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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Focusing Our Hate Dep't: Neyer On Overrated Players

Sean passes along some Haloblog hate for "noted sack of crap Rob Neyer", whose principle crime, apparently, is hating on the Angels' expensive nonperformers. Wha-wha-what? Sean, are you seriously trying to argue that Erstad's earned anywhere near what his 4 year, $32M contract would imply? And what about favored whipping boy Finley? Was that a bargain? Did he suddenly start hitting the ball out of the park while I wasn't looking, or did Scioscia bench his ass for the balance of the year for a reason? Is Anderson and his but he brings such a veteran presence to the clubhouse -- and 13 HR -- really worth the eye-popping $23 million remaining on his contract? Seriously, Benjie Molina -- the catcher! -- at $3M this year is hitting for more average, has the same number of home runs, and 24 points more OBP!

I can agree, kind of, that Neyer seems to have it in for the Angels and at times seems to criticize them for reasons that go beyond the numbers -- as if the ability to make multiple contractual mistakes and win anyway were a bad thing. But -- come on -- Neyer's right. Stoneman's spent a lot of money on benchwarmers or guys who should be benchwarmers. This shouldn't even be up for discussion.


Comments:
Thanks for a voice of reason in Haloblogdom. Sometimes folks just don't get the numbers enough to spout off about the finances of the game.

Erstad, Finley, Cabrera and GA (with roughly $69 million still owed to them) are overpaid and underperforming. No ifs, ands or buts about it!

I'd like to think that the team will be better off when their contracts run out - but Stoneman will probably bring in a bunch of marginal talent to replace these guys so maybe we're better off with the known quantity....
 
Stoneman will probably bring in a bunch of marginal talent to replace these guys so maybe we're better off with the known quantity....

I don't think Kotchman, Morales, and our middle-infield minor league gravy train are "marginal talents"; what's more, they'll be cheap as hell by the time the other contracts run out. And hopefully no one's progress will be unduly blocked by an incumbent signed to an over-long contract.

If you're going to overpay (and I think all these guys are overpaid, though I only truly feel awful about Finley), then do it to plug what would otherwise be a hole in your starting lineup. Erstad really can't hit much, but he does allow for some roster flexibiilty (which is one of the team's strengths) by playing gold-glove defense at three positions. This will come in handy next year when he moves back to the outfield to make way for Kotchman & cover up for the Finley atrocity.
 
Oh -- And Neyer clearly *has* been biased toward the A's and against the Angels for years now. He (like many of the SABR guys) just about always predicts them to win the division, then backs it up with sniffy comments like "that's just what the evidence shows." And I say that as a fan, etc.
 
But Matt, do you trust Bill Stoneman to plug those holes with anything other than marginal or declining talent? He had the money to plug holes this offseason, and he failed miserably.

And also, I think you're probably putting too much trust in Erstad's hamstrings. I don't see how he could be the same outfielder he was two years ago. An improvement over Finley or Anderson? Easy. But another Gold Glove? I'll believe it when I see it. Personally I think Figgins is as good an option as anybody on the roster.
 
I don't understand the hatred. Yes, all the SABR guys have predicted the A's as division champs, but the A's have made the playoffs 4 of the last 5 years, so it's hardly been a bad prediction. And, in the Neyer article, he starts out by talking about what a terrible signing Kendall has been, so he's not exclusively an Angels hater.

But, when it comes to judging bad contracts, I think the main thing to think about is how the players were regarded at the time of signing. For instance, the Germaine Dye and Steve Finley contracts are two deals that have been clear disastors. However, I think, in both cases the decline was not predictable, and most people thought they were decent signings at the time. Sometimes bad things happen, and players just don't perform. I don't think that Stoneman can really be blamed for the Finley contract, maybe just for letting him start for so long. Contracts, like Derek Lowe's or Orlando Cabrera's, on the other hand, were widely panned at the time. Rob has listed the problems with Cabrera's contract several times on this blog. So, while I think that from a performance perspective Cabrera has been much much better than Finley, as far as judging Stoneman is concerned, it's a worse deal.
 
do you trust Bill Stoneman to plug those holes with anything other than marginal or declining talent? He had the money to plug holes this offseason, and he failed miserably.

Yes, and I disagree.

Unless there's some kind of trade for Andruw Jones or Vernon Wells, the starting CF next year will either be Figgins or Erstad; meanwhile Kotchman will likely be the starting 1B. A CF/1B combo of Erstad/Kotchman or Figgins/Kotchman will already be a huge improvement over Finley/Erstad, without spending a dime. The holes created by Erstad's 2007 departure and Anderson's 2008 (right?) will be more than amply filled by Kendry Morales and Brandon Wood. And as everyone but me seems confident about, the current minor league SS will be better than Cabrera in a couple of years.

So Stoneman doesn't have to do anything except continue not trading away prospects, and continue not signing declining veterans after their walk years.

