It’s funny how the most underrated player in the game comes from one of the best organizations in the game. Yes, the Braves. Brian McCann to me, gets overshadowed when discussing the games elite catchers because if some guy named Joe Mauer. Now, that is just talking about catchers. Brian McCann has a bat and glove as good as any catcher in recent history. Not only that, but certain saber metrical stats compare him with some of the greats, such as Yogi Berra.
River Avenue Blues’ writer Mike Axisa, who is a great writer and writes for MLBTradeRumors as well, made a statement the other day by comparing Brian McCann and Yogi Berra in a WARGraph. Mike was also the one who started the whole “Brian McCann is underrated thing.” What is a WARGraph you ask? Only one of the coolest things around. WARGraphs let you compare up to 4 players whether they are active or retired and shows the cumulative WAR (Wins Above Replacement) over time. Mike compared Yogi Berra to Brian McCann and the graph came out like this:
So that inspired me to expand the search. I added Mickey Cochrane and Bill Dickey to the list. Both of whom are Hall of Fame catchers, such as the likes of Yogi Berra and possibly in the future, Brian McCann. As you can see, their cumulative WAR by age is nearly identical all the way through to the end of their careers.
Tell me that isn’t awesome? Mike’s point was that McCann through his 1st six seasons was better than Berra. Well I just kept it going by proving that McCann has been better than two other Hall of Famers through his first six seasons.
Back to Brian, imagine where the Bravos team would be without him. We’re talking about a guy who hits for average and power, plays very good defense behind the plate, and even posted a 5.3 WAR in ’10. All of those are obvious when talking about McCann, except possibly the WAR, but the homegrown catcher still gets overlooked among players in the game, not just catchers. So the point I’m trying to make is, can Brian McCann be viewed as the #1 most underrated player in Major League Baseball? Shin Soo Choo might have something to say about that, but how often has Choo had his knees crushed behind the plate 130-150 times per year? How many catchers post a career OBP of .360 while catching a tremendous young pitching staff?
I’m looking for McCann to continue his great career in a Braves uniform and if history repeats himself as seen with three other comparable catchers who wound up in Cooperstown, McCann will have a tremendous career even if he remains one of the more underappreciated players in Major League Baseball.
When you stumble upon a chance to acquire a possible #2 or #3 pitcher with some upside and a young, raw, and smart strikeout arm, chances are you shouldn’t pass it up. Well Dayton Moore didn’t pass it up when he had the opportunity to acquire RHP Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks in exchange for one year of David DeJesus.
I’ll tell you what; I like this deal for the Royals a lot. Of course you can look at Mazzaro’s season stats and criticize him for his 4.25 ERA or his low amount of strikeouts, but this is a durable young starter with potential to be a Chad Billingsley type of starter with a much more effortless delievery to go along with a 3 pitch mix including a fastball that ranges from 90-93 touching 94 and a slider that ranges from 82-85 and a decent change up.
Bottom line, these are the type of pitchers the Royals need to take a chance on. I mean, if he ends up sporting an 8.50 ERA and a WHIP over 1.40 in ’11, then it’s okay to criticize the move. But what happens if he breaks out (which I think he will) and puts up a 3.50 ERA to go along with 7 K/9?
Mazzaro is also a very good guy from my neck of the woods (New York/New Jersey). His simple delivery makes him even more fun to watch not to mention his often used fastball that sometimes has a bit of cut to it.
What do you think of this deal for the Royals? Will Mazzaro pan out? Will this deal favor the Royals in the future? Will Justin Marks be something special?
Billy Beane has done his best to add power to an A’s lineup that was nearly worst in the American League each of the past three seasons. And today, he not only acquired a power hitter in Josh Willingham, but an on-base machine as well. As we’ve witnessed nearly every off-season when it comes to the A’s, it’s been a huge struggle attracting big name free agents to the Bay Area, or at least one side of the Bay Area. And as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweeted today, a contract extension may very well be possible. Thus, my question is, can the A’s lock up Josh Wilingham after acquiring him in the same off-season a la Dan Uggla? If so, what will it cost the A’s?
Willingham has made nearly $10MM in his Major League career. The most he was paid in a season was obviously in ’10, $4.6MM. The career .265 hitter has a .378 on base percentage over the past two seasons, his two years on the Washington Nationals and although his UZR is -10.0 over the last two seasons, he can boast about a 5.2 WAR over his aforementioned cup of tea with the Nats.
There’s one close to perfect comparison for Willingham. That would be Corey Hart.
Corey is perhaps the best comparable for Willingham. Both are very similar players and Hart is being paid $6.5MM in ’11, $9MM in ’12, and $10MM in ’13. That’s exactly what I would pay Josh Willingham over the next 3 years. Willingham gets on base more than Hart, but both have very similar power and are both equally not so spectacular defenders, as their respective UZR’s over the past two years would suggest. Josh Willingham has hit .264 over the past two years while Hart has hit a very similar .262. With all of that said, Willingham has a higher runs created and weighted on base average during his Nationals stint, something that Billy Beane surely has in mind. Both strike out the same amount (JW 23% and CH 22.9%) and are equally slow, hence their lousy play in the outfield.
Here’s a WAR Graph comparing the duo’s cumulative WAR by age, courtesy of Fangraphs.
Furthermore, what will an extension for the A’s newly acquired left fielder cost? He is three years older than Hart, but continues to outplay the Brewers slugger.
Personally, I think a 3 year deal worth $28MM would be fair. Being paid $6MM in ’11, $9MM in ’12, and $13MM in ’13. Willingham has shown tremendous improvement since being traded from the Marlins along with Scott Olsen in exchange for Emilio Bonifacio and two minor leaguers. Even if an extension doesn’t go through or get decided upon, the A’s have a much improved lineup for the 2011 season headlined by new acquisitions David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui. Not to mention another year of experience for Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and Dallas Braden to go along with a fantastic bullpen which is highlighted by Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow, and Brad Ziegler. Continuing, I really like the A’s chances in 2011 and most of my confidence in their chances to win the division come from the new acquisition and this entry’s centric, Josh Willingham.
