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Matt Smith is the editor and lead writer at BaseballGB. An Oakland A's fan, Matt has been obsessed with baseball since 1998 and started writing about the sport in 2006.

Big League Tour and Big League news

The European Big League Tour rolled into London for the first time a week ago and if the comments on Twitter from numerous attendees are anything to go by, it was a fantastic event. It was described as a “magical day for Herts youngsters” on the Herts Baseball Club website report and hopefully will prove to be an inspiration for many, young and not so young, that attended.

Guthrie’s on his bike

Money is far from being the key priority when dreaming of the Majors, but one of the Big League Tour contingent showed that it’s a dream job that pays well.  Jeremy Guthrie re-signed with the Kansas City Royals on a three-year contract worth $25m (averaging out at just under £100k per week). Maybe he’ll use a few of those dollars to buy up a couple of Boris Bikes for him and his wife to ride around KC on.

Pitcher deals

Guthrie’s deal was one of several recent free agent signings.

Continuing on the pitching front, Hiroki Kuroda reportedly turned down more lucrative offers before agreeing a one-year/$15m deal (£180k per week) to stay with the Yankees. Relievers Jeremy Affeldt (three-year/$18m with the Giants), Brandon League (three-year/$22.5m with the Dodgers) and Joe Peralta (two-year/$6m with the Rays) all similarly decided to sign on for longer with their current teams, whilst former Twin Scott Baker has moved leagues and joined the Chicago Cubs on a one-year/5.5m contract despite missing the whole of the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Hunter and the hitters

As for the free agent hitters, the Detroit Tigers, looking to bounce back from the disappointment of a World Series defeat, moved quickly to fill a gap in their outfield. Torii Hunter has joined the team on a two-year/$26m contract (£156k per week) after spending the last five years with the Los Angeles Angels. Former Tiger Gerald Laird will take over David Ross’s catching back-up duties in Atlanta after he signed a two-year deal with the Braves worth around $3.5m.  Ross left the Braves to join Boston and the Red Sox made another roster move this week by agreeing terms on a two-year/$10m contract with outfielder Jonny Gomes who spent 2012 with the Oakland A’s.

Toronto turnaround continues

One of the more intriguing hitting options on this year’s free agent market was Melky Cabrera.  He looked set for a bumper payday heading into August whilst having a career year with the Giants, only to see it all unravel when he received a 50-game drug suspension. No one knows quite what to expect from Melky in 2013, but the Toronto Blue Jays decided they wanted to be the ones to find out as they signed him to a two-year/$16m contract (£96k per week). Meanwhile the Verve’s ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ plays quietly in the background.

Cabrera joins the gaggle of former Marlins in a revamped Blue Jays lineup that will be led by a new-old manager.  In something of a surprise move, Toronto ended their managerial search by turning back the clocks and re-hiring John Gibbons. Gibbons managed the team for parts of five seasons between 2004 and 2008 before being fired and replaced with Cito Gaston, himself an ex-Blue Jays manager getting a second term in the Toronto hot seat.

Gibbons’ most successful season came in 2006 when he guided the team to a second-placed finish with an 87-75 record. That wasn’t enough to earn a postseason place, but expectations will be high that 2013 could see Toronto return to the playoffs for the first time since completing back-to-back World Series triumphs in 1992 and 1993.

Nobody should be too quick to hand out postseason spots based on offseason performances though. The Miami Marlins ‘won the offseason’ last year and that certainly didn’t create a story with a happy ending.

Awards

The other major story in the Majors over the past two weeks has been the annual round of awards being announced.

The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw put forward a very impressive case to win back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards, but few could begrudge seeing veteran knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey taking the honour after his incredible season with the Mets.

Things were not so magnanimous when it came to the AL MVP Award.  There were two excellent candidates in Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera and the build-up to the announcement descended into a bitter debate between those in the advance statistical camp (favouring Trout) and the traditionalists (favouring Cabrera and his triple crown).

Cabrera got the nod from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voters and it’s a real shame that both he and Trout’s seasons got dragged into a debate not of their making. Whilst my vote would have gone to Trout (I’ve yet to read a convincing argument to dispute that hitting, fielding and base-running combined he performed better than any other player in the AL – in fact the Majors – in 2012, and that’s what the MVP Award should be about in my book), Cabrera had a great year too.

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3 Responses to “Big League Tour and Big League news”

  1. Joseph Cooter #

    Just a little comment on the MVP race. I think the right man won in part because I believe there is more to being a Most Valuable Player than mear statistics. I believe you have to evaluate how one players performance impacts the rest of the players on the team. This is not something you can easily evaluate with simply statistics, it really isn’t.

    Looking at the performance of the Tigers, I think that it is pretty obvious that taking Miguel Cabrerra out of the lineup would have had a far greater impact on the Tigers than removing Mike Trout from the Angels, especially when you consider the fact that Victor Martinez missed the entire season with a knee injury. Had the Tiger’s missed Cabrarra for any length of time, it would have had a huge impact on the Tigers offense as teams would simply pitch around Prince Fielder and I don’t believe they would have been anywhere near the playoffs. Infact, I think they would have finished with a losing record. I really can not say the same thing about Mike Trout in part because the Angeles offense is primarily built on speed and I believe they would have found someone to put up that kind of production.

