Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Night At The Ballpark

Well, there was no Roger Clemens, but it was still an interesting night at the ballpark, nevertheless. Without Clemens around, attention returned to the two proud, but struggling, franchises on the field. Ozzie Guillen expressed his dismay, jokingly one assumes, towards the Yankees for failing to come through on their promised distraction.

He was probably doubly irritated that Clemens wasn't there to take the heat (as my buddy Scalia's Gavel observed, Clemens is such a prima donna that he didn't even give us a chance to make fun of him in person for being a prima donna) in the ninth inning. With the Sox leading 6-1, one on, one out, Ozzie emerged from the dugout to pull starter Jon Garland. At that moment, despite the five run lead, every ounce of frustration built up this season came forth. Thirty-thousand plus fans let Ozzie know they didn't approve of the decision. Now, part of that was fear of the bullpen, and part of it was frustration on Garland's behalf. But the decision was somewhat defensible -- Garland had thrown 120 or so pitches -- and regardless, this time a year ago people would not have booed Ozzie. It's that simple. Whether or not he's lost the team, Ozzie has lost the Sox' fan base, and that's remarkable given that he delivered the city's first World Series championship in nearly a century.

Speaking of the bullpen, Matt Thornton was one of the few guys on the team actually getting people out. Now he's getting lit up? Can we not catch a break out there? I think Bret Prinz has proven that he can be a league average reliever, which is a heck of a lot better than what we have had, and Ryan Bukvich is a former prospect who throws very hard, but the pressure on these guys to come through is immense. While we're making short observations: the woman behind me brought a sign to get ESPN's attention. She was the only female along with a few guys -- some Yankees fans, some Sox fans -- and she was so proud of her sign. The she opened it up and realized that it read: Hey Yanks, prepare for an Especially Serious Poundig Now!" Yes, I mean for that to read "Poundig." She forgot the "n." Sox fans make me so proud. Also, to the guy sitting in front of me: making fun of her lisp was probably not the best way to pick up the chick sitting next to you.

Anyway, returning to our scheduled blog: last night also brought together two players often mentioned in trade rumors together. Rumors swirl that the Sox and Yanks may deal Jermaine Dye and Bobby Abreu straight up for one another. I'm skeptical, but if it's for real, I like the deal for the Sox. Dye is 33 years old. For the moment, he has a remarkably reasonable contract. He is making $7 million this season, while PECOTA projects his value at $14.5 million for 2007. But this is the last year he'll be a value. After this year he'll be a free agent, and probably cost more than the $9 million a year that PECOTA says he'll be worth over the next three seasons. Abreu, on the other hand, is making a robust $15.6 million this season. He too is 33, and his salary is also not out of line. PECOTA projects his value at $16 million this year. PECOTA projects that Abreu will be worth $11 million a year for the next three seasons. Obviously, one thing you can take from this is that PECOTA thinks Abreu will be more valuable over the next three years. In fact, PECOTA says Abreu will have a SuperVORP (think of it as total value) of 42.8 from 2008-2010, as opposed to 39.7 for Dye. It projects comparable value for this season. Next year, Abreu will still be under contract at $16 million, when PECOTA projects his value at around $14 million. Still, not crazy. And, as mentioned, as a free agent, Dye will probably command far more than the $11.5 million PECOTA says he'll be worth in 2008.

Still, all in all, this is a fairly close match-up. So, is it just moving pieces for the sake of moving pieces? Well, having the option to lock Abreu up for 2008 at a reasonable price gives Abreu slightly more value. The likely slower decline to Abreu's skills gives him another edge. Abreu's skill set is one that typically serves a player much later into his career. PECOTA sees a remarkable resemblance between a 2007 Dye and a 1991 Dave Henderson. Henderson was out of baseball 1994, never played 110 games in a season after '91, and hit a grand total of 25 home runs over the last three years of his career. In '91 Henderson was a year younger than Dye is now. And the comparison is not unique. Other comparables for Dye -- relatively nonathletic, pull-hitting sluggers -- include the rapidly fading 2006 version of Cliff Floyd, and the washed-up 1986 version of Jim Rice. There are exceptions. Dye also looks like a 1985 Dave Winfield to PECOTA. Winfield played until he was 43 and hit 186 home runs from 1986 on.

In contrast, Abreu's comparables include still in their primes 2000 Kenny Lofton, 1972 Carl Yastrzemski, and 1992 Ricky Henderson. Abreu's speed and patience generally bode well for a long, relatively successful twilight to his career. On the other hand, there are no guarantees. His top two comparables are a 1994 John Kruk and a 1991 Von Hayes. Neither was in baseball two years down the road.

So what does all of this add up to? I guess this: Bobby Abreu and Jermain Dye have comparable value, but Abreu is a little more valuable, more likely to have a long, productive tail end of his career, and locked up for 2008. Plus, we have pieces that duplicate Dye's power. We lack pieces that can duplicate Abreu's on-base prowess. So, if the Yankees really asked about a straight swap, then I say do it. But no one should think that move alone will drastically change the team's fortunes this year.

And, as I saw last night, those fortunes, bleak as they appear, are starting to wear on the patience of Sox fans. And, on their spelling.


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