Peter Gammons: Davis and the Orioles, Hanley Ramirez, and the scout-analytic balance

From 2013-15, Chris Davis has led the majors with 126 home runs, but even more impressive is that one-third (42) were go-ahead homers.

Who cares if the Chris Davis offer is $161M or $140-something-M in present day value? He is where is he is most wanted, his power plays very big in Camden Yards and the ballparks of the American League East, he can play first base—which he does very well—and we got to watch two master negotiators work to a deal that fits player and owner.

In the end, it didn’t much matter about mystery teams pursuing Davis. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what offer Angelos extended on Yoenis Cespedes and whether, as some O’s folks believe, it was an actual commit-able offer. Boras wanted over $150M, Angelos wasn’t going to the $170-$190M level some media projected.

Done. Importantly, Davis will play close to 100 games in the three best 2015 home run parks—Camden Yards (222), Yankee Stadium (219), Rogers Centre (203), and maybe Cespedes ends up at Minute Maid in Houston, where 198 homers were next in the AL, with Coor’s leading the NL at 202.

The O’s were not sacrificing the 14th pick in the draft to get Justin Upton rather than Davis. Buck Showalter says “small and mid-sized markets have to develop pitching and pay for hitters,” which is why Kevin Gausman cannot be dealt for Carlos Gonzalez, why the trades of Jake Arrieta, Eduardo Rodriguez and Josh Hader are now painful for the Orioles, coupled with the medical history of Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey.

It is mid-January, and every AL East team has flaws. None of the five teams may have a greater strength than the Yankee bullpen, and they may be the co-favorite with Toronto. But until we know who pitches for Baltimore, what Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval we will see, and the health of the Rays starters—which caused teams like the Cubs to back off—we have no dividing line between first and fifth.

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There’s a lot to get in the Ian Kennedy and Wei-Yin Chen signings. Yes, Kennedy’s numbers weren’t very good, but he is an innings-eater who allow Ned Yost to keep his bullpen fresh. The Royals essentially now have a two year window, with Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Wade Davis and Cain free agents at the end of the 2017 season.

And the time of the Craig Kimbrel deal, a Braves official pointed out that balls uncharacteristically carried at night in the first two months because of a diminished wind off the ocean.

Here are the Padres’ home monthly stats:

Month: ERA – HR/9

April: 4.05 – 1.2

May: 4.36 – 1.4

June: 3.57 – 0.8

July: 3.60 – 1.2

August: 3.23 – 0.9

Sept/Oct: 3.72 – 1.2

There is no comparison between the ’15 Padres defense and what Kennedy will get in Kansas City, the 5th worst home run park in the game.

But then look at Chen. As pointed out, Chris Davis’s power particular plays in Baltimore because last year Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium and the Rogers Centre were 1-2-3 in home runs. Now move Chen to Marlins Park, which had the second fewest homers in the majors (AT&T had the fewest, good news for Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija).

Chen is fresh because of the way he was carefully used by Buck Showalter, and he should be very good in behind Jose Fernandez and in front of Jarred Cosart, Tom Koehler, Adam Conley, et al. And up in front of closer A.J. Ramos (86-27 K-BB in 70 1/3 IP they Marlins have a phalanx of guys who throw 96-100 like Kyle Barraclough, Brian Ellington, Bryan Morris, Jose Urena… It is not out of the realm of possibility that with the staff they have assembled and paid for to work pitching— Jim Benedict, Juan Nieves for starters—the Marlins could have the best bullpen in the National League East come July.

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The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier this week wrote a comparative piece questioning what one could expect from Hanley Ramirez this season at the age of 32, an excellent study. But comps do not always account for injury factors.

Mike Podhorzer did a study on rotographs that detailed the players whose average batted ball distance declined the most from 2014 to 2015. Yan Gomes (-21.8 ft.), Carlos Santana (-15.5), Mike Napoli (-14.6) and George Springer (-14.4) were the biggest decliners, Michael Brantley (-12.2) was eighth (FHIW, Justin Upton was fifth at 13.6).

In the case of Gomes, Santana, Napoli, Springer and Brantley, all had various injuries. Springer jammed his wrist hustling and diving for a ball, and missed two months. Brantley hurt his front (lead) shoulder, batted .237/.275/.461 in September and eventually had surgery from which the Indians hope he will be recovered for at least five months of the 2016 season, if not more.

After Dr. Neal ElAttrache operated on Matt Kemp, the world-renowned orthopedic surgeon explained “the front shoulder is the lead to hitting, the most important element in a player’s swing.” It did take Kemp more than a year to get his swing and power back, which he eventually did. Brantley’s injury is not considered as severe as that of Kemp, but it requires patience as he comes back.

