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Salvador Perez-Molina

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Salvador Perez-Molina

Posted on 18 September 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Molina and….Molina?

Go ahead and call me a “birther” if you will, but I demand to see Salvador Perez‘s birth certificate.  Just pull back the facade of falsified documentation, and give it to me straight.  He’s a Molina.  I’m certain of this.  Allegedly, Perez was born in Venezuela, but Venezuela sits just a short popfly away from Puerto Rico on the global scale of things.  There must be someone out there who can help me prove that the Royals somehow found the “lost” Molina brother.  Granted, the family resemblance may not be striking, but half-brother would not be far-fetched.

How else can you explain the way Perez plays the game?

He has exactly 100 games of Major League Baseball experience under his belt, yet he shows many signs of baseball maturity befitting a man 10 years his elder.  For the love of all things Molina, the man just turned 22 at the beginning of this season.  In 2012 alone, Perez-Molina has accounted for 2.4 WAR which basically guarantees a solid return on the 5 yr / $7M investment the Royals made in him.  That’s the baseball equivalent of buying Apple at a discount to original opening price and selling right after an iPhone/iPad announcement.  Once you recoup that initial outlay, everything else basically represents pure gravy (minus capital gains taxes in the event you sell early).  Perez-Molina is Google, Microsoft, and Amazon all in one.

About that 2.4 WAR – it does not just come from competent work at the plate.  Given just 64 games (259 PAs), Perez-Molina boasts a line of .310/.336/.510/.846 with 11 HR and 36 RBI.  That helps explain the 2.0 oWAR.  His total DRS (defensive runs saved) stands at 7 which ties him for 2nd among all MLB catchers with Ryan Hanigan.  The difference between the 2 of them is that Hanigan has played 787.0 innings at catcher.  PM just reached 553.0 innings played.  The guy leading both of them?  Yadier Molina, of course.  Molina has a DRS total of 17.  Of course, Molina has built that number over the course of 1045.2 innings played.

PM does not simply save runs by blocking the plate or throwing out his share of would-be base stealers.  Nope.  He guns down would-be thieves at a rate of 44% against a league average of just 25%.  Not to be outdone, his older brother (or half-brother) throws out 46% of all potential base stealers (league avg of 27%).  So, if you happen to be keeping score at home, the summary goes….

  • Yadier Molina.320/.376/.502/.878, 139 OPS+, 27 doubles, 19 HR, 67 RBI in 125 games
  • Sal Perez-Molina – .310/.336/.510/.846, 128 OPS+, 16 doubles, 11 HR, 36 RBI in 64 games

Now, it might be a logical stretch to simply extrapolate Perez’s numbers to compare apples to apples, but that Perez-Molina guy still has a long way to go.  Molina’s 6.3 WAR (4.5 oWAR and 2.5 dWAR) places him among the top 5 most productive players in the NL (based on WAR).  He did not get to that point overnight, and he certainly was not a .300 hitter at age 22.

The more Perez produces over the next year or so, the more the long term signing appears to be a bargain for the Royals.  After all, Molina made $3.3M in his 5th year.  Perez is signed for $2.0M for his 5th year, and those numbers are not inflation adjusted.  However, the real kicker for the Perez deal gives the Royals team options that total $14.75M for Perez’s age 27-29 season.  Compare that to the $26.3M the Cardinals pay Molina for his 7th, 8th, and 9th seasons.

None of this gives me the confidence to project Sal Perez as the next Yadier Molina or Ivan Rodriguez, but he has gotten off to a great start.  Better yet, his work this year has already provided some justification for the move the Royals made to lock him down long term.  For a team that operates on a relatively small budget, the possibility of having an elite catcher for a relatively low price means an awful lot.  Maybe others will recognize Sal Perez-Molina for what he has already accomplished at the most demanding position in baseball.

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Name Brands

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Name Brands

Posted on 05 June 2012 by Dennis Lawson

3 Balls

You need not look any further than the most commonly searched names on any popular baseball site to determine which players have big time name recognition.  Some players become multimedia sensations before they ever take the field.  A few reach star status prior to even being drafted or signed from overseas.  Consider that a Google search for “Bryce Harper” returns 5,830,000 results.  “Yoenis Cespedes” gets you 601,000, and a “Yu Darvish” works out to roughly 4,660,000.  All 3 highly-touted rookies currently play for major league teams, but that was not the case a matter of a few months ago.  While that may be a lifetime by internet generation standards, it still represents a relatively short period by baseball standards.

Given the amount of time, energy, and money dedicated to creating a brand for each of these players, I cannot help but wonder whether the newest faces of MLB even have the chance to meet the lofty expectations associated with each of them.  Will every positive step be simply the predecessor of another marketing and advertising wave?  Will the creation of higher expectations always outpace actual accomplishments?

Cespedes has already become a mainstay of the A’s offense.  He ranks 2nd on the team in both home runs (5) and RBI (22), despite the fact he has just over half the at-bats the team leader in each department has.  Josh Reddick ranks first in both HR and RBI, but he has 203 at-bats to 119 for Cespedes.  Unfortunately for the A’s, Cespedes generously gives back on defense everything he gives them on offense and more.  He certainly has the athletic skills to play his position, but his baseball skills still have some catching up to do.  He might qualify as a work-in-progress, but he would then be considered an expensive project.   Cespedes cashes in to the tune of $6.5M this season, and the A’s already signed up for $8.5 for 2013, and $10.5M for 2014 and 2015 each.  With the increase in salary, the team and its fans certainly are reasonable to expect an increase in productivity, and that might be very gradual for a guy who has struck out 31 times in 132 plate appearances.  I hope Cespedes rewards the team and fans for their collective patience, because they cannot afford to swing and miss on very many big ones like this.

