FIRE JOE MORGAN: The Best System Ever


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Monday, January 07, 2008


The Best System Ever

Thanks to a reader named Daniel, a little math genius I like to call Phil Rogers, and whichever Chicago Tribune editor passed out drunk and allowed Mr. Rogers to publish this article, we now have the best, most simple formula for determining whether teams have gotten better or worse in the off-season.

While the White Sox paid an extremely high price for Nick Swisher, at least their short-sighted fans should be happy. His acquisition continues a winter in which Ken Williams has done more than almost any other general manager to improve his team when gauged simplistically.

The key word here is going to be: "simplistically."

(For the record, Swisher is a beast who has walked 197 times in the last two years. He's 26 and really good. Gio Gonzalez led the Southern League in Ks last year, but the ChiSox apparently think so little of him they have now traded him twice. Fauti de los Santos is doing well in rookie ball and Ryan Sweeney may turn out to be a good OF someday, but Chicago fans should be effing psyched that Swisher and Carlos Quentin are in their OF now. That's a good young OF. Anyway, back to Rogers's awesome new system.)

There are really two ways for rosters to improve: the ebb and flow of proven players and the development of young talent. The latter is the better way, but it is more art than business—an extremely subjective process to evaluate. The former, however, is easily studied.

New key word here is: "easily."

For the purpose of identifying the most on-the-surface improvement around the major leagues, consider the core players—hitters projected to be regulars and pitchers who either start or work the last two innings of games—who have come and gone. In this simple accounting, the Sox rate a plus-two, having added Swisher, Orlando Cabrera and Scott Linebrink while losing only Jon Garland. That puts them alongside Detroit (plus-three), Tampa Bay (plus-two), Toronto (plus-one) and Houston (plus-one) as the most improved teams in the majors.

Okay. Let's review the system.

If you add a "core" player -- meaning anyone who projects to be regular, or a starting pitcher, or (for some reason) a pitcher who is either an 8th inning guy or a closer, you get one Point. If you lose one such player, you lose one Point.

Thus, if the St. Louis Cardinals traded Albert Pujols and their eleven best minor league prospects to the Texas Rangers for Vincente Padilla and Ben Broussard, the Cardinals would be "Plus-One," and would have improved.

It's an excellent system.

The Cubs excited their fans with the signing of Kosuke Fukudome, but that addition is offset by the departures of Jacque Jones, Cliff Floyd and Jason Kendall. That leaves the Cubs at minus-two at present. The only teams that have lost more are Oakland (minus-four) and St. Louis (minus-five).

Jacque Jones, about which we have written before, is not that good. Cliff Floyd is okay, but he's 35 and plays about 100 games a year. Jason Kendall is a 34 year-old catcher coming off a season where he made an out 69.9% of the time, and who has 7 HR in the last four seasons. So who will replace them? Maybe Matt Murton, who won't set the world on fire, but who's better than Jacque Jones; and Felix Pie, who is 22 and (no matter what that guy says) is not "not a major league hitter" at the ripe old age of 22.

Getting rid of those two old OF to make way for two young guys who seem like they're better (or could be better), and adding Fukudome, makes them "Zorp-7" in my system, wherein I give each team a nonsense word and a randomly-generated number to indicate how well I think they have done in the off-season. Oakland is "Flerm-22" and St. Louis is "Chunktastic-4."

Detroit's plus-three comes from adding Miguel Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, Dontrelle Willis and Jones while losing only Sean Casey. Tampa Bay got its plus-two by adding Matt Garza, Troy Percival, Jason Bartlett and Floyd while subtracting Delmon Young and Brendan Harris.

Just realize, please, what is going on here. I know it came with the caveat that it was a "simplistic" system, but all that is occurring is a count of number of starters and pitchers who have left or come in. Quality = not a factor. Sean Casey counts as much as Miguel Cabrera. Delmon Young counts as much as Jason Bartlett. (In my system, by the way, Detroit is "Slerk-191" and Tampa is "Tpwlgr-00000000."

The Cardinals have lost
Jim Edmonds, David Eckstein, Kip Wells, Preston Wilson and Percival while adding no one who played a big role last season.

Eckstein should count as 100 men. He should be the one exception.

The Athletics, intentionally downsizing, are replacing Dan Haren, Mike Piazza, Shannon Stewart and Swisher with kids.

Oakland's new rating: "Charlemagnewwwwww-20." That's what happens when you rebuild.

There's still time for teams to tilt these rankings. About 25 guys who can be considered core players remain unsigned after filing for free agency or being non-tendered.

If I'm the Milwaukee Brewers, I go out and sign all 25. Then they'd be Plus-25!

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Thanks to Devin, who pointed out that Oakland had been assigned two different ratings in my nonsense-number system. There's still a few kinks.
Thanks also to Patrick, who reminds us:

Though you mentioned Murton and Pie -- and, as a Cubs fan, I'm still really hopeful about Pie -- you forgot to mention Geovany Soto, who last year hit a monster .353/.424/.652 in AAA and, in a very small sample size, .389/.433/.667 in the majors. The Cubs are replacing a 34 year-old who hit 7 HR in the last four seasons with a 24 year-old who hit 3 HR in 54 big league AB. And this is minus-one.
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