Saturday, December 10, 2005

Bill Mueller

I just looked at this guys stats for a few minutes, and I want him. Look here.

First, he's a free agent. He won't cost us another pitcher. He may cost a lot of dough, but I'll set that question aside. The market is doing its thing.

One thing to like: .373 career OBP. Like Casey, he has Mark Grace-looking career numbers. Another thing to like: he hits righties. .302 / .378 / .451 last year. .315 / .394 / .490 2002 to 2004.

Thing is, we have this other guy who plays third who hits lefties pretty well.

Mueller, like Casey, is probably not going to manage 650 PAs in 2006. We need at least 650 PAs at each of the positions, maybe 700 at first base. Casey has averaged about 625 per year recently. Eldred or Wilson could easily make up the rest. If we sign Mueller, who has been more of a 450-550 PA guy, we know some of those lost at-bats could be thrown profitably to Freddy Sanchez. If he's a little gimpy and we are facing Eric Milton, he sits and Sanchez plays.

The thing I really want is a Manny Christmas. Like that will happen. The big knock on Mueller, for me, is not the low slugging percentage. It's not good but the high OBP makes up for much of what it lacks. The knock on Mueller is the possibility - looks strong considering his career numbers - that he manages only 450 PA while hobbling around with some kind of nagging injury. But we have Sanchez and we could mandate rest for a guy with such a gimpy track record. Tracy could keep him fresh and find time for Sanchez.

The more I think on it, the more I want him.

And unlike Bones, I like the Hernandez signing. Glad to have another Token Geezer on the staff. My first choice was Julio Franco, but Roberto will do.


For 41-year-old Roberto Hernandez's one year deal, DK reports. Apparently he's not been promised the closer's role but could step in should Gonzo falter. We outbid the Yanks' 2.5 million offer. Hernandez' career and last year's stats are better than I would've guessed, but this is an atrocious move at a brainsick price.

DK also reports that the Bucs have upped their offer to three years now to anemic but slick-fielding 3B Bill Mueller, who has not been traded to the Dodgers, contrary to the rumors a few days ago. Plus DL is actively pursuing the volatile but gifted Milton Bradley. After the Roberto signing and the J.T. Snow/Bill Mueller interest, I'd be thrilled if we signed Milton. Sure, he throws beer bottles back into the stands and fights the power, but he's young and can hit.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Now warming up in the bullpen

Ryan Vogelsong and Roberto Hernandez.

No more Wiggy

In other news from yesterday, the Bucs added Victor Santos in the Rule 5 draft. No Bucs were selected, so Boeve stays. To make room for Santos, we released Wiggy. I have mixed feelings about this, as I had a plan for Wiggy.

Chad Blackwell and Clayton Hamilton were named the PTBNL in the Redman and Bobby Hill trades respectively.

Turns out the Reds will only pay 1 million of Casey's contract.

Mesa signed with the Rockies for 2 million. With Joe, Tike, and Wiggy gone, who will be our new whipping boy?

Damaso Marte

DL's offers/interest this week in J.T. Snow, Bill Mueller, and especially Roberto Hernandez disturb me. That said, I love the Mack-o-wack for Marte deal. Rob can play six positions, but his .726 OPS had no business batting clean-up for the '05 Pirates. And we've got other versatile IFs.

In the last four years, LHP Marte has 259 IP, only 195 hits, a scary 119 BB, and an impressive 281 Ks. That makes for a 1.21 WHIP, and a K/IP of 1.1. Filthy. I'd gladly give Damaso the ball in the 9th or any other inning, or trade him or any of our other lefty relievers for a hitter.

Mackowiak haiku

Granny for Garrett.
Freed by Chulo. You hit fourth?
So long, Mack-o-wack.

Thanks for the memories, Rob, and best of luck.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Chicago man goes home

Hopefully not one year too late. Story here.

...FWIW, Marte reminds me of Ricardo Rincon. He will probably be easier to trade than a utilityman. He makes the other left-handed relievers ... yeah, every one of them ... more expendable.

Mackowiak was a good story. Was he something of a McClendon loyalist? Not that there is any reason to think this would put him on the outs with the new manager; it's just that of all the players, I'd guess he was one of the ones who McClendon was most proud of. That was the impression I got. I'm curious to hear what the rest of you think.

His departure and the addition of yet another left-hander makes me think there will be more deals and signings soon.

The power of Sean Casey

Let's open the book of stats on this guy and get some facts about him. Because he's slow, I think I'd hit him behind Jason Bay, in the clean-up spot, unless Craig Wilson is all green, angry, and muscle-bound, ripping the ball like a healthy Hulk Man Jim Thome. Which he was, once upon a time, for half a season. My uneducated guess, the night of the trade, was that a healthy Casey will be something like a .300 / .370 / .480 hitter for the Pirates. Do the numbers support that expectation? In this post, I will take myself to school and look through his numbers. Jump to the end if you just want the conclusion.

