The Moody News: Masahiro and Yu

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:

Monday

  • 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?

Tuesday

  • The Astros added free agent Frasier Jesse 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.

Wednesday

  • 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.

Thursday

  • 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.

Friday

  • 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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  • fb_avatar

    I don't think you can compare Zambrano, who has sociopathic temper tendencies to Puig, who is just immature and stupid. After what happened to Paul Walker, ripping around Los Angeles trying to break the sound barrier would seem like a pretty dumb idea. Hope you feel better.

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    In reply to Michael Canter:

    "sociopathic"? wow, michael - not meaning to be antagonistic, but that's a pretty strong word to be using on guy you've never met much less done a neuro-psych eval on. The guy has an anger management problem, probably no more so than any of us except for the fact that since the age of 7 he's probably been coddled and his behavior has been given a pass because of his baseball skills, and his meltdowns are on national TV rather than behind the doors of a private office.

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    In reply to Michael Canter:

    Actually, he was ripping around Naples, FL (right in my backyard). No idea what he was doing here.

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    In reply to Matt McNear:

    Gotcha. Early reporting for Spring Training?

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    I think the Dodgers are in the Cactus League in AZ, not in the Grapfruit League of FL....

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    In reply to Michael Canter:

    Dodgers are Cactus League, no? Naples is about an hour and a half from Miami, so there is a considerable Cuban community.

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    In reply to Matt McNear:

    Correct. The Dodgers were a Grapefruit Lg team for years and years, but 2014 will be their 6th in Arizona

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    yeah, but they typically don't make that 90 minute trek across the Everglades... There's nothing there to see....

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Actually, there is quite a lot of wealthy Cubans in Naples. BIG money real estate. I can't speak to what brought Puig there, specifically, but I know the area quite well.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    There's a lot of wealthy everything. I too am familiar with the area and to describe it as anything other than a snowbird/retiree magnet is misleading. While there may be some Cubans/Hispanics, they are the minority whereas Miami has a large significant Cuban population of all ages. You yourself mentioned this and I simply stated the obvious, they typically make that trel across Alligator Alley. If they did, Naples would quickly become known as "Little Miami"...

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    And my point is just the opposite. While I wouldnt go so far as to call it a suburb, there is a definite pipeline from Miami to Naples. It's really kind of irrelevant here, but real estate is my business, and while Naples is a little South of my primary market, I'm well aware of what's happening down there.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    And earlier in the year, in the first incident, he was ripping around Chattanooga, TN.

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    In reply to Michael Canter:

    I could not get the site to let me comment on the article, only reply to a comment.
    The NPB balls have changed in the favor of hitters. This past year had increases in batting average and home runs compared to Yu Darvish's time in Japan. They now use balls the same dimensions of MLB and very similar materials.
    If we are going to bring balls into the discussion, Tanaka is a more proven entity than Darvish was at the time of his signing. (Looking at results, not scoutable traits in which Darvish clearly has an advantage)

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    In reply to Sanford Koufax:

    You are correct, they did boost the balls this year and I missed it.

    The larger argument still holds, though, Darvish's body of work was the better pitcher earlier in his career and it really is hard to evaluate one amazing year by Tanaka.

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    In reply to Sanford Koufax:

    Also, you appear to be overselling the impact of the change some. In 2010, the last year under the old balls, the slugging percentage in the Japanese Pacific league was .403. In 2011, it plummeted to .348. Last year it recovered to .376. So while it was certainly better than 2011, they were not being hit with the same authority the old balls were.

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    RE: Phillies TV deal.

    One thing about the MLB individual club TV rights contracts. It's slightly under the radar now, but Cablevision CEO James Dolan acknowledged (admitted) in a WSJ article in October that Cable TV is a dying medium and that cable companies future revenues are tied to broadband delivery due to advances in Over The Top On Demand Broadcasting (portable internet television).

    This makes sense. Think about the demise of the vinyl album. Consumers no longer want to buy the full vinyl just to get the two songs they really like. The same goes with Cable TV. Consumers don't want to bundle 100 channels just to get local TV, and they don't want to pay extra for a tiered package of sports and entertainment channels just to get ESPN or MLB TV.

    The Cubs probably missed the boat on landmark TV cable deals because network/cable television is self aware of this, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for the Cubs. The one thing you didn't mention is that in the Phillies deal it was structured so that the organization owns equity in the network plus they get a large chunk of advertising revenue. The scary part about that deal is that it is for 25 years. Will cable TV even exist in 25 years? I think the Phillies got killed in that negotiation.

    The future is in internet/broadband television, where clubs can negotiate separate deals to have their own app (for Smart TVs, tablets, cell phones) and the right to draw 100% of ad revenues. In this instance, it makes sense for the Cubs, who are one of few teams with a national fan base (ATL, BOS, NYY being the others) and can command higher revenue dollars for commercial advertisements by owning their own broadcast platform and NOT locking themselves into a similarly long term deal.