    One of the arguement that Sabermatricians used to say that Trout deserved the MVP was the fact that he was a “better defender” than Miguell Cabrerra. Where or not that is true is debateable and really can’t be determined since the two candidates played different positions and I believe that it is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Or saying John Terry is a better footballer than Tim Howard; the two play different positions that renders any comparisions meaningless. The demands of playing Centerfield is different than the demand of playing thirdbases. Cabrerra played the entire season out of position at one of most difficult positions to play defensively, while Trout spent the entire season playing a somewhat easier position defensively. Even though Trout made many “spectacular” plays in the field the fact remains that any number of centerfielders could have made those plays. Torri Hunter made those plays regularly when he was an everyday centerfielder. There really isn’t any thing special about the type of plays that Trout makes.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Trout is a good player. I think he deserved the rookie of the year award/ Having said that, I don’t think he put up the kind of numbers that meritted the MVP. The main arguement that sabermatricians seemed to have makes was that trout got on base and had a great glove. I believe that there is more to being an MVP than “he gets on base and makes great plays in the field.”

    Please do not take this as an argument against analytics. Please do not take this as a rant against mathematics because this post is not intended to be that. I believe that analytics has some wonderful applications; especially in the world of politics where Nate Silver of the 538 Blog sucessfully predicted that President OBama beat Mitt Romney inspite of claims by the Republicans, before the election, that Romney would win in a landslide. Analytics can be used to predict elections and identify who is likely to vote for a candidate and it can be used to identify who will by coke and who will buy Pepsi. In those instances, I think that analytics are quite usefull. Yet I don’t believe that you can apply analytics to pro sports in part because there are simply to many variables and each players has a differant role on their team that isn’t always compariable to the another players role on a differant team.

    November 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm Reply
  2. Matt Smith #

    Interesting thoughts as always.

    Looking at which team would have missed their player more goes to show how well both of them performed, because both teams would have been badly hurt without them. It’s difficult to really go back and replay the season without them. Obviously one slight insight we have is that the Angels were 6-14 before they called up Trout. After his promotion they went 83-58, wich was the best record in the Majors over that period. That certainly wasn’t all down to Trout of course – and the first 20 games wouldn’t tell the whole story of the pre-Trout team’s ability – but he unquestionably made an impact.

    Cabrera also made a huge difference to the Tigers. Detroit made the playoffs but the Angels actually won one extra regular season game whilst arguably playing the tougher schedule, so that’s a difficult one to call.

    As for fielding, I wouldn’t agree that centrefield is easier than third base. The two are pretty close, with catcher, shortstop and arguably second base ahead of them in terms of difficulty. It’s not so much the flashy plays in centre that Trout made that impressed me, it was all of the plays that he made look routine when many other outfielders would have made a meal of them. Cabrera deserves credit for working hard and doing his best at third for his team, but the reason he’s been moved around the field is that he is a below-average fielder.

    It’s a personal preference as to whether you give extra credit to Trout’s 1st full season or extra credit to Cabrera’s body of work over a number of years.

    Again, I just go back to the fact that Trout’s overall contribution across the board (batting, fielding, base-running) was that bit more impressive to me than Cabrera’s excellent season at the plate. Whilst the Triple Crown is a good historic achievement, Trout did things that have never been done before in the Majors (his combination of HR, Stolen bases and Runs scored totals) whilst being just 20/21 years old.

    November 26, 2012 at 7:21 pm Reply
  3. Joseph Cooter #

    Yes, I see where you are coming from. However, I generally find myself being skeptical of players like Mike Trout who have great rookie seasons. Usually players like taht generally have a hard time living up to the expectations created by the rookie season and decline sharply as their careers progress. Players like Gil McDougal and Joe Charbineau had super rookie seasons and then faded into obscurity, while Fred Lynne had a good career but never another season like the one he posted in 1975 when he won Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player. Generally Player with these kind of seasons don’t have great careers.

    I think that Trout is going to have to make a lot of improvements inorder to have repeat of the kind of season that he had this year. He’s going to have to be a lot more patient at the plate and draw a heck of a lot more walks than he is currently drawing. I watched the series between the Yankees and the Angels that took place in New York in Mid-july that took place just after the All Star Break and had a chace to see Trout play leadoff for three games, where he did a good job and was able to get a base hit everytime up. I left the series with one impression, Trout was freeswinger and didn’t take a lot of walks.

    I got that impression inpart because of he seemed to get a pitch to hit everytime out and the fact that he had a .300 batting average and an onbase percentage of .346, which told me that Trout only walked 4.6 percent of the time he came to the plate. That really isnt’ all that high for a lead off hitter. The only other leadoff hitter, that I can think of, who doesn’t walk that much is Derek Jeter and I’m not really sold on the idea of having a freeswing hit leadoff because I believe that a lead off hitter has to see a lot of pitches inorder to help other hitters on the team get a good idea of kind of pitches a pitcher throws. A lead off hitter who swings early in the count doesn’t give his teamates the opportunity to judge a pitchers pitches. Trout could very easily turn into that hitter and I don’t think it will be in the best interests of the Angels.

    Teams are going to take a look at what trout did this year and the will make an adjustment to the way that they pitch Mike Trout. Trout is going to have to make an adjustment to the way he hits and to thw way he approaches each at batt. Otherwise, I don’t think that he will be in the big leagues all that long. I just don’t see it.

    But doesn’t take away from the season that he had.

    November 27, 2012 at 11:45 am Reply

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