Those Who Snooze Don’t Always Lose

We were walking west along J Street, just past Fire Station 4, when the crowd erupted. Cardinals fans seem to travel with their team, so we assumed that the visiting team had extended its seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead.

I was in a lousy mood before we even got to the ballpark — I forget why, but it seemed important at the time. The game wasn’t helping any.

In the bottom of the first, after Jody Gerut drew an eight-pitch walk to lead off the inning, Tadahito Iguchi rapped into an easy 6-4-3 double play and I just smiled. It wasn’t the smile of a happy man, mind you, more like the thing Jeff Kent does right before he gets tossed.

Next inning, Adrian Gonzalez got the Padres started with a booming drive to center that Ryan Ludwick misplayed into a double. Kevin Kouzmanoff followed with a sharp single to left, advancing Gonzalez to third.

Interesting. Runners at the corners, nobody out. How will the Padres fail to score here?

Easy. Khalil Greene grounded the first pitch he saw to third baseman Troy Glaus, who fired to Adam Kennedy at second for the force. Kennedy noticed Gonzalez trying to score and, rather than trying to complete the double play, threw home. Yadier Molina whipped the ball back to Glaus, but Gonzalez scrambled back to the bag, just ahead of the tag.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Padres offense this year: The crowd went nuts. Yep, Gonzalez retreated safely to the base he’d already occupied and people were getting ready for a parade. It’s amazing how much fun you can have when you just lower your standards, or better yet, abandon them altogether.

Meanwhile, back in reality, Scott Hairston stepped to the plate. The Padres still had runners at first and third, but now there was one out and we were, for whatever reason, giddy with delight.

Hairston worked the count full. With Greene at first, I asked my wife, Do you send him? She said no, and I agreed. For their careers, Hairston strikes out in 22.5% of his plate appearances, while Molina throws out 49.5% of runners who try to steal against him. Greene isn’t slow, but neither is he a burner. Knowing what we know about Hairston and Molina (and despite the fact that weak-hitting Luke Carlin waits on deck), it’s pretty much a given that you don’t send him in that situation unless your specific goal is to avoid scoring runs.

You know what happens next: Greene breaks with the pitch, Hairston looks at strike three, and Molina guns down the runner at second, inning over. I inform my wife we’ll be leaving as soon as Greg Maddux comes out of the game.

Grass grew, paint dried, and the fifth inning rolled around. With one out in the home half, Greene singled to left. Hairston whacked the next pitch, a hanging slider from St. Louis starter Joel Pineiro, down the left field line for a double that pushed Greene to third and no further. Carlin then fanned on three pitches and Tony Clark, batting for Maddux, lifted a lazy fly ball to center for the final out.

Yep, that was enough.

We made our way out of the ballpark, past the trendy sports bars and pizza joints, past the fire station — but you know this part already — and back to our car. We didn’t listen to the game on the way home. I had no mind to subject myself to more of the Padres than was absolutely necessary. Come to think of it, even that had become too much.

We spent much of the trip home coming up with catchy slogans for the team: “Our Team, Our Town… Let’s Move” and “You Snooze, We Lose” — that sort of thing. Because really, at this point in the season, you have two choices: hit stuff or laugh. Well, I prefer to laugh.

I later learned of Kouzmanoff’s heroics in the sixth and that his three-run jack ended up being enough to move the Padres ahead and keep them there until the end. After I was sure everything was okay, we fired up TiVo and watched the rest of the game. Actually, we watched the bottom of the sixth, the top of the eighth, and the top of the ninth, but you get the idea.

Without wishing to take anything away from Kouz, who absolutely crushed his home run, we all owe Pineiro a big thank you. After walking Gerut and Brian Giles, he fanned Gonzalez for the second out. The script for the ’08 Padres calls for an inning-ending double play right there, but I’ll be darned if Pineiro didn’t just put the ball right past Gonzalez.

Nothing good ever came of a strikeout, right? Isn’t that what they say?

Yeah, well they need to watch this game again. Gonzalez’s inability to make contact allowed Kouzmanoff to bat with ducks on the proverbial pond. Kouz then tattooed a 1-0 hanging slider to Tatooine. (I don’t even know what that means, but it sounds kinda funny.)

We skipped forward to watch Heath Bell and Trevor Hoffman put the finishing touches on a Padres victory. And I thought how nice it is that the rest of the nation has gone back to ignoring Hoffman now that he’s not blowing saves anymore.

Or something like that…

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130 Responses »

  1. #96@MB: Sure but just because you are drafted high doesn’t me you turn out well:
    There are certainly some good picks on there but also some duds. One Hall of Famer, a few other All-Stars but also some that never appeared in the majors or only briefly.