As for Stoneman's past free-agent signings, there *have* been some notable successes -- Vlad, Colon and Escobar, especially. Finley and Yan were stinkers, and I won't bother with my minority defense of Cabrera on the roster instead of Eckstein....

Point is this -- Stoneman's MO is to let others overpay for 30something Angel free agents, and promote studs from within. This approach will come very much in handy over the next five years, as an unprecedented wave of talent washes up to the big club.

For me, the two pressing (and open) questions are what to do with the offense next year, and whether to re-sign Washburn. There's a sizable amount of salary coming off the books (Salmon, Wash, Byrd, Molina), and I wouldn't mind seeing it spent on an Andruw Jones-style CF who is young, fleet, right-handed, and can mash. Then you could play Erstad in LF for one last year, DH Anderson, wait for Morales and Wood to displace them, and make Figgy the full-time rover. I worry that a best-case scenario lineup of Anderson/Erstad/Figgy at DH/LF/CF won't score enough runs for what will likely be the first full years of Kotchman, Mathis & D-Mac....
 
I don't think that Stoneman can really be blamed for the Finley contract

There are basically no examples of 40-year-olds playing good starting CF in baseball history. It was a bad signing, especially at two years.

while I think that from a performance perspective Cabrera has been much much better than Finley, as far as judging Stoneman is concerned, it's a worse deal.

I don't think we'll be able to say that until a minor league middle-infielder is ready, and until we can see how Eckstein (d)evolves in St. Louis. For now, I'm grateful that we had a great defensive SS between the Eck & Whoever's Next era.
 
I don't think Kotchman, Morales, and our middle-infield minor league gravy train are "marginal talents"; what's more, they'll be cheap as hell by the time the other contracts run out. And hopefully no one's progress will be unduly blocked by an incumbent signed to an over-long contract.

If Stoneman replaces the likes of Erstad, Cabrera, Finley et al from within, I'll be happy as pie. If he goes out spends that money on either resigning Erstad, or picking up a mediocrity instead of playing the kids then I will be upset. But I think we agree Matt, if the young players are allowed to flow into the majors I will be very happy. I'm just not sure that we are guaranteed that scenario.

He had the money to plug holes this offseason, and he failed miserably.

Exactly Richard - this is my concern as well.

the starting CF next year will either be Figgins or Erstad

I hope that is the case, but I have a weird feeling that the job is Steve Finley's to lose in ST, 2006, with Figgy being the 2nd choice and Erstad returning to 1B. This would make Kotchman the LH half of a DH platoon (probably with Rivera again).

So Stoneman doesn't have to do anything except continue not trading away prospects, and continue not signing declining veterans after their walk years.

That is a lot to ask him with so much expected of this team. I think he is likely to make a bad trade this offseason to try to make up for the bad signings this year.
 
Matt -- IMO the solutions next year are:

1) Anderson remains in left.
2) Dallas McPherson comes up and actually has the monster season we were hoping for. Minus the hitch in his gitalong, he ought to be even better than he was in Salt Lake, Arkansas, and Rancho. (Right?)
3) Jeff Mathis comes up and we live with the offensive trouble. He probably won't be the big offensive producer we had hoped two years ago when he was at Rancho, but behind him we have Mike Napoli, and hopefully, Michael Collins, assuming the Angels can re-sign him. I think there's enough of a question as to Mathis's offense that Collins has a good chance of being a big difference-maker. (Recall that Collins has numbers similar to Mike Piazza so far.)

I blanch at the idea of going after a centerfielder, because ultimately that's where I think Wood's future is defensively. The team needs an outfielder with some pop, and he could be that guy. I don't know how good he is at short, but so far the rumblings seem to be that none of the Angels' middle infielders are that good with the glove. Those kinds of things can be corrected to some degree, but making the transition to center from short has been done before (IIRC DiMaggio did it in the minors).
 
Jim --

I think [Stoneman] is likely to make a bad trade this offseason to try to make up for the bad signings this year.

Bill Stoneman make a trade? When? Why?
 
Jim -- I've heard or read Stoneman say something recently about how "good organizations make room their best young prospects," regarding D-Mac and Kotchman in particular. (Quote not exact, etc.) It really does seem to be his M.O.

Rob -- Maybe so. I'm just worried about the lack of outfield depth & punch for 2006. And I really don't want to see Garret play the field anymore. He was really good when his body still worked, but it doesn't, so he isn't.
 
Funny how no one -- including Neyer -- ever mentions the $10.6 million Billy Beane is paying Jason Kendall this year.
 
Like I said, I didn't read the article, since it's behind the pay section. So I don't know who else is on the list. But is this guy?

Player X: .269/.337/.452, 24 2B, 14 HR, 100 hits, 8.0 million in 2005.

(cf. Erstad: .280/.337/.375, 28 2B, 5 HR, 144 hits, 8.25 million in 2005).