    With that comes 100% control of what is aired, where it is aired, what it costs and the revenue streams that are derived via commercial advertising.

    I don't suspect the Cubs will get a deal like the Dodgers did nor am I sure they want to. I am hoping they don't give a 25-year contract to ANYBODY - technology just changes far too quickly. Owning their own network essentially and significantly increases the value of the team as well should the Ricketts decide to sell.

    Because old school viewers will be slow to adapt to newer technologies, SOME games will have to be on cable TV. I think the best way to structure a deal would be to sign one that diminishes the number of games available via cable TV over time so that more games could be broadcast via internet TV, where fans could buy packages like season ticket packages or simply day-of-game On Demand viewing. I would imagine that scenario is most likely to occur before 2018.

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    I just pulled the plug on cable, receiving only local channels. Couldn't see the sense of paying for shopping, religion, and hunting channels. Now I get movies on Apple TV, and when baseball season starts I'll sign up for MLBTV. I'll be saving over $1k a year with this setup. Cable TV in its present form is going the way of newspapers.

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    In reply to clarkaddison:

    "...when baseball season starts I'll sign up for MLBTV."

    You better be out of state because you can't stream Cubs games "in market". My brother in law can even stream them in Kenosha.

  • In reply to Pooch7171:

    And I hope you don't live in Iowa, either. We have six teams that are considered "local" for us: Cubs, White Sox, Twins, Brewers, Cardinals and Royals.

    MLB blackout restrictions are outdated and need to be reevaluated. These rules and regulations may have made sense years ago but are ineffective and relatively pointless in this day and age. With so many other options and avenues available for people, all the blackout rules do is limit the number of people who have access to (and pay for) your product.

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    Thanks MC! That's very "out-of-the-box" thinking and is something I hope the Cubs are at least evaluating.

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    In reply to Michael Canter:

    SOME people will be slow to adapt? you do realize that the average baseball viewer for the World Series was 54? They're going to have most if not all of their games on local TV for the next couple decades so as to not alienate older viewers. I see a two tiers system with streaming and broadcast.

  • Thanks for putting this together Mike. Hope you feel better.

    I've said all along that our likelihood of landing Tanaka will be determined by how we rate him internally. He's going to get paid like he is an ACE, but we rate him a #2, it won't be by us. I don't see Epstoyer deviating for him. The one thing that concerns me is his best pitch, which he uses to set up his FB is his splitter. If they're using an ever so slightly smaller ball..... that could have a profound impact on that pitch. Anyone know his hand measurements?

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I don't know his hand size, but he is 6'2"

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    You have a great point. The splitter eventually ended the careers of Bruce Sutter, Mike Scott, Scott Garrelts and Billy Swift, amongst its more notable practitioners. Jack Morris(who had huge hannds) was one of its only prac titioners to have a long and distinguished career. From what Ive read it causes the elbow to serve as sort of a Shock absorber, which leads to shoullder issues thereafter. And the scouts say Tanakas splitter is the best in the world. Better hope his fingers are like Shaquille ONeals.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    That's kind of where I was going with it. But more importantly than the long term effects is that of the immediate impact.

    Is his FB good enough to set up a less than plus plus splitter? A lot of scouts question his FB saying it's too flat and lacks movement and he sets it up with his splitter vs using the FB to set up the splitter.

    Are his fingers long/strong enough to create the torque necessary to get that thing to change at the 50' mark?... Just a slight increase/decrease in ball circumference and weight can have a huge impact, especially on that pitch.

  • Get well soon, Mike.

    No doubt Tanaka would be an overpay. The question to me is, would his contract be a detriment in the long term to the Cubs. My feeling is he would help in the short and midterm, but be a drain the last couple years (assuming a 6-7 year deal). Do the short and midterm benefits outweigh the long?

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    In reply to Denizen Kane:

    I think it's tough to assume the back end of a 6 or 7 year deal for a 25 yo would be a drain, he will still be in his prime. If he is as good as advertised by some (and healthy), he will possibly be better at the end of this contract than at the beginning. The risk, in this case, is more injury-related. As well as, secondarily, whether his skills translate to MLB, IMO.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    I see it the same way. I think it's tough to call the reported contract figures an overpay when we've never really established a market for someone of Tanaka's age and talent. I personally would rather pay him something excessive then overpay on another Edwin Jackson in two years, or trade for a TOR starter and lose top prospects.

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    In reply to Denim Dan:

    He's not worth what the current highest paid TOR starters are making.

  • In reply to Ray:

    Perhaps not yet, but if the Dan Haren-in-his-prime-type comps are ballpark for his abilities, you are talking about a 3.5-5+ WAR type pitcher who is still 2 years from his prime years. It's not like overpaying on the back years of a contract for a 29 or 30 year old. The point I'm making is that, as rare as that is, it would necessarily require more money than what your typical TOR starter would command.

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    In reply to Denim Dan:

    The Cubs are doing, and will continue to do, their best at building a perennial contender. If they "overpay" for Tanaka, I'd rather see them do it in years (say an 8 to 10 year contract) than in average annual salary. Hopefully, less than a 20 million dollar pear year AAV.

