THT Dartboard: July 22, 2007by Matthew Carruth
July 22, 2007
Although some teams would not like to admit it, at this point we have a pretty good idea which teams have a claim to a playoff spot. According to Cool Standings, Boston, New York, Detroit, Cleveland, Minnesota, Anaheim and Seattle are the only teams with an odds of making the playoffs above 10% in the AL. In the National League we have New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Diego.
With over half the teams essentially eliminated from the playoff race I thought I would do something a little different this week for the team comments. We are going to take a look at the highest paid player on each team according to the USA Today Salary Database.
Welcome to The Hardball Times Dartboard, our weekly attempt to rank all the teams in baseball. The Dartboard Factor is how many wins a team would be expected to have at the end of the season if it played a neutral schedule. Next to that, you'll find the Dartboard Factor from the previous week. An explanation of our method can be found here.
#1 Boston Red Sox (Dartboard Factor = 100, 100): Manny Ramirez (17M) - Manny got off to a difficult start with a .629 OPS in April. Since then he's been his old self with OPSs of .970, .938 and .953. The greatly reduced homerun per flyball rate and increased double rate suggests that some of his power may finally be slipping. If Manny Ramirez sustains a decreased offensive output, his defensive non-value will start to dominate his overall value.
#2 Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 99, 97): Magglio Ordonez (13.2M) - Ordonez got off to a ripping hot start posting OPSs north of 1.000 each of the three pre-all star break months. He has cooled off a bit in July, but he is still helping to contribute to one the league's best offenses. So, what sparked the difference between this season and the previous two with Detroit, which were poor given his salary and expectations? It looks to be almost entirely driven by a 70 point jump in BABIP. With decreased line drive and ground ball rates, this just screams fluke. His July numbers would be the ones I expect to see the remainder of the season.
#3 Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 93, 94): C.C. Sabathia (8.75M) - He's been rocked in July, but prior the all star break Sabathia threw up 133.1 innings at a 3.58 ERA. Here's what I wrote about C.C. back in March.
Sabathia had a quiet year as his ERA improved, but not dramatically, but his percentages indicate a strong step forward in 2006. His Ball% was cut by over five points, his Foul% rose three points, his Swing% went up two points and he maintained the improved GB% from 2005 which kept his GB%/FB% ratio near 2.00. His strikeout rate went up and his walk rate sank like a stone to under 5% from his previous baseline of about 8%. If he hadn't had the highest BABIP of his career last year (still a paltry .294 compared to a .282 baseline) his ERA would have been even lower. Expect a strong performance from Sabathia in 2007.
Sabathia has cut his walk rate dramatically again in 2007 while not losing much off his strikeout rate. His groundball rate is eroding slightly, but that's of minor concern. He continues to improve every year and also dispatch hitters with less pitches. If Sabathia can stay healthy, he has a great start on a future hall of fame career.
#4 Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 91, 92): Jason Schmidt (15.7M) - The first of many oops this past offseason, one can debate which NL West free agent is more of a disaster Barry Zito of Schmidt. Schmidt provided just 25.2 poor innings before going under the knife for a torn labrum and other injuries. He may be done as useful player and the Dodgers are on the hook for another 2 years and 30+ million.
#5 San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 90, 90): Greg Maddux (10M) - On the other hand of the spectrum, perhaps the Dodgers should have held onto to what they had? Maddux has done what he's always done. Strike some people out, walk almost nobody, yield few home runs and end at bats effortlessly quickly, currently in just 3.2 pitches per at bat. Just a fantastic signing and the Padres having him instead of the Dodgers have kept the Dodgers from running away in the west.
#6 New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 90, 90): Carlos Delgado (14.5M) - A recurring theme in 2007 has been the precipitous decline of mid-30s veterans. Several has just fallen flat off the face of the baseball world. Delgado seems to be a candidate for this list. After several consecutive seasons with OPSs above .900, Carlos has slipped to .762 with a homerun per flyball rate cut in half.
#7 Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 90, 94): Bartolo Colon (16M) - Bartolo has battled various arm injuries this season and generally been ineffective with an ERA over 6. It is beginning to look more and more like 2005 was an outlier rather than a new level of performance. Lucky for the Angels their pitching staff seems to be doing fine even without peak Bartolo.
#8 Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 89, 89): Ben Sheets (11.125M) - Well speaking of batting injuries, we arrive at Ben Sheets, currently on the DL with a tear of the tissue around the tendon of his throwing middle finger, the same finger on which he developed a blister earlier this year. Sheets hasn't been as dominant this year as last, but that comes as no surprise given how insane his 2006 season was, with just 11 walks over 17 starts. Sheets remains what he is, a clear ace whenever he is able to take the hill.
#9 Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 89, 90): Richie Sexson (15.5M) - Sexson and Delgado were both free agents after the 2004 season, both signed similar contracts and both are falling flat at the same time. Sexson is a notorious second-half hitter, but he's going to need the half season of his career to rescue this season. Struggling around the Mendoza line and with an OPS around .703, Sexson does have one thing going for him, his PrOPS suggests that he's been extraordinarily unlucky, with an OPS based on his batted ball data of .832 which would be perfectly acceptable for a slow starting righthanded hitter in SafeCo Field.
