Five best LF’s in baseball

No, I haven’t forgotten about my top five lists.  This is actually my favorite part of blogging.  And I still have two positions remaining after this: RF and C.  And then of course I will come up with some kind of list with the top starters, maybe even the top five relievers after that–although I may stay away from relievers because it will be so difficult to do.  Other than my Kevin Youkilis tragedy, I feel that I am doing pretty well with my lIsts, and the number five spot always seems to be the most debated. 

On to the list…

  • Manny Ramirez:  I guess until Manny proves us that he cannot play great, then we must assume that he is great.  Manny was a good hitter with the Red Sox IN 2008, but was having a year in which everyone realized that this wasn’t 2004 Manny anymore.  Manny posted an OPS+ of 136, which is good, but was the second worst that he posted since 1994–when he played only 91 games at age 22.  Ramirez was clearly having trouble with the harder pitching in the game, and then of course the fiasco that followed…Then out of nowhere, whether it was the weaker NL pitching, or another level of being motivated, Manny absolutely killed the ball for a few months.  Posted an OPS+ of 219, and it rivaled some of the greatest stretches that I have ever seen as a fan.  A .396 average over those 53 games.  An incredible .743 slugging percentage.  An unheard of 32% of his balls in play were line drives.  32%!!!  Over the past 4 seasons, plus his 100 games with the Red Sox, the closest Manny has come to that is 24%.  And we are talking about one of the greatest hitters to ever step into the box.  Granted, it was a fairly small sample size, as 53 games isn’t 153 games.  But it is still pretty remarkable.
  • Matt Holiday:  It truly is difficult for me to post what I think is such a question mark this high.  After all, Holliday isn’t great away from Coors, although his splits have been becoming a bit more comparable, a bit less deceiving, it seems.  As far as I have heard and researched, Holliday is a better baserunner than the next guy, and a better defender,  which is really what separates him.  And both Holliday and the next player will be making difficult transitions to the American League this season, meaning we will really be seeing what kind of players they are.
  • Jason Bay:  I know Jay Bay sucked in 2007.  But in both 2006 and 2008 he was a very good player, maybe not a great player, but very good.  Bay has a weak arm and doesn’t exactly play defense all that well.  But Bay is a great hitter and has been for a while now.  Bay has posted OPS+’s of 132 or greater in 4 of his five years in which he has earned enough playing time to matter.  It is funny that some seem to be down on Bay.  Pecota doesn’t love him this season, but still thinks he will be a pretty good player.  And after seeing what Manny did with the Dodgers, and what Manny has done over his career, Red Sox fans seem to be weary of Jason Bay.  Understand that he is NOT Manny.  And he will probably hit between .270-.280.  But Bay will slug .500 and get on base well above the league average.  He isn’t Manny, but it could be much worse, definitely.
  • Ryan Braun:  Braun could move up after this season, but I cannot go any higher than this yet.  And the players he would be passing aren’t exactly finished playing well.  Braun is a very good hitter.  His 2007 season was incredible in only 113 games, and Braun wasn’t quite as good in 2008.  But the guy can swing the stick, posting OPS+’s of 153 and 128 in what is a very young career.  I chose him over the next few guys (that ones that could fill slot number 5) because his flaws seem to be less detrimental to a team.
  • Adam Dunn:  The fifth spot is up for grabs.  All Dunn can do well is hit, and hit he does.  Gets on base a ton, and hits for lots of power.  A simple description, I know.  Dunn also hits very consistently, as everyone makes us aware of.  But move any of the following names into this spot and I have no problem. 

The “stuff your sorry’s in a sack, Mr.” section:  Carl Crawford:  Hit more.  Pat Burrell:  You could have been fifth I guess.  Carlos Quentin:  Continue to play well and you will take away the fifth spot.  Alfonso Soriano:  Could have been fifth too, I guess. 

That fifth spot is not exactly set in stone.  None of them are though, I guess.  So place whichever player you wish in that last spot, as long as it isn’t too ridiculous.  