I'm guessing not, despite the fact that they're having very similar offensive seasons. Or they were, before Player X - also known as Torii Hunter - went on the DL. And Hunter's 8 million makes a much bigger impact on the Twins than Erstad's makes on the Angels.

But Hunter's a Twin, and Twins, for some reason, get a free pass from the SABR crowd. Fine. Still, if you're going to talk about who's "overpaid," it makes no sense to ignore the fact that teams have different amounts of money to play with. You can't possibly argue that Erstad's contract somehow kept the Angels from pursuing other free agents for financial reasons - they went out and got Colon and Guerrero, and I have yet to hear Stoneman or Moreno talk about anyone who was just too expensive.

So the only way Erstad is "overpaid" is if they could have gotten someone better for less or equal money. Who might that be? Keep in mind that you're limited to guys who (1) were better overall center fielders than Erstad in mid-2002, and (2) were available after the 2002 season. WAS there anyone better available? Because if not, then it doesn't matter what they paid Erstad, so long as it didn't keep them from getting someone else.

But my original point, made years ago, was that it's insanely dumb to say, as Neyer did, that EVEN IF ONE ACCEPTS THE PROPOSITION THAT ERSTAD'S CONTRACT WAS NECESSARY TO ENSURE THE 2002 CHAMPIONSHIP, it still wasn't worth it. That's just retarded. If it won the World Series, who wouldn't hesitate to pay Neifi Perez 32 million, as long as you had 32 million to spend?

It is, of course, possible that the Angels might have been able to identify and acquire someone else after the 2002 season, and maybe nothing would have changed. Maybe the Angels would've still won their first-ever Series, and maybe they would've won their first Division Championship in 18 years in 2004, and maybe they'd be fighting to make the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time ever in 2005. But we'll never know that. We do know that, after signing his extension, Erstad smoked a homer into right field to start the eighth inning of Game 6. We know he drove in the tying run against the A's in the clincher last year, then scored the winning run. The dude's been at the center of some of the best moments in Angel history, and that's not my idea of "overpaid."
 
I mentioned this before, but Neyer DID mention Kendall in that article. In fact, Kendall is the first name on the list of overpaid players (because he plays catcher and it's ordered by position).
 
Given that Hunter was competition for biggest suckfest at the same position, Steve Finley's nonproduction was way worse than Hunter's.
 
ocab, 256 avg, 669 ops, 8mil/y
eck, 281 avg, 739 ops, 3mil/y

HUMMMM... enuf said. I can't believe we gave a below-league-average player 32million dollars. Oh wait, I can believe that.. we have Stoneman as our GM. Neyer is right, as usual.
 
Re Sean's comment:

"So the only way Erstad is "overpaid" is if they could have gotten someone better for less or equal money. Who might that be?"

I am certain that Rob Neyer himself said that at the time. These columns require money now to access and it's not worth it to me.

But I remember Neyer saying all the bad things about Erstad that have been talked about here, but still saying something like: crazy as it might sound, he was probably a bargain (and then went on to give more or less the reasons Sean gives).

If anyone with access to the columns can confirm (or disabuse), please do.
 
Neyer has said several times that Erstad was not particularly overpaid as a center fielder. One, he was coming off a great 2001 season, and, two, his offensive production is not so out of line with the average center fielder (someone already compared him favorably to Torii Hunter). It's only when he became a first basemen, a position that is dominated by power hitting offensive players that his contract gets out of line. I think Neyer has always made this point clear, that Erstad is overpaid as a first baseman, but not necessarily as a center fielder.
 
Adam and Matthew - your memories decieve you.

From Jan., 2003:

"Fullmer's ridiculous-in-one-way deal helps compensate for Darin Erstad's ridiculous-the-other-way deal.

"I mean, I know that Erstad's great with the glove, and of course he plays baseball like he's a linebacker (even though he's actually a punter). But last year Erstad was something like the 100th best player in the majors, in a group with his teammates Scott Spiezio and Adam Kennedy. In three of the last four seasons, his hitting stats have been considerably short of impressive. And he's worth $8 million per season, while Fullmer's worth one-eighth of that?"

--The ever-prescient Rob Neyer, touting soon-to-be-out-of-baseball Brad Fullmer.

And here's what he said at the time of the signing. In addition to calling it "monumentally stupid" and "idiocy," he wrote that:

"So you've got three baseball writers, and not one of them showed the slightest understanding that Erstad isn't a good player and certainly isn't worth $8 million per season. I could not find one BBWAA member in all of Southern California, not even one, who wrote the truth. Who wrote that the Angels are wasting their money."

--Neyer, in a column in which he also said that Carlos Beltran - currently hitting .267/.330/.421 in his first year after free agency - was objectively TWICE the player Erstad is.

Both columns, of course, were more than a year before Erstad started player first base.
 
I stand corrected. Although, I thought that Neyer has modified that stance in more recent chats.
 

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