#10 New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 88, 89): Jason Giambi (23.4M) - Away from play since the 31st of May, Giambi, who has had ranges of injury time from three weeks to the entire season with a partially torn plantar fascia (foot) tendon, is expected to be back around mid-August, which could provide a boost to the Yankees flirting on the edges of playoff opportunity. Giambi hasn't been himself this season but with Bobby Abreu joining the ranks of other over-30s losing value at a rapid rate, even a diminished Giambi would provide an upgrade.
#11 Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 87, 88): Mike Hampton (14.5M) - Lucky for the Braves, there's just one more year on Mike Hampton's megadeal. Coming back from Tommy John surgery, Hampton missed all of 2006 in rehab then strained an oblique in March of 2007 and then was diagnosed with a torn flexor tendon in his TJ elbow in April pushing back his return to 2008. A lesson to all, Tommy John surgery has come a long ways, but is in no way a guarantee.
#12 Chicago Cubs (Dartboard Factor = 86, 85): Derrek Lee (13.25M) - Derrek has responded well after a down year in 2006 beset with injuries and issues. The batting average and on base percentage are back up to great levels and while the gap prowess has remained, the homerun power has curiously disappeared. Lee suffers a bit from Magglio syndrome, he has an unsustainable high BABIP of .410 despite a low groundball rate and a line drive rate under 20%. If the BABIP was around where you'd expect, Lee would be joining the list of struggling post-30 first basemen with Sexson and Delgado. If I'm a Cubs fan, I'm watching his power output very closely.
#13 Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 86, 85): Johan Santana (13M) - Johan is Johan. He has suffered a slight up tick in his homerun rate due to being more of a flyball pitcher than before, but otherwise, he is what he's been the past four seasons, the best pitcher in the game. There is talk that Santana could garner a contract similar to Alex Rodriguez after the 2008 season when he hits the market. It offers up the debate, given what we've seen with long term contracts to pitchers, is even the best pitcher in the game worth signing for more than four seasons?
#14 Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 82, 82): A.J. Burnett (13.2M) - Sort of a Ben Sheets-lite, Burnett cannot seem to stay healthy, though his injuries are almost exclusively tied to his arm. When he has been able to take to the mound though he's been a solid number 2 behind Halladay and one of the better pitchers in the American League. Currently working his way back from a shoulder impingement, Burnett probably wont make a difference in a Blue Jay team floundering around .500 this season.
#15 Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 81, 83): Eric Chavez (9.5M) - It used to be Jason Kendall at 12.9M but now that his corpse has been shuffled off to the Cubs, Chavez takes reign of Oakland's biggest payroll eater. It is time to reclassify Eric Chavez. Three straight years of declining production for someone who is not even 30 is a bad sign. His defense may be good, though he is by no means heads and shoulders above the likes of Brandon Inge and Adrian Beltre, Chavez just doesn't show any signs of improving offensively any time soon.
#16 Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 81, 81): Pat Burrell (13.25M) - The latest poster child for hate from Philly fans, I must say that I do not quite get it. Maybe they expect more, and while Burrell isn't performing at his salary level, his by no means worth the amount of grief that he gets. Always pushing 100 walks a season Burrell's power production is down this year and bears watching. With the Phillies slipping out of the race, Burrell might be the this year's Bobby Abreu.
#17 Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 80, 80): Todd Helton (16.6M) - Remarkably, the next highest paid player is Matt Holliday at just 4.4M. The man no one will touch with a 10-foot pole due to the contract, Helton will my hanging around Colorado through 2011 at least where it is likely that he will finish out his hall of fame career. Coors effects and the power outage of the last few years aside, Helton continues to work towards his 8th consecutive season with an on base percentage over .400.
#18 Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 78, 77): Miguel Cabrera (7.4M) - Offensively, Cabrera continues to get better every year, with an OPS above 1.000 so far this year. Defensively however, his weight gain has pushed him out of the outfield permanently and to third base. The methods are different, but the results are similar to Chipper Jones and I wouldn't be surprised to see Cabrera follow a similar track. He would do well to cut the weight back though because it starts affecting his health.
#19 Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 78, 78): Miguel Tejada (13.8M) - The extended DL stint might have been the best thing for Tejada who now claims to be completely pain-free. If true, I would look for him to resume pushing .900 in OPS. His power has been down all year, and he is over 30, but perhaps this one is just the injury. We will see after he returns at the end of the month.
#20 Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 77, 78): Randy Johnson (9.1M) - Another starting pitcher battling injuries, though not surprising for a 43-year-old. When he has taken the hill though, Johnson has been flat out dealing, averaging 12 strikeouts per 9 innings and only around 2 walks per game. The Diamondbacks have a closer shot at the playoffs, but Johnson is to Arizona as Burnett is to Toronto.
