The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Trade Analysis - Day Two, This Time Marlins Might Not Have Won

It seems that sentiment towards the trades the Marlins made this weekend fall into one of two camps. The first comes from the popular media and claims that the Marlins were the big winners in the trade deadline sweepstakes. The second comes from sabermetricians, who tend to claim that the Marlins gave up too much and overpaid for what they got. Yesterday I mostly wrote about the first group, so today I’ll talk about the second.

If you read Baseball Prospectus or any number of other sites, you’ve probably heard this argument already, but just in case, I’ll lay it out there again. The sabermetric take on the Dodgers – Marlins trade is that the Dodgers are the clear winners here, even if they weren’t able to turn Brad Penny and crew into Randy Johnson. The reasoning for this is that Paul Lo Duca and Guillermo Mota have peaked (and possibly did a two or three years ago). Sabermetricians also assert that Penny upgrades the Dodgers starting rotation (and will provide more quality innings than Mota will down the stretch) and that Choi upgrades the offense. Choi is young and cheap and not yet eligible for arbitration. For a club like the Dodgers, with one of the highest payrolls and biggest budgets in the game, this makes him an even better bargain because he allows them payroll flexibility and the opportunity to spend big bucks on other players. These folks are also the most likely to say that the “clubhouse leadership” brought by Lo Duca to Florida and taken from Los Angeles is practically meaningless.

All in all, it’s an interesting take by the sabermetrician types. I’m not sure I buy the leadership part, but the rest seems pretty valid. Leadership is oftened questioned, particularly by those who like to quantify such things, because it is the most difficult to quantify. Most of us doing the analysis aren’t present in the clubhouse or the locker room to really see who the leaders are and what the chemistry is. So we’re dependent on the view we get from media reports, which is either incomplete (how could it not be – they’re not omnipresent either) or slanted (Reporter A likes Player B or he doesn’t – for an example see Dan Le Batard and Ricky Williams). This will be an interesting test though. The Dodgers were hot throughout July – going 20 – 6 for the month – so if team unity and a happy clubhouse was in part responsible for their success, it will be interesting to see how the loss of their de facto captain affects the results on the field. The reverse will hold true for the Marlins. They’ve been hot all year (last too) against the Phillies, and recently they’ve been ice cold against the worst teams in the league (notably the Expos and Pirates – but hopefully not the Diamondbacks, who the Fish face for three games starting tonight). Now that they have Lo Duca, and have subtracted Nunez, it will be interesting to see if there’s any positive effect.

One other – not small – point in the sabermetricians favor is that Lo Duca will be eligible for arbitration and a hefty raise after this season, like Penny, so this might really just be a short term rental for the Fish. In my initial analysis, I noted that one of the benefits of the trade over the long term was that it filled some holes (catcher, relief) that wouldn’t have been filled otherwise. That may or may not be the case. We’ll have to stay tuned to find out for sure.

But this is the fun part. It’s August and there are pennant races and the home town team is in the mix. At least the Marlins made some significant moves. If they’d stood pat like the Phillies or Braves, all of us in South Florida would be complaining about it today. They didn’t, so we should be thankful for that. Larry Beinfest, who earned our trust and respect last year, has put this club in the best position he saw possible to make another run for the post-season, which is much more than Marlins fans can say was done in most years of the team’s existence. Now we just get to sit back and watch it all unfold over the next two months. That’s what baseball is all about anyway. Remember, baseball isn’t played on paper or on a computer - it’s played by little men inside of your television.


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