This week's column is going to be a little light. On doctor's orders, I'm on bed rest with the flu and a 102 degree fever. Hopefully, we'll be back to normal next week.
While I prepare these over the course of the week, I see a lot of things. For example, there's this piece by CBS Sports Gregg Doyle proclaiming that Masahiro Tanaka will succeed in the majors in part because his NPB statistics are better than countryman Yu Darvish's. That might strike some of you as funny given that scouts don't believe Tanaka will be as good as Darvish. There has to be something up here, right? Well, yes. This is getting surprisingly little press, but NPB actually changed their baseballs before the 2011 season. Prior to that, each club was allowed to use it's own -- more lively -- balls. Batting statistics across NPB fell after the rule change.
The upshot of this is that Tanaka has been pitching his last three seasons in the new, dead-ball era in Japan whereas Darvish just pitched one, his last, in that regime. To try to compare apples to apples, we can look at the two pitchers 18-21 year old seasons, where both pitched under the old rules, and their 24-year old seasons, where both pitched under the new rules. (The stats, thanks to the incredible Baseball Reference can be found at these links: Darvish and Tanaka.) Not surprisingly, Darvish put up better numbers every year, by a significant margin, for the 18-21 year old seasons. What might be a surprise is that Tanaka was actually better last year.
What are we to make of this? While I'd like to say it means Tanaka is better than Darvish, that probably isn't the case. The issue is we only have one data point for Darvish under the new rules. Objectively, it could mean one of two things: (1) Tanaka developed into the better pitcher between his 21 and 24-year old seasons or (2) Darvish is the better pitcher and either he had a down year in 2011 that was masked by the new balls or Tanaka had a special season where he got results above his abilities. With just the data, we can't distinguish between the two. However, we also have the scouting reports on Tanaka that John is sharing with us and those lead me to conclude that the latter is true.
I'd still like to add Tanaka.
Around the league:
- The Yankees are starting to remind me so much of the late-Hendry era Cubs it isn't even funny. Joel Sherman has a piece on how the minor league system has disappointed Yankees fans of late and they need a "Hail Mary" to have a strong rotation next year. Specifically, he mentions Michael Pineda and Manny Banuelos, in addition to Masahiro Tanaka. I know it's tempting to read this and panic about the talent the Cubs have coming up but, here's the thing, Mason Williams and Tyler Austin were always Arismendy Alcantara-type prospects. Those guys don't work out a lot of the time. (Alcantara is still a long shot.) But Yankee fans were playing them up as if they were Kris Bryant and Albert Almora. As I said: stunningly similar to the late Hendry-era Cubs and franchise player Brett Jackson.
- Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig was busted for doing 110 in a 70 zone. This is the second time this year he's been busted for excessive speeding. Bill Plaschke of the LA Times writes, "The Dodgers thus reacted to Saturday's news with a ... statement in which the harshest words were 'very disappointed.' Then they resumed doing the one consistent thing they have done since Puig first donned a Dodger uniform: holding their breath." Am I the only one who sees Carlos Zambrano 2.0 developing on the West Coast?
- The Astros added free agent
FrasierJesse Crain. Crain pitched for the White Sox before being traded to the Rays at the deadline. In an AFLAC Trivia Question, Crain never actually threw a pitch for the Rays due to injury. After a slow start with the Twins, Crain pitched very well for them and the White Sox, putting up strong strikeout numbers and consistently outperforming his peripherals. (For his career, he sports a 3.05 ERA and 4.19 xFIP.) The Cubs had been connected to him. As an aside, it's remarkable how quickly the Astros have gone from collecting draft picks to collecting complementary pieces. I wonder if Carlos Rodon was the object of the process from the beginning.
- How desperate are the Angels for pitching? They're bringing in Mark Mulder, who last pitched in the majors in 2008 and last pitched well in the majors in 2005, on a minor league contract.
- Interesting post by Roch Kupatko of MASNsports. He claims that the Orioles are a legitimate landing spot for 1B/DH Kendrys Morales. They are less concerned about giving up the draft pick than they would have been in prior years. He also points out that, with Jake Arrieta a Cub, Josh Hader in Houston, and Dylan Bundy recovering from Tommy John surgery, they are not inclined to trade any more young pitchers.
- The Phillies have a new TV Contract in place. The deal will pay them $2.5 billion over 25 years. That comes out to a cool $100 million a year or, as the Dodgers refer to it, pocket change.
- The Tigers have two big extensions to work out, according to Jason Beck of MLB.com, Max Scherzer and Miguel Cabrera. This sentence is a good reality check of how badly the good-young-player-for-prospects trades can go for the team that trades the young player: "the Tigers wouldn't have traded six prospects for Cabrera if they weren't confident about signing him long term a few months later." The best of those six prospects turned out to be Cameron Maybin, who had one good year for the Padres in 2011. The other five have been non-factors in the majors.
- h/t to Brett at BleacherNation for bringing this to my attention. (I have slept through about 80% of this week.) Kiley McDaniel explains why the Yankees plan to spend big on the draft next year and why it hasn't happened before. His analysis is pretty good, but he's misusing a term: this isn't a tragedy of the commons. A tragedy of the commons occurs when there is a resource where one person's consumption of the good prevents another person from consuming the good (to economists, "rival") with no ability to control access to that resource ("non-excludable"), i.e., fish in the ocean. In such a situation, far from restraining themselves, the economic agents completely deplete the common resource. For example, we will, sooner rather than later, drain the ocean of fish because the benefit -- the sale of the fish on the open market -- accrues to the fisherman alone while the cost -- the reduction in fish in the future due to less reproduction -- is shared by every fisherman in the world. Despite most economists in agreement that this is inevitable, there is no way to prevent it. Hence, "tragedy."
This doesn't apply to international spending limits. International spending is essentially an auction market for individual players Teams pay the entire cost for every player they sign. What McDaniel is describing is not a tragedy of the commons but a collusion game, where a group of economic agents, in this case buyers of international labor, agree to limit what they are willing to pay in order to increase their profits. If one player deviates from the collusive strategy, there is either a spoken or unspoken agreement that everyone deviates and the collusion is gone, at least for a while. This behavior is only legal because of the antitrust exemption that Major League Baseball enjoys.
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