#21 Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 73, 72): Kevin Millwood (9.8M) - Whoops. If Millwood stays reasonably healthy he has three more years and more than $45 million left on his contract. That is not good news for the Rangers who got a 4.52 ERA last year out of Millwood and so far this year is sitting at 5.50. Millwood has a consistently dropping strikeout rate which is not a good sign for a flyball pitcher in Arlington. I wouldn't project much success going forward for him or the Rangers.
#22 San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 73, 73): Barry Bonds (15.5M) - ESPN may not agree, but what Bonds is doing, again, at his age is just incredible. He turns 43 in two days and his power is still better than almost anyone in the game and he's already at 98 walks with his on base percentage pushing .500. You can asterisk his homerun record all you want, but there is no denying that Bonds is one of the best hitters ever in baseball history regardless of allegations.
#23 Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 72, 71): Mike Sweeney (11M) - Is this really the final season of the Sweeney-Royal relationship? He is a free agent at the end of this season and it would seem likely that Kansas City might be fed up with Sweeney's recent ineffectiveness and brittle nature. With plenty of emerging youth talent, the Royals might be able to leverage the freed up salary from Sweeney to make a run at contention sooner than most expected. Sweeney has hit a new low this year at just a .714 OPS in only 57 games played.
#24 St Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 72, 70): Albert Pujols (12.9M) - Pujols started out slow, with a surprising lack of power (sound familiar?), but has rebounded back to his normal self since. There's not much that can be said about the best overall non-pitcher in the game, but even he cannot do it all by himself. The Cards need to take advantage while his contract is affordable. If Alex Rodriguez is going to sign a contract around $30 million/year this offseason, watch out for Pujols' next deal.
#25 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 71, 71): Jim Thome (14.8M) - He gets paid greatly for a strict DH, but Thome is one of the few hitters that is actually worth it hovering his OPS around a thousand consistently and he isn't showing any signs of slowing down soon. He should be able to finish out his current contract well for the White Sox.
#26 Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 69, 69): Adam Dunn (10.5M) - One of the biggest names bandied about in trade rumors, it doesn't seem likely that he's going anywhere unless someone in the Reds gets fed with his low batting average and numerous strikeouts enough to ignore the tremendous power and great plate patience. If Dunn does get moved, he can void his 2008 option and become a free agent otherwise he will almost certainly hit the market after 2009 as the Reds would be foolish not to exercise a $13 million option for 2008.
#27 Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 67, 65): Nick Johnson (5.5M) - It's been a lost year for Nick Johnson after the absolutely horrific leg injury he suffered at the end of 2006. When he's in the lineup, Johnson is one of the better first baseman in the league and is signed to one of the most team friendly contracts with tow more years at his $5.5 million level.
#28 Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 66, 68): Jack Wilson (5.4M) - Jack Wilson has always had a superb defensive reputation, and if he continued to hit anywhere near where he did in 2004, than he would be worth well more than this. Alas, since 2004 Wilson has posted OPSs of .662, .686 and is at .652 this year. That is simply not cutting it. Wilson's salary escalates over the next two seasons so the Pirates better hope he finds some rejuvenation or else they have a new Jason Kendall on their hands.
#29 Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Dartboard Factor = 66, 64): Carl Crawford (4.125M) - After sustaining offensive growth for several seasons, it appears as if Crawford might have plateaued. How that news fares depends on whether he's playing center versus left field. Crawford's power is down a bit, which for a 25-year-old seems more likely to be a fluke than a concern.
#30 Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 66, 67): Lance Berkman (14.5M) - The Astros need to completely rebuild, but Berkman is one of those pieces they can build around, signed long term and a consistent offensive force though he is a bit down this year at a .824 OPS, but with an average OPS around 1.000 the last three years, Berkman should rebound, though again, he's over 30, so maybe the Astros would be better off shipping off Berkman now before consecutive seasons of mediocre performance tanks his trade value.
With the exercise complete, it does seem like an unusually high percentage of the best paid players are not actively contributing to their team's success. Over 1/3 have had significant injury problems and another handful have been completely ineffective. It is just more evidence that teams need to be more careful about how and to whom they hand out their major salaries to.
The playoff picture takes the above ranking and reforms the teams back into their leagues and divisions including the wild card. This is in no ways a prediction, this is an assessment of how teams have played so far this season, not how each team is going to play.
Red Sox - 100
Yankees - 88
Blue Jays - 82
Orioles - 78
Devil Rays - 66
Tigers - 99
Indians - 93
Twins - 86
Royals - 72
White Sox - 71
Angels - 90
Mariners - 89
Athletics - 81
Rangers - 73
AL WILD CARD
Indians - 93
Mariners - 89
Yankees - 88
Twins - 86
Mets - 90
Braves - 87
Phillies - 81
Marlins - 78
Nationals - 67
Brewers - 89
Cubs - 86
Cardinals - 72
Reds - 69
Pirates - 66
Astros - 66
Dodgers - 91
Padres - 90
Rockies - 80
Diamondbacks - 77
Giants - 73
NL WILD CARD
Padres - 90
Braves - 87
Cubs - 86
Phillies - 81
Rockies - 80
References and Resources
USA Today Salary Database
Matthew Carruth is an editor for The Hardball Times. He welcomes any and all sorts of communication at his email.
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