Lost in Transactions 3/16/-3/22/09: Pudge lands in Houston

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Ivan Rodriguez (Icon/SMI)

Ivan Rodriguez finally found a home (so did Sidney Ponson) and plenty of people were reassigned to the minors. Boston was stunned by the release of Josh Bard, while the Nationals befuddled people with their signing of Joe Beimel and release of Shawn Hill. Let’s recap the week that was.

3/16/09

Florida Marlins returned Rule 5 pick LHP Zachary Kroenke to the New York Yankees. Released RHP Harvey Garcia.

Garcia, along with Jesus Delgado, are now out of the Marlins organization after having been the two lesser pieces in the Josh Beckett/Hanley Ramirez trade. The two pitchers still have considerable upside, but Delgado epitomizes the strikeout pitcher who can’t find the plate while Garcia showed promise until missing all of 2008 with arm surgery and not having recovered to date.

3/17/09

Boston Red Sox RHP Wes Littleton was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Sox were hoping they would be able to sneak Littleton through waivers after he got bombed in the early going. Doug Melvin, the astute Brewers GM, saw through the ruse. Littleton is a side-arming, groundball pitcher who isn’t quite ready for prime time. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Brewers try to sneak him through waivers. If he sticks, it’ll be as the last man out.

Kansas City Royals signed RHP Sidney Ponson to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training.

Can’t help but laugh at this. He just keeps getting shot after shot but he always gets derailed because of his attitude. Maybe he’s changed. Probably not.

New York Mets released Rule 5 pick RHP Rocky Cherry after the Baltimore Orioles declined his return.

Oakland Athletics released C Rob Bowen.

3/18/09

Washington Nationals signed LHP Joe Beimel to a one-year contract. Released RHP Shawn Hill.

A lot of people are confused, it seems, why the Nationals signed Beimel. After all, they’re going to lose 100-plus games, right? Well, I don’t know about that. If they can clear up their 1B/LF logjam, I actually see them as a sleeper to finish the season with less than 90 losses. Beimel is a no-risk signing who makes their team better, end of story. Just because they’re not expected to compete doesn’t mean that they should just throw the white flag in and concede the season. Any GM who is worth his salt strives to improve his team every day.

If (when) the Nationals are out of the race in July, Beimel will be a fantastic pickup for a team looking to improve from the left side as they march to the playoffs. Thus, the Nationals will also most likely benefit long term from this deal, where they pick up a solid prospect in return.

Hill is more the interesting item here. I’m surprised that out of all their candidates, they opted to release Hill. Just 28, Hill has a track record in the majors, posting a 3.42 ERA in 16 starts for the Nationals in 2007 before 2008 saw him experience injury troubles. After a setback with his forearm being sore this spring training, the Nationals pocketed $250,000 in savings and told him to take a hike. He’s reportedly going to to immediately sign with the Toronto Blue Jays once he clears release waivers. The Jays will have him start in the rotation and could be a solid mid-rotation starter… with the health caveat, of course.

Kansas City Royals released LHP Jimmy Gobble. Signed RHP Anthony Lerew to a Minor League contract.

3/19/09

Washington Nationals signed free agent C Josh Bard, who had been with the Red Sox, to a Minor League contract.

The only reason to me that the Red Sox would have released Bard would be to make sure they don’t lose George Kottaras. Out of options, he would have had to clear waivers and apparently Boston deemed the risk, along with Kottaras’ superior throwing arm, not worth it. Bard had an injury-plagued (and thus, did not perform) 2008 which had him come at a bargain in free agency. More indicative of his ability are his healthy 2006-7 seasons, one where he was worth over six wins to his team. Bard has to be considered the heavy favorite to make the team as the backup catcher and could steal some of Jesus Flores‘ time if the youngster struggles out of the gate.

Arizona Diamondbacks released RHP Jailen Peguero.

San Francisco Giants released RHP Keiichi Yabu.

Milwaukee Brewers returned Rule 5 pick RHP Eduardo Morlan to the Tampa Bay Rays.

3/20/09

3/21/09

Texas Rangers signed free agent LHP Jimmy Gobble, who had been with the Royals, to a Minor League contract.

Baltimore Orioles released non-roster invitees RHP Scott Chiasson and C Guillermo Quiroz.

Houston Astros signed free agent C Ivan Rodriguez to a one-year contract.

I’m currently working my way through the Fielding Bible, Vol. II and learned that Ivan Rodriguez‘s reputation of not being a pitcher’s catcher couldn’t be farther from the truth. Not only has he been the best among catchers the last six years in caught stealing (saved 18 stolen bases) but over the last six years ranks third in Adjusted Earned Runs Saved.

“Earned Runs Saved is a number that tells you how many earned runs the catcher saved for his pitcher,” writes John Dewan, author of the Fielding Bible.

How it’s calculated is basically by comparing a catcher’s ERA with a specific pitcher to the pitcher’s overal ERA. For example, New York Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina had a 3.37 overall ERA, but 3.22 with Jose Molina behind the plate. This means that Molina saved three runs.

However, sample size is a huge issue in Earned Runs Saved, so Dewan came up with Adjusted Earned Runs Saved, which factors in credibility.

Dewan asked Bill James to run a simulation which proved that even if there is noise in the data (if the catchers have underlying skill differences, but the data only reflects those differences sometimes due to noise), the data is useful. The credibility factor Dewan would go on to use is weighing “the number of innings caught by the catcher relative to a full-season of team innings.”

Dewan also factored in park effects, which help negate effects of pitching in hitter and pitcher parks.

So not only should I-Rod provide some offense with the stick (and could see third-base eligibility in fantasy leagues eventually, now that Aaron Boone is out for the season/career) but if his pitchers can look past the stigma that has become attached to him, could improve the output of the pitching staff.

3/22/09

Nothing happened today, but here’s some quick information on players that were sent to the minors this week…

NOTABLE PLAYERS OPTIONED TO MINORS/REASSIGNED TO MINOR LEAGUE CAMP

BOS RP Daniel Bard: Routinely throwing over 100 miles per hour, he’ll debut at some point this year and could make an already deep bullpen even deeper for the BoSox. His makeup is a concern, so he may not stick as a future closer, but could emerge as the best setup man in the league.
NYY SP Phil Hughes: The inevitable injury to A.J. Burnett means Phil will ply most of his trade in the major leagues at some point this year, but the added depth that allows him to head to the minors is a testament to how much the Yankees have overhauled their team.
NYM SP Jon Niese: Niese lost his spot to Livan Hernandez, so it’s likely Niese, a left-hander, will see time in that spot later this year, even more so if Tim Redding‘s injury lingers all year.
CHW SP John VanBenschoten: Worst pitcher in the history of baseball. Be thankful, Chicago, that he was sent down.
PIT SP Tom Gorzelanny: Gorzo looked to be on the cusp of becoming one of the better young pitchers in the game after a solid 2007, but had a very, very poor 2008, as a result of regression and injury. By optioning Gorzo to the minors, the Pirates get to send a message that no one’s job is safe (a message they want to send)… while on Gorzo’s side it will allow him to work through any initial challenges he may encounter.

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