Hello Jeriome, Goodbye Miltonby Aaron Gleeman
April 02, 2004
Cleveland center fielder Milton Bradley was involved in yet another "incident" Wednesday, and the Indians have apparently had enough of him.
Last year, Bradley was pulled over by a police officer who tried to ticket him for speeding. Bradley fled the scene and was eventually sentenced to three days in jail. His past also includes spitting on a minor league umpire, being taken to the hospital after refusing to leave a restaurant while he was drunk, and a number of other, let's say "shady," things.
But what is Bradley's big indiscretion this time? What is it that broke the camel's back? Well, he didn't run out a pop up in a spring training game and then left the ballpark after being yanked from the game by his manager, Eric Wedge.
The Indians have said they will trade Bradley before their season starts and they obviously have every right to do so. I can certainly understand becoming so frustrated with a player like Bradley that you simply have to get rid of him, but it is somewhat funny that this is the final straw. He's spitting on people, he's getting hammered in restaurants, he's driving away from police officers and serving time in jail - but it is something relatively minor and on-field that presumably will end his time in Cleveland.
Where might Bradley end up? Besides jail again, you mean? Well, I think there are quite a few possibilities, depending on how many teams want to take a chance on him.
He's a good defensive center fielder, he switch-hits, he's a good offensive player, and he's just 26 years old. If he wasn't a headcase and the Indians were shopping him, I bet any number of teams would be all over him.
The San Diego Padres could use a young center fielder, and they have some decent prospects (Dennis Tankersley, Xavier Nady, Ben Howard) who they seem willing to move. The Dodgers could also use a center fielder who can actually hit, and they have plenty of prospects, should they decide Bradley is worth the risk. Heck, as long as we're talking California teams, the Giants could certainly find a spot for Bradley in the non-Bonds portion of their outfield.
St. Louis desperately needs a left fielder, and a Bradley-Tony LaRussa relationship would be worthy of reality TV. If the Pirates wanted to take a chance on him, he's certainly the type of talent they could build around.
Over in the AL, the White Sox might be in the market for a center fielder, although a) I don't know that Cleveland would deal Bradley to a division rival, and b) they do have uber-prospect Jeremy Reed on the way (although he may not be able to stay in center field). Oh, and the Yankees could use a center fielder and, even if they couldn't, they might deal for Bradley anyway. Also, Seattle has the prospects to make a deal happen and Bradley would be an upgrade over Randy Winn in center.
And finally, the Rangers, run by former Cleveland GM John Hart, who was a mentor to Mark Shapiro and has worked deals with him before, could use a good center fielder too. I'm probably missing a few possible destinations too.
The obvious question then becomes, what is Bradley worth?
He was fantastic last year, hitting .321/.421/.501, which was good for a phenomenal OPS+ of 151 and a .315 GPA, which ranked second among all major league center fielders. At the same time, he played in just 101 games because of back and hamstring injuries, his on and off-field problems are well-documented, and his minor league performance suggests last year's offensive numbers might have been a tad over his head.
While Bradley's numbers at Double-A (.329/.391/.526) were very impressive and similar to what he did with Cleveland last year, that was all the way back in 1999. His Triple-A numbers (.286/.377/.408 in 159 games) show similar on-base skills, but a whole lot less power. Also, prior to last year's outstanding hitting, Bradley was a career .234/.301/.364 hitter in 217 major league games.
That's not to say he isn't a very good player, because he almost certainly is. He just probably isn't quite as good as he showed last season. It's going to be very interesting to see what Cleveland can get for Bradley, considering all the factors involved, not the least of which is the fact that they have said they will trade him by Sunday.
Prior to all this Milton Bradley stuff, the Indians traded for a 15-game winner. Or at least that's how I've seen it reported/spun in most places. In fact, when the deal was announced Wednesday, the headline on ESPN.com read: "Indians acquire 15-game winner."
