17 May 2006

Contests A-Brewin', Looking at Pena Deal Again...

Back in college, I had a full-blown, very serious eBay addiction. I won some seriously awesome stuff, of course- hard to find Melvins, Breeders, Mudhoney t-shirts, some bootlegs, hard to find Nirvana videotapes (Live! Tonite!! Sold Out!!! and some great MTV/ concert footage). More recently I picked up my David Ortiz World Series bobblehead, and I even got an old super-8 camera off there way back when.

Anyway, I go back to eBay here and there. Recently, realizing that the only baseball card I owned was the rookie card of my original favorite baseball player- Wade Boggs- and that I owned none from my current, and reigning favorite player- Pedro Martinez- I felt I had to remedy that. So, after finding an auction for a "lot" of Pedro cards- including a bunch of his different rookie cards and minor-league ones, I survived a late-in-the-game bid flurry to pull out a victory at around $5. It's like 100 cards, all Pedros. Fuck, I love eBay.

So then I thought "what other useless shit could I waste my money on?" Answer? A St. Patrick's Day Pedro Mets jersey, old vintage replica mesh NBA jerseys (Tim Hardaway on the Warriors, Lakers #23, Rony Seikaly on the Heat- still bidding on all).

But that's not all, and brings me to my point. I also won a set of "Fun Food" baseball pins from 1984, a complete set of 133- for like $8. Now, some of these are going to be awesomely cool and worth my keeping. I love pins, especially smaller ones that are on the innocuous side. I think I'll definitely be the only one sporting a Willie Wilson pin on any given day. That being said- I don't need 133 of them, and some of them are going to be a bit more lame than others. Sooooo, since I love my five readers- I think I'm going to hold some contests, trivia battles, scavenger hunts and sexual favor head-to-heads (heh), with the winners getting a pin to pick from a list of my castoffs, and maybe a BSMemorial sticker here and there. For fun.

So, you know- look out for that. Any ideas for the kinds of "contests" is well appreciated too, but I want to steer clear of "trivia" for the most part, and aim more for "performances for my amusement which I and I alone will declare the winner for in full subjectivity."

PS- In these contests... I can be bought.

With Wily Mo Pena having such a strong start as a Red Sox, Bronson Arroyo basically battling Brandon Webb for the NL Cy Young to start the season, and Michael Kay telling me that the Red Sox, if they could do it over again would DEFINITELY take back the trade, I started to think about that trade again recently.

There are a couple ways to look at this, naturally- on a straight head-to-head performance level so far, Arroyo has out-performed Pena. In VORP, Arroyo is in the top three in the MLB among pitchers, behind only Mussina and Webb. He's more or less lead a poor team- the Reds- to a 23-16 record, second place in the NL Central, and their best start in years.

His numbers don't lie-

5-1, 2.03 ERA, 58.2 IP, 1.01 WHIP, 6.71 K/9 IP, 3.58 K/BB, 6 HR

-he's been objectively terrific, especially when you consider that five of his eight starts have come in pretty big-time hitters parks (CIN, CHC, ARZ), and one in a park that is certainly playing like one in it's inception (STL). Four of his starts have had game scores over 70, and a fifth was at 69. Only once has he failed to turn in a quality start. All his peripherals have improved dramatically over last year's.

Meanwhile, Wily Mo Pena has been a really pleasant surprise. After one rough game in RF early on, Wily has assumed the starting CF role, putting up a 322/370/529 line with 4 HR and 8 BBs in 87 ABs. He's played very good defense- moving well, making decent routes on balls, with a really solid arm. Not spectacular, but well worth the offense he's provided.

One thing to note- Wily's improved patience at the plate, which includes taking pitches the opposite way and working counts a bit more- has come at the expense of some of his power. His 529 SLG is close to his 2004 career high, but note-


Now, it would appear to a casual observation that his power is declining- but it's really not. Since we're dealing with a player developing in the major leagues, instead of the minors where he'd have been better suited to do this 2-3 years ago, we have to really interpret what's happening here- maybe coupled moreso with external observation than we'd normally need to. It appears that the Red Sox are trying to redefine his approach a bit- and I admit, this is observed in a very small sample of ABs- instead of trying to force him to lay off pitches away and off the plate, they instead seem to have him maintaining his aggressiveness and going with the pitch.

