Martinez/Smoltz triumvirate is one of the best group of pitchers ever elected in a single year. Maybe the best.
  2. The four players who were elected to the HOF deserved the honor
  3. The process of electing players to the HOF has got to change


The bigger story leading up to this vote wasn't about the players on the ballot as much as it was about the process by which they could be elected.

We should be talking about Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio. But instead we are discussing why some people didn't vote for them. Or didn't even cast a ballot.

If the process of electing people to the Hall of Fame is such that voters feel the need to not vote for players considered locks so other deserving players get in...that's a sign that a problem exists.

The 10-player limit on the ballot is an artificial construct that has no real logical defense. It also implies a distrust of voters to do the right thing, that if there was no limit then Aaron Boone would have been elected to the HOF yesterday.

Some voters, to be fair, don't help themselves either with their own illogical "rules" about whether someone deserves to be a "first ballot" electee. Either you are a worthy HOF member or you aren't; that doesn't change by spending a couple of years on the ballot.

This year, at a minimum, should have seen Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines join the club. Instead we had to watch voters twist, bend and do mathematics to try and get them in the HOF. That shouldn't be the case.

The voters should be trusted to make the right decision. Just make it an up-or-down ballot. "Yes" or "No". And let's get back to focusing on the players and their records, rather than the process by which they are elected.