The Indians traded a couple of minor leaguers to the Houston Astros for left-hander Jeriome Robertson, who did, in fact, win 15 games last season.
The reaction to the deal in the places I frequent have been very interesting. For instance, a Twins fan on a message board I lurk at said the following:
Didn't the Twins have enough talent to pry Robertson from the Astros? The fact that Cleveland, a team in a rebuilding mode, got a 15-game winner so cheaply, while a contending team like the Twins so desperate for starting pitchers that they have to go to the likes of Silva, Helling and worst of all, Thomas, sits on their hands is beyond belief.
The problem is that the 15 wins are being used in most places as a barometer of Robertson's ability as a pitcher. One of the basic tenets of sabermetrics is that wins and losses for pitchers are vastly overrated as a statistic and as a measure of a pitcher's worth.
After all, whether a pitcher wins or loses a game is dependent, primarily, on two major things:
1) how many runs that pitcher allows the other team to score.
2) how many runs that pitcher's team scores.
The pitcher has a large impact on #1, but, even in the National League, an incredibly small and sometimes non-existent impact on #2.
In other words, let's say a pitcher makes two starts and goes seven innings while allowing three runs in each start. In one of the games, his team scores 10 runs, and he gets the win. In the other, his team scores one run, and he gets the loss. This is obviously a very basic way of looking at this, but I think you get the point.
Jeriome Robertson was simply not a good pitcher last season. He had a 5.10 ERA, which was significantly worse than league-average and ranked 83rd among 95 major league pitchers who threw at least 160 innings. Among pitchers who started at least 30 games last season, Robertson's ERA ranked 66th out of 75. Robertson allowed opponents to bat .287/.354/.470 off him, gave up 23 homers in 160.2 innings, and had a strikeout/walk ratio of just 99/64.
On ClevelandIndians.com (which, I admit, is probably not the best place to find objective Indians analysis), there was a story on the trade with the headline: "Indians acquire Robertson."
In the story, there is talk about how Robertson won 15 games, how he pitched 160.2 innings, how the Indians view him as a starter, how he was pushed out of Houston's starting rotation because of the Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens signings, and how Cleveland made the move to "strengthen their starting rotation in the long term."
And yet, not once, in the entire 500-word story, was Robertson's bloated ERA mentioned.
The only thing Jeriome Robertson really did all that well last season was pick good days to be on the mound. The Astros scored an average of 6.83 runs per nine innings while Robertson was pitching. That is a huge amount of run support.
Just how huge? Well, of the 77 National League pitchers who threw at least 100 innings last season, the only one who got more run support than Robertson was Woody Williams, who, not surprisingly, went 18-9 despite an unspectacular 3.87 ERA.
Even compared to his Houston teammates, Robertson's support was unbelievable. Robertson's 6.83 runs of support per nine innings was 43% better than the rest of the pitching staff got (4.77 R/9). In other words, Houston's offense was 43% better for Robertson than for everyone else.
When you compare Robertson to all NL pitchers, instead of just his Houston teammates (who all benefited from the Astros offense), his support is even better. Taking Houston out of the equation, the other NL teams scored an average of 4.63 runs per nine innings, or 48% fewer runs than Robertson got. Essentially, Jeriome Robertson was given an extra two runs per game to work with last year, which can do some lovely things to a win/loss record.
Wins and losses are fine, and it's interesting to discuss 20-win seasons or how many games over .500 a pitcher is for his career. In the context of a single season, however, wins almost never tell a totally accurate story of how the pitcher performed. Wins and losses are, at best, slightly misleading, and, in the case of Jeriome Robertson, bordering on completely useless.
Why exactly is it that Jeriome Robertson is a "15-game winner" but not a "5.10-ERA pitcher"?
Aaron Gleeman is a freelance writer whose work can also be found regularly at AaronGleeman.com, Fox Sports, Rotoworld, and Insider Baseball. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions via e-mail.
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