    #94@Tom Waits: I don’t see many of those happening. Rarely does a player move off a position to an easier position and then move back. Chipper might be the only one and he might be the worst fielder in major league history of his career (and he’s still a lot better then Braun even now). If the Brewers were comfortable playing Hart in CF they would have done it last season instead of playing Bill Hall there and waiting two more seasons and then playing him there seems unlikely. I guess if Berkman has played CF then the Brewers can play Braun there. I could see them trading Fielder as well as he might not age well — but he’s already hit 50 HR’s in the majors and is only 7 months older then LaPorta.

    The Brewers optimal performance team doesn’t include LaPorta but then again, teams have reasons (salary) for playing lesser players.

  2. #99@Tom Waits: I agree, but I think you’re over-stating both extremes. Kouz isn’t nearly as average at 3B as you intimate (park effects and what-not) and I don’t think LaPorta’s value is as sky-high as you predict.

    But yes, generally, what you say is true. I think the problem in this situation is that you and Schlom are completely over and under-valuing Kouzmanoff and LaPorta.

  3. #96@MB: Yes. A prospect’s value is almost never based entirely on numbers, league comparisons, any of that. Again, let’s go back to Burroughs. After his 2001 minor league season, when he was still considered a Top 25 prospect even though he was apparently blocked at the major league level by Phil Nevin, his trade value was huge. That’s in spite of the fact that he really hadn’t progressed as a hitter in the minors. He had the name and the reputation, the bloodlines, he was a consistent presence on top prospect lists. Now clearly, in retrospect the Padre organization should have traded him, because he ended up not doing much for us. But the value of LaPorta dominating AA less than a year after being drafted, and the fact that he was a high 1st rounder (and had been considered a top 10 player before the 2006 season, when he got hurt), is critical to his current trade value. It doesn’t matter one bit that Kouz had a great 2006 between AA and AAA. If LaPorta right now is worth a theoretical $100, Kouzmanoff is maybe worth $60. You’re not going to convince the Brewers to take a 40% discount on what they could purchase with LaPorta by trying to convince them that LaPorta and Kouz should both really be worth only $80.

  4. #100@Phantom: The top players wouldn’t sign away their free agent years if they knew they’d get double from the Yankees. Some would of course but the top players wouldn’t.

    I don’t understand why the Padres don’t do something like this. Tell the top high school pitchers (or college but it would probably be harder to do) to ask for huge signing bonuses. San Diego is by far the best place for a pitcher to end up in so it would also be in the players best interest to place themselves “off-limits” to most teams. It’s a win-win situation. The Padres would end up with the best pitching talent and the players would end up in the environment which is optimal to their success. Of course, that would cost some money so we know that John Moores probably won’t do it but it is pretty logical.

  5. #104@Schlom: But top players HAVE signed away their FA years. That’s EXACTLY what Miguel Cabrera did. Granted, he got paid. But he might have been able to get more on the open market. The same can be said for Hanley Ramirez.

    Both players and teams are avoiding FA as a reliable method for building teams because it’s too risky.

  6. #102@Phantom:

    Kouz currently has an 80 OPS+, which is adjusted for the park. If I’m the Brewers, I may think that his second half last year was for real, but I’m not going to pay for it when he’s struggling so bad now. Most scouts think he’s a poor defender; as I intimated earlier, if you have to get into esoteric measures to explain to a potential trade partner why your player is better than they think, you’re not going to win.

    LaPorta’s trade value right now is higher (although I might say equal to facilitate discussion) than Headley’s was at the end of last year. If anyone had suggested trading Headley for someone who produced like Kouz did last year (Eckstein, Belliard, Edward Encarnacion, Cuddyer, Werth), what would Padre fan reactions have been? That we were seriously underselling him.

  7. #103@Tom Waits: That’s very true. In fact, every team probably over-values their own prospects so in the Brewers eyes LaPorta is worth more like $120. I think you are underrating Kouz a bit — 3B that hit 275/329/475 (after being one of the worst players in baseball the first month) in Petco Park have some value.

    Certainly the Brewers would be better off this season with Kouzmanoff rather then LaPorta – probably the next season as well. They’d also be better off if they could trade him for a pitcher or another better 3B. Or if they trade Braun, Fielder or Hart for something they need. To fit LaPorta into the team they are going to have to trade something. Personally I wouldn’t play for the following season, much less two years down the road.

  8. #98@Schlom: The 1996 Yankees had Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Andy Petitte, Mariano Rivera, Ramiro Mendoza, and Gerald Williams. Paul Oneil was obtained in a trade, as was Tino Martinez for farm products. Jorge Posada arrived the following year.
    I realize it is fashionable to claim that the Yankees buy their championships, but how often do teams put together that amount of talent from their farm system for a championship run ???