For a guy accustomed to yanking everything he sees as hard as he can, even as he "succeeds" in this, adapting to it will take some time. This may be why his moon-shot numbers are down, and Fenway may be why his SLG isn't yet.

Even this considered, it's impossible not to consider Wily Mo Pena to be an out-and-out success thus far. The fact that he's only 24 is legitimately exciting- as he's showing that with steady playing time, he can be a legitimate offensive force. The ball simply leaps off his bat. One note, too- Wily's a very streaky player. He's bound (as nearly every baseball player is) to fall into a big time funk at some point this season, and it very well may be once he reverts back to platoon duty. But seeing his start this year as anything but a nice step forward is just being contrarian. A ton to be excited about there.

Head-to-head, Arroyo gets the nod though. He's been more valuable in a vacuum. But how about to the Red Sox? Undoubtedly the Reds are comfortable with the trade- they're getting very quality innings from a starting pitcher, and have enough young slugging OFs/ sustainable offense to not miss Wily too much.

For the Red Sox, however, here's how the trade (as I see it) breaks down- the difference between Wily Mo Pena and Willie Harris/ Dustan Mohr versus the difference between Bronson Arroyo and David Wells/ Lenny DiNardo. Even if Pena is playing as well as he is as Nixon's platoon partner with Crisp healthy, I'd probably call it a wash. Arroyo was in the bullpen as the season started. There are countless variables at play here, naturally, but assuming Arroyo takes over Wells' rotation spot when he gets injured, the comparison really is Arroyo vs. Lenny DiNardo. I have nearly no doubt of two things in this situation-
  • That Arroyo would have produced better than DiNardo has

  • That Arroyo would not have produced as well as he has in CIN

  • There's really no evidence in his time with Boston that any sort of improvement was on the horizon- he wasn't young enough to be "breaking out" per se (though it could happen, albeit as an aberration), his peripherals were all truly declining, and his numbers against the AL East were frightening. For a junkball pitcher with a funky delivery, it appeared that slowly but surely, he was being "figured out."

    So, while purely speculative, the gap between DiNardo and the BOS version of Arroyo wouldn't be that pronounced. Couple that with the fact that Boston has needed the 5th starter for only 6 starts (rainouts, early season schedule), and the difference really isn't that great. As soon as Wells was back from the DL (which appears imminent), Arroyo would have been back in the bullpen. THEN, the comparison is closer to the difference between Arroyo and Riske/ Delcarmen/ etc.

    I don't think I need to walk through the upgrade, on any scale, from Willie Harris/ Dustan Mohr to Wily Mo Pena.

    All that being said- when you consider that the original plan was scrapped from necessity, and Wily Mo has effectively been our starting CF this season, the trade shoots way in the favor of Wily Mo. The comparison now becomes Wily Mo versus Harris/ Mohr... everyday. You take what you've gotten in that role on a starting basis at the expense of some lag in the 5th starter spot/ long relief every single day. The difference could be as many as 3 wins at this point in the season.

    Coupled with Wily's future, and I thank God every day they made this trade. I'm still also very comfortable with Lenny DiNardo as spot 5th starter/ long man for the future. Consider- of his four starts, we've won three. One- May 7th against Baltimore- he was excellent, going 5 innings, giving up just one run, and inducing 12 ground balls (10 for outs), 5 strikeouts, and only one ball put in the air. In another, April 29th at Tampa, he went 5, gave up 4 runs, and did what most 5th starters are asked to do- keep the team in the game. Finally, his first start, April 17 at home against Seattle, he went 5 again, giving up 2 ER while getting 10 groundballs.

    The really bad game- April 22 in Toronto, where he went 3 IP giving up 7 ER- it's worth keeping in mind that while he was giving up hard hit balls everywhere (it was a legitimately bad start), a number of the hits to extend innings were bleeders and groundballs. He had his best infielders (Lowell/ Gonzalez) not starting, on turf (remember how Lowe was on turf?). Recipe for a groundball pitcher's disaster- most of the baserunners on when TOR's big hits came were there via wormburners through holes.

    This was a great trade.

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