A quick look at his 2005 splits sent me to his game log. Why? His righty/lefty splits are somewhat lopsided: he got about 200 PA vs. lefties and 350 PA vs. righties. That's a LOT of lefties for a left-hander to face. Usually the number is closer to one at-bat against a lefty for every three against a righty.

I went down this road awhile, but it's a dead end. Casey has no platoon split. He hits lefties and righties equally well, so there's no reason to think his 2005 numbers are skewed by that unusual parade of left-handed pitching before his eyes. Moving along ...

Staring the 2002-2004 averages in the eye, I see that .480 looks unrealistic as a starting point. The average of his 2005 numbers and his 2002-2004 numbers, .444, is probably a better starting point.

There two factors I would consider first when translating this .444 into black and gold. First, the effect of his home park. And second, the relationship between his health and his power. Since his health is bound up with his age, the two things have to be considered together. It's not at all clear to me if we should expect better or worse from Casey, going forward, because of recovery from health problems and aging. That will have to be another post.

Let's start with that ballpark in southern Ohio. It's new so the stats are slim. And it has a reputation for being a hitter's park. I've always chalked that up to the lousy Reds' pitching staff--something that would not benefit Sean Casey's home power numbers.

ESPN now provides this Park Factor page. It shows that the park was top-10 for homers, average for hits, average for doubles, and insanely below average for triples (he's not slow! no one triples in that park!). The 2004 numbers were the same. In '04 and '05, PNC Park played below average for homers, above average for hits and doubles, and average for triples. The 2004 Bill James handbook measured Great American as below average for left-handed batting average and above average for left-handed home-run hitting. The same authority measured PNC Park, in 2002-2004, as above average for left-handed batting average and below average for left-handed home-run hitting. In 2004 alone, it played above average for left-handed hitters in batting average and home-run hitting. As we all know, PNC plays more or less like a neutral park with two exceptions--right-handers lose home runs to Jason Bay in left-center, and some (but not all) left-handers have an easy time homering to right field.

That look into park factors suggests that Casey, a career .305 hitter, will hit for an even better average at PNC Park. He was fifth in the NL in batting average in 2005. He should, again, compete for a batting title in PNC in 2006. Despite the short porch in right, he may not hit more home runs. Great American was already padding his home runs numbers to about the same degree we might expect from PNC.

Average plays a role in slugging percentage. If Casey gets more hits, his OBP and SLG stand to gain from that. How much? Let's say not much, but let's remember to add a few points to his OPS at the end.

Now that I've looked at the park effect in a general way, it makes sense to look at it in a specific way. In other words, how much did Sean Casey like hitting in Great American Ballpark? He surely spent many days wishing he was hitting off his own team's pitchers, but given the park's reputation as a launching pad, we'd guess he liked it, right?

Well, that would be wrong. In 2005, the Mayor hit .293 / .352 / .395 at home. And he hit .330 / .389 / .451 on the road. That's 750 OPS at home, 840 on the road. How was this guy a fan favorite?

His 2002-2004 splits are even more Cincinnati-hating. I like him more and more to learn that. He hit for a 900 OPS on the road and a 750 OPS at home. That's amazing. But, it stands to reason. If you lived in Cincinnati, wouldn't you hate it? That is one ugly lice- and interstate-infested city.

Sean Casey hit .341 / .397 / .504 outside of Cincinnati between 2002 and 2004. He hit .278 / .337 / .408 in Cincinnati. One of us! One of us! One of us!

The 900 OPS, preferably with 380+ OBP, is the threshold for me between good hitter and Damn Good Hitter. I especially get drooling when I see a high OPS that's 45% OBP. That's good stuff people.

Unfortunately, since the Reds are in our division, Sean Casey will play a lot of games in his 750 OPS shoes. Sixteen, I think. The good news is that we can expect to see more of Casey's road numbers.

We all expect to get something like the best of him here in Pittsburgh. After all, we all know he has murdered Pirate pitching. It's Pirate pitching, some will say, so his .378 / .459 / .581 numbers in PNC Park for 2002-2004 don't mean much. I say they're wrong. Our pitching has long been average; it's our hitting that has flat-out sucked the last five years.

Instead of playing 81 games in the GAB, Casey will play what, 16 games there. If we average his three-year to 2004 and 2005 numbers, we get 750 OPS at the GAB, 870 elsewhere. If we weight them as a Pirate, we get ((750*16)+(870*(162-16)))/162 or 858.

So I'm now expecting he'll manage an 860 OPS (I'll add a conservative two points for the good effect PNC will have on his batting average and the non-effect it will probably have on his home-run hitting [see above]).

