Blue Jays, Marlins Postscript
The Blue Jays – Marlins deal is a debacle of the first rate, anyone with a brain knows that (I gave my thoughts in The Fall of a Franchise). The deal finally became official on Monday after commissioner Bud Selig's mock protest in waiting a few extra days to accept the deal. The fact is there was no way he could turn the deal down. This isn't the NBA where David Stern certainly would have made his presence felt in a more substantial way. In baseball the commissioner is really powerless to stop these things (the last time a deal was overturned was 1976 when Bowie Kuhn literally stopped Charlie Finley from just selling off his players). "I am aware of the anger," Selig said. "I have a great sensitivity to fans and people in areas.” In the end though he did what we all knew he would do and that is let the trade stand.
All of the attention to that mega deal and how it effects the landscape of baseball has somewhat obscured another move that was made the Blue Jays when they signed admitted cheater Melky Cabrera to a two-year, $16 million contract. There's no telling how much money that Cabrera cost himself, numbers like 5-years and $65 million were being thrown around near the All-Star Break, but after testing positive for PEDs, trying some shenanigans to get out of it (Bizarre Plot By SF Giants' Melky Cabrera), being suspended for 50 games and then not being invited back to the Giants when his suspension was up for the playoffs, the bounty was much less than he could have hoped for. Still, there were at least five teams that showed significant interest in the cheater, and for his cheating he got $16 million. What a deterrent that cheating was. He got more money than 99.9% of the people reading this will ever earn in their lifetimes.
As for his on field production, what can we expect there?
In the case of Ryan Braun and his overturned PED suspension people were terrified of a potential fall off in Braun's production prior to last season. My response was to put that fear out of your mind. Braun was always the best player on the field from the age of six. All through his life he was an elite performer. PEDs or not, the man was just an elite talent. Period. So good in fact was Braun that his effort in 2012 was a near match for his 2011 effort in which he won the NL MVP (Braun finished second in 2012. My take on all the major awards can be found at Around the Horn – Awards. You will love my hat too.).
2011: .332-33-111-109-33 with a .994 OPS
2012: .319-41-112-108-30 with a .987 OPS
Cabrera is a totally different beast.
From 2005-2010 Cabrera was close to being a solid major leaguer. Over those 716 games he hit .267 with a .328 OBP and .379 SLG. Those numbers were actually slightly worse than the “average” AL performer who hit .269 with a .337 OBP and .425 SLG. Cabrera never hit more than 13 homers, never drove in more than 73 runs, never scored more than 75 times and never stole more than 13 bases. Again, solid but nothing at all that stands out in any meaningful way. That all changed in 2011 when Cabrera finished two homers short of a 20/20 season with 85 RBI, 100 runs an a .305 batting average. He went from slightly below average, for six seasons mind you, to being an elite player overnight. He took his game to even greater heights in 2012 with the Giants as he hit .346 – the best mark in baseball no matter what Bud Selig says. His 150 game pace would have led to 15 homers, 80 RBI, 112 RBI and 17 steals. In his 8th season he produced a career-high line drive rate (22 percent), ground ball rate (52 percent), BABIP (.379) and HR/F ratio (10.7 percent). Was that explosion from league average nothing to superstar legit or was it fueled by PEDs?
This is not close to being the open and shut case that it was with Braun. Cabrera will have to prove that he is the player that we've seen the last two years for me to believe it. I'm also turned off by the fact that, even last year with his greatness, I don't think he really earned it (be it artificial or luck driven). Cabrera had a career high 2.00 GB/FB as he hit more grounders and fewer fly balls than ever before. He also walked at a 7.2 percent clip (career 7.3). He struck out at a 12.6 percent clip (career 12.1 percent). I noted his line drive rate was a career-high. Ditto his BABIP that was .070 points above his career norm. I know he's not a .346 hitter. The question is, will he be a .306 hitter or a .276 hitter in 2013?