Yu Darvish faces similar if not greater expectations in Texas.  The Rangers have committed $56M over 6 years to Darvish, and the early returns appear promising.  Beyond the 3.25 ERA and 9.7 SO/9, Darvish could benefit from lowering his walk rate, because a WHIP of 1.459 is kind of like playing with fire.  It also means high pitch counts, and at 17.39 pitches per inning, Darvish is basically a 6-inning pitcher.  For now, that works fine, because the Rangers have a great bullpen that can cover the last 1/3 of the game regularly.  However, he could take a lot of load off of that pen by becoming slightly more efficient and going just 1 more inning a game on average.  If Darvish can accomplish that without ratcheting up his pitch counts, the Rangers have a potential ace-in-waiting.

Perhaps no young player carries the burden of expectations like Bryce Harper does.  The Nationals expect him to be an impact player now and hope for him to be a star player for years to come.  No big deal, except the guy is 19 and has barely had time to find his locker.  He is hitting .288/.380/.542/.922 with 5 HR, 4 3B, and 12 RBI.  As with Cespedes, his defense lags behind his offense by quite a bit, and he also carries a relatively high strikeout rate.  Still, he had the good fortune of playing on a team that does not need him to power the offense, and he appears to have the ability to learn on the job.

Even so, the expectations for Harper run as high as they do for Cespedes and Darvish.  All 3 have high ceilings in terms of potential, but they are all a long way from reaching those levels of performance.  They have become name brands in a matter of months on the MLB stage, and that leads to accelerated expectations and almost certain disappointment.  It is a shame that MLB and the various teams have essentially colluded with the media in putting the proverbial cart before the horse.  I just hope that it does not prove a detriment to the young, talented people entering the league.

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Keeping Score at Home

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Keeping Score at Home

Posted on 29 March 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Image courtesy of Myexceltemplates.net

If you are not keeping score at home, then maybe you should be.  A true fan might conceive of a myriad of reasons for doing so, and it would be difficult to fault any or all of those reasons.

  1. If you have a child or children, there is no better time and place to teach him/her/them how to keep score.  You do not want to be the numbskull at the stadium who spends the first 3 innings fumbling around with scorecards, pencils, erasers, an iPad, an Android device, and a highly annoyed ex-MMA fighter sitting next to you.  Nope.  You do not want to try and teach your kid(s) how to keep score during an actual baseball game in a real stadium.  Tickets are expensive, and there is about a 10:1 chance that you end up with some kind of condiment stain on the scorecard.  Forget that.
  2. Spring training games do not count for anything, so there is no harm in discarding error-filled scorecards that are partially covered in doodles, whozits, and whatsits galore.  Also, thingamabobs.
  3. You need the practice.  Do not be the fan who shows up with scorecard in hand only to spend time doing a Google search on the latest news from Full Spectrum Baseball.  There is nothing inherently wrong with that search effort, but you can at least wait until you get home to read the site.  Keeping score takes a certain amount of focus which we find often lacking in the real world these days.  Given the plethora of multimedia stimulants, ADHD afflictions, and the need for more cowbell, many adults have seemingly lost the ability to stay on task.  Stay the course, people.  Stay focused on the scorecard and the game.
  4. No feeling compares to reaching the end of a game with a mistake free scorecard, except for maybe winning $10,000 on a scratch off ticket on your way home from the game.  If you can perfect the art of keeping score, then maybe you can pull off the daily double of a perfect scorecard AND a winning ticket.
  5. Perhaps the best reason for keeping score at home during games is that doing so provides your brain with an excellent diversion from the commercials that seek to extract points from your IQ and money from your wallet.  Do you really need to see another Charlie Sheen commercial?  Please do not answer that.

Finally, I would argue that the best reason for keeping score at home stems from a desire to stay connected to our baseball past and the heritage that accompanies that past.  Most baseball fans were born well before the proliferation of cable television and the advent of online streaming of real-time events.  Before a significant number of Americans had access to cable television, the only way to gain greater access to baseball games was to prop up a massive satellite dish in your yard and hope that the kids did not figure out how to break the security code for the “adult” channels.

To be truthful, most fans followed baseball through radio broadcasts.  For me, this was an intensely personal way to learn about the game, because I spent endless summer afternoons and evenings listening to Jack Buck while lounging on the sun porch at my grandparent’s house.  Even when a game would be available on tv, we would often opt to listen to the radio, because there was just something different about listening to a detailed description of events that you could picture in your mind.  Such times were a staple of my childhood as much as they were a tiny glimpse at the purist form of Americana.

If you could keep score while listening to the radio broadcast of a game, then you really were accomplishing something.  Looking back, I realize now that scorecards were responsible for magnificent improvements in my handwriting skills during each summer.  Maybe I cared little for keeping letters and numbers inside the lines on Big Chief notebook paper at school, but there was absolutely no way I would dare mar my scorecard with a single, superfluous mark.  Actually, malformed numbers were the enemy of the aesthetically ideal scorecard, so I spent commercial breaks and pitching changes tidying up that precious scorecard.

In retrospect, the time spent listening to games and keeping score at home set the ideal stage for a lasting bonding experience.  I absolutely cannot think of both my grandparents without making a connection to baseball sooner or later.  To this day, I still keep score at home whenever possible.  Doing so honors the memory of those wonderfully innocent summers lounging on that sun porch 30+ years ago, and I would not trade those memories for anything in the world.


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