If it's a typical Sean Casey OPS distribution - his career numbers are .305 / .371 / .462 - we're looking at something like .325 / .380 / .460 as a Pirate. I will take that and I will like that.

And that's without weighting PNC heavier than all the other road stadiums Casey visited as a Red. Let's not overstate his love of PNC; he's only played about sixty games here over the last four years and maybe they fell in unusually healthy places.

... Vlad uncovers this great Primer link for more park factors.

... And all hail Tom Veil making some of these same arguments in previous comment threads. If I had thicker skin, I'd read all them comment threads more carefully.

... And note our Official non-patented Honest Wagner KHALIFA projections consider age and health history, so this current projection is merely a working one.

Morning trade dope

John Perrotto for the Beaver County Times reports:

[On the Redman trade} "This gives us a chance to use the money in different areas, maybe pursue players on a different level now," Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said.

The Pirates have made a two-year offer to free-agent third baseman Bill Mueller worth a reported $7 million and could possibly increase it. They might also step up their pursuit of free agent Nomar Garciaparra to play third.

The Pirates' chances of trading for Washington first baseman/outfielder Brad Wilkerson and Texas outfielder Kevin Mench appeared to end Wednesday, though, as they were rebuffed in trade proposals.

The Pirates also have interest in Toronto outfielder Alex Rios, though they refuse to part with rookie lefty Paul Maholm. Rios, 24, hit .262 with 10 homers, 59 RBIs and 14 steals in 146 games last season.

I'd be stepping up those trade offers before I'm beefing up those offers to these free agents.

Dejan Kovacevic for the Post-Gazette reports:

Strong indications on the third day of Major League Baseball's winter meetings were that it would be on a reliever with experience in late innings, an area Littlefield reiterated was his top priority after first base.

Argh - my head hurts! That is sooooooo wrong.

Two relievers in whom the Pirates have shown a strong interest are Braden Looper and Roberto Hernandez, agent Randy Hendricks confirmed last night.

Looper, 31, had 28 saves in 36 opportunities last season as the New York Mets' closer and a 3.94 earned run average. He made $5.3 million and is seeking a two-year deal on a similar pay scale.

Hernandez, 41, was Looper's setup man and made 67 appearances while posting a 2.58 ERA. Because of his age, he surely would have to settle for one year.

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Get your relievers as NRIs when you're last in the league scoring runs. Now is not the time to cool your pursuit of a middle-of-the-lineup hitter.

DK also has the Bucs looking at Craig Monroe and Trot Nixon. Both those guys sound like logical targets.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Mark Redman to Royals for Jonah Bayliss

All hail Jonah Bayliss! Whoever that is.

Trade details here.

Seeing that the Pirates acted so quickly to shed that extra Sean Casey payroll, it looks to me like they are hoarding the additional $15M or so budgeted for 2006. Perhaps for some top-secret purpose? I can think of one thing only: Manny Christmas!

Pure conjecture, of course, but I'll get out to the store for more beer right about now.

More Sean Casey thoughts

Not so giddy this morning, but I still like the trade. Looking through his career numbers, I see he does not have the power we need, this is true. He's no wimp, though. The 44 doubles in 2004 jump out at me - Casey is not a burner on the bases.

He looks due for some rebound in 2006. He's hit real well at PNC Park. I like the guy. The 1999 season obviously made a strong impression on me. The intervening years were not as productive as I would have guessed.

The Bucs need a top-level talent in the middle of the lineup. Casey is not, or has not been, a top-level talent recently. Of the second-tier guys, though, he's one of the better choices.

I am not high on Brad Eldred's ability to do more than hit seventh. Maybe now we go after Russell the Muscle, wedge him into a time-share at third, and trade one or more of our no-power utility players. I'm not sure where we go from here. We're still looking at a team that needs more power.

The Bucs will spend about an additional $5M for Casey in 2006. That's not a lot of money for a veteran player of Casey's stature. I'd rather see the team put all the extra payroll into bringing us a Manny Christmas, but that's not going to happen. I am not moved by the harping that the Pirates could have done better or more for the money this off-season. And I seriously doubt we could have done more or better with Dave Williams as trade bait.

I still call it a good, even a great, deal. It looks better with lots of beer but so does everything.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sean Casey a Pirate

Pending physicals, looks like the deal is done. The Cincinnati papers talked to him tonight.

All hail Sean Casey! I raise this Samuel Adams Black and Gold Lager to him. Nyar! If you don't have a beer in your hand, go get one. Root beer will do if you are under 21.

I'm a little giddy. Maybe it's the contrast to J.T. Snow rumors; maybe it's the Black Lager. Either way, I love the trade.

Pittsburgh has a new Mayor. You'll hear that a lot tomorrow. Welcome home, Sean Casey. This is a great move by David Littlefield. I will dedicate the next Black Lager to Dave. Good work, DL.