What no one in Boston seemed clear in understanding is that when, on May 4, Ramirez ran into the foul territory wall and apparently severely jammed his left shoulder, how it impacted him. At the time he had 11 homers and a .900 OPS, but was never the same. He fell into the habit of trying to launch everything—even in batting practice—to left field, then later hurt his left shoulder with another run-in with The Green Monster, and was essentially marked absent the rest of the season.

The Red Sox have monitored his conditioning program, noted that he has lost more than 15 pounds and seems to have gotten back to infielder size, but don’t know how he’ll play at first base for 100-110 games, how motivated he will be…only that he’s only 32 and two years from a 1.040 OPS and 189 OPS+ in Dodger Stadium.

Player @ Age (Year): BA/ OBP/ SLUG/ OPS/ OPS+/ HR

Ramirez @ 29 (2013): .345/ .402/ .638/ 1.040/ 189/ 20

Ramirez @ 30 (2014): .283/ .369/ .449/ .817/ 132/ 13

Ramirez @ 31 (2015):  .249/ .291/ .426/ .717/ 90/ 19

What’s curiously, at this point in his career, most of which has been spent playing shortstop, Ramirez’s OPS+ is 129. Carl Yastrzremski’s career OPS+ was 130. And while they are two very different player and never before lumped into the same thought cloud, Yaz went through a treacherous two years when he hurt his wrist midway through the 1971 season.

Yaz @ 30 (1970): .329/ .452/ .592/ 1.077/ 177/ 40

Yaz @ 31 (1971): .254/ .381/ .392/ .772/ 113/ 15

Yaz @ 32 (1972): .264/ .357/ .391/ .748/ 118/ 12

Yaz @ 33 (1973): .296/ .407/ .463/ .870/ 139/ 19

YaZ @ 37 (1977): .296/ .372/ .505/ .877/ 125/ 28

Going into 1971, Yaz was coming off hitting 40 homers thrice in four years, wrapped around the batting title (albeit at .301) in 1968. But his wrist was so weak he became a slap hitter. He refused to give in, worked tirelessly day after day after day, and in the first half of the ’72 season saw no results—a .281/381/.355 slash line with more stolen bases (3) than homers (1). I maintain that Carl Yastrzemski might be the toughest man I ever covered; he was never marked absent, hit eight homers in September and the Red Sox went from last place to losing the A.L. East to the Tigers in the final series of the season in Tiger Stadium.

For what it’s worth, Yaz’s OPS+ in 1967 was 193, the only season in his career when he bettered Ramirez’s 189 in 2013.

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Dennis Gilbert—”Go Go” from his days as a Red Sox farmhand—held his annual Scouts Dinner Sunday night, one of the great events of the winter. Per this Bob Nightengale column in USA Today. Scouts, real scouts who do not sit in lunch rooms, but beat the bushes and know with whom to get the personal information on makeup, health, etc. that make and break careers, are finding it increasingly difficult to find jobs because of teams that do not care to spend the time dissecting analytical and real, trusted scouting eyes.

What would the Astros be today if they didn’t go by analytics and take Mark Appel instead of Kris Bryant; fortunately, Bobby Heck was still scouting director the previous year and insisted on Carlos Correa.

Two years ago, when they traded Enrique Hernandez and and Jarred Cosart to the Marlins for Colin Moran and Jake Marisnick, a young scout named Alex Jacobs pleaded with them to get a Gulf Coast League teenage pitcher named Francis Montes. They had no analytics on him, but they went with Alex’s call. Montes this week was listed as the second best prospect in the organization. That same scout pleaded for a 17-year old Phillies shortstop in the GCL named Jonathan Arauz. And some in the organization think Arauz could be a bigtime prospect.

Databases+Eyes work. Go Go Gilbert’s point.

Comments

  1. Raymond Luxury Yacht says:

    I believe you mean Eduardo Rodriguez, not Francisco Rodriguez

  2. Great call on Yaz. Except for one or two years, he was the best player on every Red Sox team right up to his last game.

  3. rkimballdc says:

    Peter – Great stuff on Yaz but please note that, according to baseball-reference, the ’72 Sox were last just once – on April 29. They fell the farthest behind on June 29 – eight games back – and they began September two games out. For me the Yaz highlight that year was his extra-inning homer off Palmer at Memorial Stadium that knocked Baltimore out of the race. Palmer later said Yaz’s homer came on a waste pitch.