As far as non-roster invitees go, you can’t get much more interesting than Rich Hill. In 2007, Hill struck out 183 in 195 innings pitched and was a three win pitcher. Since then, he’s contracted Steve Blass disease, also known as Ankielitis. Adding injury to insult, Hill is coming off labrum surgery. At least that might explain some of his badness.

CHONE, Marcel, ZiPS and the Fans are in harmony in their projections of Hill — 4.8ish FIP, lots of walks, a nice strikeout rate and somewhere between 90-100 innings; good for roughly around 1 WAR. Coming off labrum surgery, I think expecting much of anything feels optimistic. I’m still dealing with Mulder shell-shock, but at least they’re not paying Mulder money or anything near it. This is a no-risk, all-reward move. Yay Cards.

Stuff wise, Hill’s repertoire consists of an 88-90 MPH, the occasional change-up, and a droppifying curveball, the key to his whiffs. For fun, I thought it would be interesting to compare Hill’s curve to the average lefty and Barry Zito, the King of Lefty Curveballs.

Name Speed Horizontal Vertical Spin Rate Spin Direction
MLB LHP 74.7 -4.3 -6 1292 299.8
Rich Hill 71.5 -7.9 -8.4 1392 317
Barry Zito 72.9 -4.5 -10.4 1749 333.1

Not a true 12-6er, but that’s a lot of movement. It’s more of an 1-7 curve. Here’s a spin deflection graph, and then we’ll look at the results -

Name Strike% Whiff% Swing% Foul% In Play%
MLB LHP 58.4 10.1 38.8 13.7 14.9
Rich Hill 61.4 9.2 35.7 12.9 13.5
Barry Zito 65.5 7.5 42.5 19 16

I find it odd that two lefties with such great curves get less swings and misses than average. Huh. At any rate, Hill is flyer worthy.

As in low-hanging fruit.

Chances are Matt Holliday is not anymore interested in playing for the New York Mets as Jason Bay is, so I think the Cardinals still have to be heavy favorites to win this prolonged staring contest with the Boras Corporation. Mark DeRosa was part of Plan B, but he’s now a San Francisco Giant, meaning the Cardinals need to find a new backup plan, if they haven’t already.

Xavier Nady and Jermaine Dye are no better than Allen Craig, so I cannot figure out for the life of me why we continue to hear their names bandied about by the fine P-D scribes. I hope it’s just speculation and that there’s no real interest. They’re better known names, but not better players. But since we keep hearing their names, let’s run them both through the WAR gambit to see how the project out.

I’m taking educated guesses on their wOBA, playing time and using mostly Steve’s fielding projections.

Nady

Batting Wins Above Average (.340 wOBA, league wOBA .332): +.5 wins
Defensive Wins Above Average: -.5 wins
LF Positional Adjustment: -.75 wins
Replacement Level: +2 wins
—————————————–
= 1.25 wins * .64 (or about 400 PA’s for PT) = +.8 WAR

I feel like I’m being fairly generous with Nady’s projected wOBA and plate appearances. Nady stinks. Let’s move on to Jermaine Dye.

Dye

Batting Wins Above Average (.340 wOBA, league wOBA .332): +.5 wins
Defensive Wins Above Average: -1.5 wins
LF Positional Adjustment: -.75 wins
Replacement Level: +2 wins
—————————————–
= .25 wins * .88 (or about 550 PA’s for PT) = +.2 WAR

Ewww. Dye’s defense is so bad, he’s actually better off as a DH. I’m using Steve’s UZR projections, which have been adjusted to the Fan’s Scouting Report, in case you’re wondering.  CHONE projects Dye to be at a more tolerable -7, so that would put him at a projected .9 WAR, still not good. Can you understand why Dye is a terrible idea now?

I have a zany idea, and one that probably would not receive the “thumbs up” from the pitching coach due to the fan’s treatment of his other son. But how about a Shelley Duncan/Gabe Gross platoon? No, really. Duncan hit .277/.370/.546 for the Triple-A Scranton Fun Run for the Cure Yankees last season. Against lefties, for what it might be worth, he hit .296/.392/.552. CHONE projects a .252/.336/.486 line next season. Maybe that’s a tad optimistic, but let’s run him through the process here.