Casey is a great guy, as this kind of bio argues. They have loved this guy everywhere he has played. Not so much because he's a great guy who shakes hands and what not, but because he's a great player. He's been long capable of 900-1000 OPS seasons. There was a point at which he looked like a Hall of Famer. Had he stayed healthy his entire career, he'd be paid today like Bobby Abreu or Manny Ramirez. And yeah, this will be his walk year.

His power has come and gone with injuries, but even when injured, he's still been a useful high-OBP player. He hits left-handed, he wants to play in Pittsburgh, he plays first base: he's a good fit. I forget the exact details of his injuries. I've followed him, however, for fantasy sports reasons, and I don't remember his groin separating from the bone or his ankle protruding from his flesh. I'm pretty sure he'll be good to go for 2005. I'll look into all that stuff later in the week. I think he had a thumb problem one year and some shoulder surgery that he survived in good form.

I like the price. And that's a surprise: I'm ready to trade everbody so us keeping Ollie and Duke and Maholm, that's good news to me. Tomorrow we can trade them, with Kip Wells and Mark Redman and Josh Fogg, for Manny Ramirez.

One last thing. All hail Dave Williams. He'll be good for the Reds I'm sure. I'd far rather have him in my rotation than Eric Milton or Ramon Ortiz. Wouldn't you? Depending on your opinion of Aaron Harang, you might even regard Dave Williams as the new ace of their staff.

But no doubt our cup of left-handed soft-tossers runneth over. He'll help them more than he would help us. If I'm a Reds fan, I like the trade I think.

Sean Casey for Dave Williams

Rotoworld is reporting (via that the Pirates are close to acquiring the Mayor for Dave Williams. I hope so.

Cards after Mueller

STLToday reports Jocketty wants Mueller to replace Grudz.

Trot Nixon

From the Hartford Courant:

The Red Sox are also talking to the Pirates about a trade involving Trot Nixon for either Kip Wells or Mark Redman.

D'oh! Learned this from Rotoworld.

Another rumor

Jason Michaels for Mark Redman.

Swing your sword

A reader sent me a copy of this Michael Lewis article on Coach Leach of Texas Tech. Lewis is the Moneyball author; Leach looks like this, if we are to believe Lewis's portrait.

Lewis strikes me as the kind of writer who is so good, he's bad. But I won't be a dick and belittle the piece. There are, however, great passages about pirates and Steeler football, so I think you'll enjoy it too. Here's a taste:

His 45-second pregame speech set a certain tempo, but he had one final thing to say:

"Your body is your sword. Swing your sword."

Each off-season, Leach picks something he is curious about and learns as much as he can about it: Geronimo, Daniel Boone, whales, chimpanzees, grizzly bears, Jackson Pollock. The list goes on, and if you can find the common thread, you are a step ahead of his football players. One year, he studied pirates. When he learned that a pirate ship was a functional democracy; that pirates disciplined themselves; that, loathed by others, they nevertheless found ways to work together, the pirate ship became a metaphor for his football team. Last year, after a loss to Texas A.&M. in overtime, Leach hauled the team into the conference room on Sunday morning and delivered a three-hour lecture on the history of pirates. Leach read from his favorite pirate history, "Under the Black Flag," by David Cordingly (the passages about homosexuality on pirate ships had been crossed out). The analogy to football held up for a few minutes, but after a bit, it was clear that Coach Leach was just . . . talking about pirates. The quarterback Cody Hodges says of his coach: "You learn not to ask questions. If you ask questions, it just goes on longer."

Winter meeting rumors

The Bucs have extended an offer to free-agent 3B Bill Mueller, who has narrowed his choice between the Bucs and Dodgers. Go west, old Bill, go west. Mueller's a fine player, but doesn't possess the middle-of-the-lineup power the Bucs need.

DK's got the story on Milton Bradley and Olmedo Saenz. Ouch (x2). No thanks. DK also mentions Overbay and Casey as two other players the Bucs have expressed interest in.

Ed Eagle serves it up. He discusses Lyle Overbay as a possible 1B acquisition. I like Lyle. My winter meeting dream sequence features the Bucs adding Troy Glaus, Wily Mo Pena, and Lyle Overbay.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Another Winter meetings preview

Dejan Kovacevic.

Third base is not the problem. The problem is the need for a cleanup hitter who homers and doubles any time, every where, day in and day out.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Hits left-handed, plays outfield

Rob Rossi with the extended interview of Littlefield.

One of many interesting things in there is what I see as DL clarifying the whole not-in-the-A-market comment. Looks to me like he's saying the best players won't come to Pittsburgh, like the issue with acquiring a Manny is not money so much as Manny not wanting to play here on this team.

Steeler D looks ordinary again today. Sad.


It's a beautiful day for Steeler football.

Thank you John Perrotto

Trade dope on the eve of the Winter Meetings.