If anybody has heard yet, that Cliff Lee guy signed with the Phillies. The Rangers, who had hoped the ace left hander would stay in the Lone Star State, chose otherwise, leaving a big hole in the Texas rotation. So there has been plenty of talk about signing Rafael Soriano and pitching him in the 9th thus sending Neftali Feliz to the rotation. Like Rich Harden, who is the centric of this entry, Feliz has tremendous stuff. Would it really make sense to put a closer who was dominant through 70-80 innings in a rotation where he would pitch 200 innings and have all of the opposing hitters get used to his fastball and curve? Or does it make sense to keep him in the closer role where he can empty everything out in one inning?
Well Rich Harden is apparently in talks with his former team, the Swingin’ A’s on what would most likely be a one year deal with plenty of incentives. The real question is, will he be starting or relieving?
Personally, Rich Harden is one of my favorite pitchers. He can’t stay healthy, but when he is healthy, he’s sometimes unhitable. Other times, he doesn’t miss bats and gets in to lots of trouble with opposing hitters. So like someone like Clay Hensley for example, does moving to the pen take pressure off of not only you, but your manager, and your teamates. I could see Harden succeeding in the 5th spot in the A’s rotation, but there are definetly some pros about possibly setting up for Andrew Bailey. In fact, say the aformentioned Feliz pitched in the rotation this year and pitches quite well, can Harden join a teams rotation in ’12 after expierence in the pen and pitch a decent 180 innings? I’m not sure, but the problem again for Harden has not been the fact that he can’t pitch well, it’s about staying healthy. In 2008, he was dominant. It would be great to see him get back to that form, but for now, I think a place like Oakland, even though things didn’t end well, would be a fine fit for him unlike Colorado or any other team in the west. I thought a la Clay Hensley, the Marlins would be a great fit on a minor league deal and a chance to make the rotation, but it looks like he’s close to a deal with the A’s. Let’s just hope that Rich Harden can be Rich Harden again.
So I’m on a 7 hour train currently from Vermont to New York and as I’m looking at the corn fields in the distance and the trees as green as you’ll ever see, I said to myself, aren’t those Oakland A’s colors? So I got my laptop and then a thought came in to mind, shouldn’t Gio Gonzalez be at Ricky Romero or Jon Lester status by at least next season or the season after? I sure think so.
With tons of young quality arms in Baseball, you have to expect that eventually a majority of them will get locked up after hitting arbitration at their respective time. Well some pitchers will and should get locked up before they hit arbitration. I’m sure some names that are coming to mind are David Price, Mat Latos, and Tommy Hanson among others. Well my guy is Gio Gonzalez. No, his ERA isn’t as marginal as Bucholz’s or Clayton Kershaw’s, two more young pitchers who will get the big bucks either before they hit arbitration, or when they build up their value even higher.
Obviously, Billy Beane’s plan is starting to turn in to reality as it was a dream in the past. Would I have traded Carlos Gonzalez for what is now Michael Taylor? Absolutely not, but I am a huge fan of plenty of Billy Beane’s other moves. You have to like the Nick Swisher for Gio Gonzalez, Fautino De Los Santos, and Ryan Sweeney deal at the time it was made. Nick Swisher is now hovering around .300 and will probably total up 35 home runs this season, but at the time of the deal, Nick didn’t have his head on straight. Literally, some flaws in his swing caused him to hit anywhere from the low .200’s to maybe .270 during certain times of some seasons. Yes, he did rack up 35 home runs one year in the bay area, but the point is, at the time, acquiring Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney (two highly touted prospects at the time), and Fautino De Los Santos for a player who again, wasn’t the Nick Swisher we’ve grown to love on the Yankees now.
So Gio, who has obviously found his feel for pitching this season, is really pitching. And I use the word pitching to describe what Gio is really doing. In ’09, his k/9 was 9.1. His ERA in that season was 5.75. So my point is, he’s pitching, meaning he has lowered his strike out rate to throw more strikes and try to get a ground ball or two, hence 127 K’s in 154.0 IP. Not sure if any of you remember, but Torii Hunter also claimed that Gio Gonzalez had the best curveball in Baseball, and if you watch him pitch, it seriously looks like the ball is attached to his hand the whole way through when he throws the aforementioned 10-4 curveball. Nothing tells me that Gio Gonzalez won’t improve on this season in 2011. So I’d like to compare Gio’s potential contract to Matt Cain’s first contract.
Matt Cain, in the breakout season in which earned him an extension, he pitched 190.2 innings which was worth a 3.5 WAR. Gio so far, after last nights dominant start against the Tribe, has now logged 161.0 IP. Now listen to this, our good friends at ZIPS project that Gio will log 197.0 IP and finish with a tremendous ERA (3.52) for a pitcher in what is really his first full season. His current WAR is at 3.0 so I’m thinking it could reach the 3.5 or at least close to that of the 2006 Matt Cain.
So Matt Cain got 4 years worth $9 Million with a club option, but lets remember that Matt Cain finished with a 4.15 ERA. So even if Gio finishes with a 3.72 (not saying he will) which is 20 points higher than ZIPS projects, isn’t he worth a little more? Plus Gio has logged more career innings than Matt Cain did at the time. So let’s say 4 years at $12MM could work, which would buy out free agent years and if an option was added, it would keep him in the Bay for 5 years. Gio Gonzalez is certainly tempting Billy Beane to at least consider it and in my opinion, this off-season Gio Gonzalez will in fact be locked up.