Duncan, the other bruthah

Batting Wins Above Average (.345 wOBA, league wOBA .332): +.8 wins
Defensive Wins Above Average: -.2 wins
LF Positional Adjustment: -.75 wins
Replacement Level: +2 wins
—————————————–
= 1.85 wins * .8 (or about 500 PA’s for PT) = +1.5 WAR

Duncan the younger is not graceful with the Glove, but he’s not his brother and he sure is not Jermaine Dye. Now for Gross. Before I get into Gross, let me just throw out a few more reasons why I like him. First, he fits in a need in that the Cardinals could use a LH bat off of the bench. They’ve gone on record saying so.  They could also use a super-utility outfielder, someone who can play all three outfield positions. That is Gabe Gross. His UZR/150 is +22 in the corners, +2.5 in center field. He is a freaky-defensive-whiz, the new market efficiency.  He’s not much with the bat, but if used correctly (as in never put him in against a LHP), he isn’t terrible.

Gabe, not the Babe, but the Gross

Batting Wins Above Average (.321 wOBA, league wOBA .332): -.7 wins
Defensive Wins Above Average: +.9 wins
LF Positional Adjustment: -.75 wins
Replacement Level: +2 wins
—————————————–
= 1.45 wins * .61 (or about 380 PA’s for PT) = +0.9 WAR.

I gave him a few more PA’s then you might expect, given that he can spell Ludwick and the Razzle.  Combined, a Duncagross(?) platoon could be worth about 2.4 WAR, a little over a $10 million value on the free agent market, and they could have it for well, basically free. Should Duncan live up to his Quad-A reputation, they could always give the playing time to Allen Craig and maybe hope to find another LF on the trade market down the line. And with the savings, they sign Bedard or Smoltz, or whoever, plus they could sign another reliever for Franklin insurance, like say …I don’t know, Kevin Gregg or Octavio Dotel.

This is all probably moot anyway, as I’m still fully expecting Holliday to sign with the Cardinals. Some team looking to fill a hole in LF should consider this. Hey Omar, this would beat the heck out of signing Jason Bay for $64M, and face it, he doesn’t want to play for your Mets, anyway.

As far as NRI’s go, this one is worth a mini-fist pump, even if it’s at the price of looking like a nerd. Gotay is some decent F.A.T. Freely Available Talent, that is.

Gotay played 3B for the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate and hit .272/.429/.450. He had more walks (102!) than strikeouts (69) and hits (101). Gotay also showed some decent power — 42% of his hits went for extra bags. His MLE line was a nifty .258/.391/.402. He’s primarily played 2B in the majors; and is a -8 UZR per 150 games. For what it’s worth, he was a +1 as a 3B for Reno according to his Total Zone stats on MLSplits.

I adjusted his CHONE projection to St. Louis, it shakes out to a .363 OBA/.381 SLG. Not shabby at all.

I’m not saying he’s the savior at 3B, but he’s free extra depth and is David Freese’s age, the David Freese who is currently on the top of the 3B depth chart. At worst he makes Memphis a little more interesting.

From the team who brought you the signings of Charlie Manning and Ian Ostlund, I give you Royce Ring.

I’m sure there will be a lot of head scratching and “low hanging fruit” cat calls on message boards, mostly due to his 8.46 ERA last season, but his FIP was 4.48. That’s a huge amount of bad luck. I’m not here to defend the signing, but when Joe Beimel, Brian Shouse and Dennys Reyes are set to make $3 M a year, signing Ring doesn’t seem like an awful idea for a budget consious team with greater needs. The best of the best LOOGy’s are only worth about 1 WAR.  I can understand the Cards not wanting to shell out a ton of cash for a someone who is going to face only 200 batters at the very max.

I can’t find his 2007 splits, but I was able to dig up at on an old BA article that Ring limited Triple-A lefties to averages of .145 and .140 in ’05 and ’06, including just three extra-base hits. All three XBH came in 2005. During his intermittent big league career, he’s held lefties to a .229 batting average, a .231 SLG and has struck out a quarter of them. He also is adept at getting groundballs, for his career he has a 57.7% GB%.

For what it’s worth, his CHONE projection is optimistic, calling for 49 IP, 43 K, 23 BB, 4 HR and a 3.86 ERA in 57 games. His Marcel projects for 38 innings, 30 K’s, 17 walks, 4 homers and an ERA of 4.62.

I’m guessing he’s going to be paid next to nothing compared to what a lot of the higher profile LOOGYs will be netting, so if you’re going to sign low hanging fruit, this seems to be the right way to do it.

update : Derrick Goold tweets that his salary is reportedly only $475,000. That’s two LOOGY’s for just under a mil. I seem to remember the Orioles were stupid enough to sign Jamie Walker for 3 years/$12M and he’s managed to be worth .5 WAR.

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