One other note. Somehow this deal went down with the Marlins not being able to get J.P. Arencibia or Travis D'Arnaud in the deal to help them out behind the plate (further proving just how bad the beat was that the suffered in the sell off). Since they sent John Buck to Toronto, it appears that Rob Brantly will open the 2013 season as the Marlins main catcher (the Fish did get all glove, no hit Jeff Mathis in the deal and he figures to serve as the backup. Mathis is such an awful hitter that you would have to be all kinds of desperate to use him even in a two catcher NL-only league given his career: .198/.256/.314 in, somehow, 1,412 at-bats). Brantly is worth a significant look in just such a set up. It was just 100 at-bats last season with the Marlins, but Brantly hit .290. He also posted an impressive 0.81 BB/K ratio that helped lead to a .372 OBP. He also rapped out eight doubles and three homers leaving him with a .460 SLG. The San Diego born native hit .280 during a 262 game run in the minors before his promotion, and though he lacks a power bat, his approach at the dish leaves him as a strong option to turn to in NL-only leagues once the big name backstops are off the board.
BY THE NUMBERS
.148: The difference between the league leading BABIP of Dexter Fowler (.390) and the worst mark in baseball of .242 held by Justin Smoak. Three players failed to reach .250 in BABIP and they all failed to hit .230: Smoak (.242 BABIP, .217 average), Ike Davis (.246, .227) and Adam Dunn (.246, .204). The three guys with a .380 or better BABIP all hit at least .300: Fowler (.390 BABIP, .300 average), Torii Hunter (.389, .313) and Mike Trout (.383, .326).
.515: The worst OPS in baseball for a player with at least 200 plate appearances in the second half. As abysmal as that number is, I would bet that many of you had this player active for a good deal of that time given his solid run heading into the break and his name recognition. He's an outfielder in the AL who had 23 homers, 75 RBI and 75 runs scored. He bats left-handed. His dad is far too involved in his game. He plays north of the border. It's Colby Rasmus. By the way, his season long OPS was an equally awful .689.
.669: The league leading SLG mark of Giancarlo Stanton during night games in 2012. In his 311 at-bats he hit 29 homers driving in 66 runners while batting .309. Over a 550 at-bat season his performance under the lights would have led to a season of .309-51-111 with a 1.041 OPS.
3: The number of the top-4 hitters in baseball in batting average in the second half who were a part of the Giants organization within the last 31 months (minimum 200 plate appearances). Buster Posey led baseball with a .385 mark (Torii Hunter led the AL with a .350 mark), while Marco Scutaro hit .339. Who was the third player? Why, Kevin Frandsen of the Phillies of course, who hit .338. Frandsen was born in San Jose, went to Bellarmine High School in San Jose, went to San Jose St., was drafted by the Giants, and was part of the organization until March 26, 2010.
4: The number of players who had 502 plate appearances who also managed to walk more times than they struck out in '12: Carlos Lee (1.18), Jose Reyes (1.13), Joe Mauer (1.02) and Prince Fielder (1.01). That's a declining/aging one time power hitter, an outright speedster, the sweetest swinger in the game an a flat out masher of the long ball. A pretty diverse group who all did an excellent job in 2012.
29.3: The major league leading HR/F ratio of Adam Dunn. The rest of the top-5: Josh Hamilton (25.6), Chris Davis (25.2), Pedro Alvarez (25.0) and Curtis Granderson (24.2). Here are the previous career bests for the the five players: Dunn (25.7), Hamilton (24.4), Davis (20.5), Alvarez (17.6) and Granderson (20.5). Five for five in career bests with their HR/F ratios.
16: The number of players who hit 30 homers with 30 doubles in 2012. Overall there were 27 players with 30 homers and 72 who hit 30 doubles. Here is the different list of 30/30 performers: Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano, Jason Kubel, Adam LaRoche, Alfonso Soriano, Adam Jones, Jay Bruce, Josh Willingham, Mike Stanton, Corey Hart, Josh Hamilton, Miguel Cabrera, Chase Headley, Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun and Adrian Beltre.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Thursday at 7 PM EDT and Friday's at 9 PM EDT. Ray's analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.