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    Hope you feel better quickly, Mike, there's been a similar, nasty bug floating around down here, I hope yours is not as miserable!

  • Mike,
    Hope you get better soon, with as much money the major leagues spend scouting and signing players in the NPB your right we have not heard much about the difference in baseballs. In the article you linked it mentioned the new balls are similar to the American ball but better quality, well that tells you their is still a difference, what about the mud used to rub them down how is it done in NPB? If I'm a team spending hundreds of millions of dollars on players and scouting, I'll spend the money for an independent lab to tell me the differences in balls, bats, gloves, mud, anything that is not identical to MLB equipment. Well done Mike.
    Also, when you compare Yankees farm to Cubs Henry farm it only tells you it is still a large step from AA or AAA to the major leagues and even the most heralded prospects fail on a regular basis in the majors. Unfortunately over 7 years Tim Wilkin didn't give us too many can't miss prospects.

  • In reply to Rock:

    from what Ive read, the baseball used in NBP is slightly smaller than the one used in the majors over here. Id think the smaller ball would likley give the pitcher more of an advantage. OTOH, ballparks in Japan tend to be smaller than parks here, so it might even out a little. My comp would be what previous pitchers from Japan have done. Nomo and DiceK were good for a couple of years and flamed out, Sasake was a good closer for 2 seasons in Seattle before his getting hurt, Kuroda has had a solid 5-6 seasons over here now. Darvish has been good, but not great.

  • Tanak would be a great add if it was 2015-16. Since it's 2014 we are talking about, then the Cubs should pass. It's not time to spend big money and make long term commitments. Once we know what we have then make that Splash. Until then keep adding as much young talent to the equation and continue to minimize payroll. Would love if we could function like the Rays but have the flexibility of them damn Cardinals.

  • In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    So because it is 2014 instead of 2015 you don't want to add Tanaka? That doesn't make any sense in my opinion. He is only 25 and is only available NOW. Assuming he stays healthy and we've scouted him and believe that his talent will translate it absolutely makes sense to get him now even though 2014 will likely be a tough year.

    I'm worried about Seattle more than any other team

  • In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    I disagree completely. If it's a 6 or 7 year deal, one year of the Cubs not being in contention for a playoff spot during that span won't make a difference at all. You can't wait to add talent until right before you are ready to win. It's a process and adding a talented 25 year old now when it is highly likely there won't be a talented 25 year old available in the foreseeable future is a great idea.

    You say you want the Cubs to function like the Rays and have the flexibility of the Cardinals. They are and do. But what is the point of having that flexibility if you never use it? And if you aren't going to use it on a 25 year old talented free agent pitcher that won't cost you a draft pick, when are you?

  • Great work Mike and feel better soon.

  • A Tanaka signing has more far-reaching implications.

    It improves the market for Samardzija between now and August, should a deal be necessary.

    It improves our chances of landing two aces - Tanaka and a prospect. If Tanaka goes elsewhere, we lose a potential trade partner.

    Win-Win if we land Tanaka.

    Unless he sucks...

  • Thanks for distinction on "tragedy of the commons." Should be a book title, great phrase & concept.

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    Thanks for all the well wishes, guys. This is a lot like John's flu last year: two steps forward, seven steps back. But I seem to be out of the greatest danger zone and now just need some rest to rebuild my strength.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Get well soon Mike.

    Was wondering if you saw the article on Yahoo Sports about why the Cubs should not sign Tanaka?

    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/please-chicago-cubs-don-39-t-sign-masahiro-175600795--mlb.html

    It got me to thinking also. As much as we want to believe that our big 4 prospects will make a big impact on the big league club, we should also have some doubts. I'm not saying that our guys will be flops but what if their needs to be some time needed to adjust to being in the show?

    So many top prospects have hit the big leagues with less than stellar play once they hit the show. Many also figure things out and go on to be very good players. But to think that once Baez or Bryant get here it will be all roses may be a bit over the top on us fans.

    As much as I want to believe that 2015 will be our turning point, it could be 2016or 2017 before we make a serious push for a WS. Would we be better off waiting to sign a hired gun for another year or two?

    Whatcha think?

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Not Mike, but my short answer is no. Tanaka is young enough and will likely get a long enough contract that is what matter. Plus, if some of the big 4 don't make it, the Cubs will have the money/prospect depth to fill in the holes around the ones that do make it via free agency and trades. The only concern with signing Tanaka should be whether he will live up to the hype, not the timing of it.

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    In reply to bocabobby:

    I did see it, but left it out since it was decidedly Cubs related.

    My thought is that, regardless of what the major prospects do, Tanaka is a good add for the Cubs because he's a young pitcher about to enter his prime. Assuming the arm holds up -- always terrifying with pitchers -- he won't be out of his prime for another six or seven years. This is the type of guy you want to build around, whether it is with prospects, free agents, or trade acquisitions.

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