  9. #99@Tom Waits: Aha, see now this is the fun stuff – the negotiations.

    There is a zone of possible agreement between the value of LaPorta to another organization (value B) and the value of LaPorta to the Brewers Organization (value A).


    ZOPA: Value A ——————————————-Value B


    Obviously, value B is greater than value A, and a trade will result in value claming by each team above value A and below value B.


    Trade: Value A —————Trade Value ————Value B


    Brewers Value Claim = Trade Value – Value A
    Padres (e.g.) Claim = Value B – Trade Value


    Just as you can say that that the Brewers would be fools to settle for anything other than value B (LaPorta’s value to another organization), others could say that any another organization would be fools to give the Brewers anything other than Value A+1 unit of value (slightly more than value A). (note: value A in this instance represents only the direct value of LaPorta (see cash streams 1&2 in my other post).

    This is one of the places where we see the skill of good general managers at work. That is, being a general manager (in this regard) is about (1) properly estimating values A & B and (2) claiming more value in the trade than the other team.

    Thus, General Managers can make mistakes in either point 1 or point 2. If, hypothetically, both general managers in a trade get point 1 correct (the trick is undestanding the value to the other organization), then you would assume that they would split the value that could be realized in a trade. Of course, that’s not always the case, but usually the value win/loss occurs because of incorrect valuations of A & B.

    In my opinion, KT has always done a nice job of getting the lion share of the value claim during trades. E.G. the Linebrink deal last year….(Thatcher was way more valuable to the Padres than Linebrink was to the Brewers and that’s not even taking into consideration the discounted future value of Inman)…

  10. #102@Phantom: More on Kouzmanoff’s relative ability at 3b.

    Last year, Kouz earned 15 Win Shares. It’s not my favorite tool, but it’s handy because it combines offense and defense. That put him in the middle of full-time 3b. This year he’s earned 3, which is coincidentally enough the same amount that Bill Hall of Milwaukee has. There’s no way that the Brewers trade their best prospect for a player who has, so far in 2008, been just as unproductive as the player he’s going to replace. Now obviously Kouz has the potential to be more than he is now, but teams don’t pay full price for unrealized potential. Not unless they’re in a fire sale mode, like the Marlins when they traded Beckett.

  11. #106@Tom Waits: I guess my main problem is that I don’t get why LaPorta’s trade value is higher then Headley’s. If Headley had a better season in Double A, was younger at the time and plays a much more difficult position, shouldn’t he be worth more. The only point in LaPorta’s favor is that he was drafted 7th overall vs. 66th for Headley.

  12. #108@parlo: That’s kind of my point. Since it’s nearly impossible to get that much young talent together at the same time (unless you are the Rays and finish last place every season) you are better off getting established players (free agents) instead of relying on your own.

    #110@Tom Waits: By that logic you wouldn’t trade for Robinson Cano because he has 0 Win Shares so far this season. Nevermind that he’s been in the top 5 the past two seasons (and is younger then everyone else ahead of him).

  13. #107@Schlom: Sure, Kouz has value. He’s given away some of his second-half surge last year by posting a 684 OPS this year, and his defensive reputation among scouts hasn’t changed. But his value isn’t LaPorta Now. It might be LaPorta in September 2008, if the big guy struggles later this year.

    #109@Marsh: One of the keys to Towers’ trading success, though, is identifying players who are undervalued by their parent organization. He’s grabbed assets who are seen – by the parent – as flawed or superfluous, often players who have struggled in major league duty. The Brewers just drafted LaPorta a year ago. They weren’t even sure he could play LF then. Do they see him as superfluous when they knew his flaws 11 months ago and still paid him 2 million? There’s no wiggle room for Towers in that situation.

  14. #113@Tom Waits: You’re exactly right about Tower’s skill.

  15. #112@Schlom: No, by that logic the Yankees wouldn’t trade Cano because nobody wants to pay what he’s actually worth. Kouzmanoff is not Robinson Cano.

    Kouz just doesn’t represent the kind of upgrade you seem to think he does. Last year, Hall earned 12 WS despite playing completely out of position. This year he’s tied with Kouzmanoff. Why would Milwaukee sacrifice their best trading chip when Hall has proven he can earn 18-21 WS a season?

    #111@Schlom: Because trade value is not determined by math.

    Scouting reports play a huge role. LaPorta was rated as having 70 power, which is about as high as you’ll ever see. And Power is the tool that matters most.