Give CASH-man some credit.

     This is not originally my thought, but I agree.

      I am not exactly an advocate for giving props to someone for having the most resources, and ultimately succeeding.  But although I think that Brian Cashman is far from the best GM in baseball, I also think that sometimes he has received too much blame in the past when no other General Manager had a Steinbrenner breathing down his neck. 

     This offseason has resulted in the Yankees acquiring three Type-A free agents, creating a loss of three draft picks.  Giving these players more money than anyone else would give them?  Not exactly a praise-worthy strategy.  However, acquiring all three in the same season, meaning that the Yankees surrender a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick, well, if that was planned (as I believe it was) then it actually was a good decision by Cashman. 

     Rather than sign one high-profile player each season for the next three years, in turn, losing a first round pick each year, Cashman chose to make his moves in the same free agent market, and the positive aspect of that, was losing fewer first round picks.  Now, this is better than signing them in different seasons, but comparing this to not signing them at all is a different story.  If one feels that Cashman should have avoided signing any of these particular free agents, then so be it, but I am simply giving Cashman credit for doing it all in the same year, and not in seperate years. 

     Next years free agent class, or so I’ve heard, is going to be very limited, at least in relation to the current one.  So that is another reason Cashman is making these moves, now, rather than later.  That and the “expecting” by Yankees fans and the little Steinbrenner sons that the Yankees must win right now.  I would imagine that the Yanks will make a run at Matt Holliday next season, or even Jason Bay if the Red Sox do not extend Bay’s contract beforehand.  But other than that, the Yankees will not come close to spending the amount of money that they have spent for the three free agents that they just brought to the Bronx. 

     So even though Cashman is in the best position to succeed, it isn’t as though he is a clueless General Manager.   

Road Numbers.

     An expert whose analysis I am quite fond of, always suggests that Jim Rice’s Hall of Fame candidacy is ridiculous because of how he played on the road.  It is true, very true in fact, that Rice was a heck of a lot better at home in Fenway than on the road vs. the rest of the AL.  But that is not the sole reason for an argument for or against a candidate, or any player. 

     Rice had a decent .277/.330/.459 line on the road during his career.  And at home it went a little like this: .320/.374/.546.  So although he was incredible at home, and close to mediocre on the road, there is little to suggest that what his road numbers were, was what he actually was.  It is not uncommon for a hitter to play better at home, than they do on the road.  Now, I am not an advocate for Jim Rice as a Hall of Fame worthy player.  I do believe that he was a beneficiary of Fenway’s friendly dimensions, but I do not believe that the road numbers accurately reflect what he was as a player altogether.  There is no proof that Rice would have posted the first line of numbers, had he played in an average park his entire career.  So while I don’t believe that Rice is Hall worthy, I also am not sure that he was actually the equivalent of Dante Bichette, as the analyst suggested. 

     Which leads me to some sort of point that I am trying to make…I don’t know how I come off in regards to Matt Holliday, but I do not think that he is what his road numbers are.  There are cases when a player simply performs better at home, than on the road.  So I don’t think the A’s are getting a player with a career OPS of .800, which is what his career road OPS is.  If that is what I thought they were getting, then I would say that they had been ripped off.  And a side note:  Holliday’s road OPS’ the past two years are better than his career road numbers, naturally, because he is sitting in his prime right now.  And those same road numbers are actually closer to his home numbers than in the years previous. 

     But I am still skeptical, hesitant, disinclined, reluctant, dubious, etc, etc, etc, when I want to admit what exactly I think Matt Holliday is.  I think he is good, but I don’t know that he is great, and I am not sure that he is much more than solid.  Solid is a pretty flimsy word in this context anyway.  I do know that road numbers are not everything though.  But I have trouble thinking that Holliday will end up posting an OPS north or .900 playing in that park, and in that league.     

Holliday an A

     Matt Holliday is better than what his career road numbers indicate.  It is very doubtful, however, that he is as good as his overall numbers indicate. 

     There are questions within my head that make the A’s acquisition of Matt Holliday slightly odd.  We all know that Holliday is a good player, but what do the A’s want with him?  Billy Beane would not make this deal unless it was for a reason, and if that reason is having a team that will compete this year, then it makes this look odd as of now.  There may be some pending moves, yet to be made.  I have heard lingering rumors such as signing Furcal at SS, or some other type of move to improve the club.  If something else happens then this will be a little more clear.  When Mark Ellis was re-signed, I thought to myself that Beane must be thinking that the prospects that are waiting down below, must be closer and more ready then we are aware of.  And obviously, acquiring a player like Holliday makes this team even closer to the reality that they can give the Angels a run. 

     So if Beane is going to compete, we have established that he is going to need a little more to accomplish that dream.  With Holliday, the A’s have two big time bats in the lineup.  One that excels in only the categories included in the “three true outcomes.”  And one who has been much, much better at home in Colorado his entire life.  Both are up for debate as to how good they actually are.  We know this about Holliday, or so analysts have pounded it into my head:  Much better at home, great? baserunner, “adventurous” fielder, and whatever we think, he is a capable hitter at least, and most likely better than that. 

     But there is one question left that may solve a few others.  Is Beane going to trade Holliday at the deadline as everyone seems to think is the case?  I would assume that if the A’s aren’t winning baseball games, that Beane would move him.  Because it is apparent that Holliday will not get an extension via the Oakland Athletics.  The same Oakland Athletics that simply do not give lucrative, long-term deals to good players, outside of Eric Chavez.  But there are a few aspects to why Holliday’s value cannot get any better.  Holliday is moving from a good hitters park, not so great as it was, but still good.  Holliday is moving to what we all perceive as being the better league.  And if Holliday is going to be moved at the deadline, then his short time with Oakland will be filled with a period of “league adjustment.”  Holliday will be facing a whole new crop of pitchers, in a whole new environment, in a different city, etc.  I will not judge Holliday much on his first year in the AL, but if he struggles some adjusting to the pitching/talent than some GM’s may be hesitant to give up too much for him.  And those GM’s that don’t appear to browse the right numbers, are going to see a drop in home runs, batting average, etc, because, well, Oakland is a tougher place to hit.  Is that going to matter to some of the GM’s willing to throw half of their farm at Holliday in a deadline deal?  It may. 

     One scout that I rely on says that Holliday will have issues with more difficult fastballs in the AL.  This may be true, and I think the talent he will be facing overall in the AL, WILL be more a “task” than he has encountered in the NL.  But Holliday has had to face some good pitchers in the NL too, it isn’t as if the league consists of only replacement level players, that seems to be what some of us think sometimes.  But if Holliday has to face Lackey-Santana-Escobar (when healthy) in a three-game series, it won’t be easy.  But then again, I guess that is the extreme, as he will also face three straight Rangers pitchers, even though eventually that Rangers team will have “prospects” take the place of bad pitchers. 

     Point is…Matt Holliday will probably struggle some transistioning to the new, more difficult American League.  And I wonder if that will hurt Billy Beane’s return at the deadline, if in fact, that is his plan.  But short term, the A’s have a better lineup, Holliday himself makes it better.  But there needs to be something else if they want to win in 2009.  There needs to be a Rafael Furcal, who is 31, and does not seem the right age for Billy Beane to throw the bank at.  However, Furcal would definitely be a good acquisition for the next few years if nothing else. 

     Know this, if Billy Beane made this move, then there is reason to believe that it will work out on the positive side in terms of the health of this organization.  And if nothing else, Beane is a getting a player with a lot of passion who should hit the ball some, giving the fans something to cheer for.  Beane may not put too much into that passion thing, I don’t know maybe he does.  But the passion will be there, as long as Matt Holliday is there.   



Be Wary of the Holliday.

     I love this quote that was found within a Jerry Crasnick article:

“I’m not sure that anyone gives up the necessary package for a one-year
Scott Boras client with a big home-road split,” said an AL executive.