    Current buzz plays a huge role, and LaPorta has that among scouts. It’s like when the Royals traded Beltran for Mark Teahen, when Teahen was having a very good season. The buzz around him built up and Allan Baird bit.

    The other key is that LaPorta was playing in college this time last year. Headley didn’t have his breakout season until after he spent an entire year in High A. LaPorta skipped High A entirely.

  16. #64@parlo: Oh yeah. I totally agree. It’s fun sometimes, but basically pointless. Still, I learn a lot about these minor league guys when they are being discussed within a hypothetical trade discussion.

  17. #113@Tom Waits: You have to forget about the 2 million. That’s a sunk cost and shouldn’t be used when evaluating future value.

    Tower’s doesn’t necessarily need wiggle room. It seems that there is a ZOPA for LaPorta, in that his value to the Padres is likely higher than his value to the Brewers. Thus, KT should be able to trade a player representing value somewhere between the two values represented by LaPorta to each organization. Similarly, the traded player likely is valued more by the Brewers than the Padres. The net of the value claiming for both players could be zero (actually, should be zero if everybody was rationale and capable of properly players), but we know that it is unlikely that that will be the case.

    note: I actually know very little about LaPorta, so I cannot actually make the statement that his value is greater for the Padres (given that they have Headley) than for the Brewers. I guess I’m stating it “as obvious” above for the sake of argument.

  18. #117@Marsh: Why would I forget about it when one of Schlom’s key assertions is that Milwaukee has backed themselves into a corner with all those, er, corner players? They knew exactly what they were getting 11 months ago when they drafted LaPorta. They knew he was going to be limited to LF or 1b. They knew that Braun had struggled so badly with the glove at 3b he hadn’t even broken camp with the major league club, and that many evaluators thought he would have to move off the position. They knew Prince Fielder had hit 28 HR in 2006 (at age 22) and another 19 by the time LaPorta was drafted.
    Knowing all that, they still chose to draft him. They didn’t paint themselves into a corner. If they move LaPorta, it will be completely on their terms.

    I would agree that there “should” be a player who is worth enough to the Brewers to get LaPorta. There’s no way that player is Kevin Kouzmanoff, not when Hall has hit so well in the past (and matched him this year). Kouzmanoff might be part of a deal, but it’s going to take something else the Brewers really want.

  19. I could totally see a Khalil to Boston trade. What would they have that we could use?

  20. #119@Masticore317: Justin Masterson. But they might want us to take Lugo back, or they might decide to use Lowrie instead.

    I wish they needed an OF and that OG hadn’t put them on his list, because then we might get a young pitcher and Lowrie for Khalil and OG.

  21. #119@Masticore317: not much the Padres don’t match up well trade wise with Boston, they have kind of tapped out thier minor league system (position player wise).

  22. #118@Tom Waits: The signing bonus is sunk cost. Unless that sunk cost provides you some leverage in future negotiations (e.g. you’re a VC Firm and you previously financed a start-up therefore in a down round of financing you should be able to negotiate favorable terms), then you have to ignore it. Otherwise you’re mistakenly placing future value on costs incurred in the past. The fact is that bonus is a cost that has already been incurred. Nothing they do in the future can change that. LaPorta’s value is solely based on the cash streams he can create in the future. Again, ignoring sunk costs is fundamental to NPV analysis. Many, many bad decisions have been made by organizations (particularly governments, I imagine) forgetting that.

    As for that being part of Schlom’s argument (I’m not going to search through the comments to figure out if/when he said that), I can’t support him there.

    ps – the only way you could conceivably treat the signing bonus as a useful costs is if you thought of it as a capitalized asset that you depreciated every year over the players useful life. In that case, you could add back the depreciation cost as a non-cash charge when calculating your free cash flow. As I understand it, though, players are not thought of as “assets” in the financial sense. Rather, they are treated like operating expenses (this is like the difference between Delta owning a plane (capital asset that can be depreciated) or leasing it (operating expense).

  23. #118@Tom Waits: Sorry Tom, re-reading your post, I’m not sure that you were actually talking about “forgetting the signing bonus” which is what I had stated.

    It could be argued that LaPorta was signed for $2mil because – like you always suggest the Padres should have known with Porcello – he represented (1) strong insurance value (1b from above) and (2) strong trade value.

    Now that things have played out they way that they have, you would have to assume that the brewers would be reluctant to move Braun back to 3b in order to suit up LaPorta. Maybe I’m wrong about that, I dunno.

  24. #122@Marsh: I apparently wasn’t clear. The 2 million is sunk, but it clearly indicates what the Brewers thought of LaPorta when they drafted him. They didn’t pick him 7th and pay him that 2 million dollars if they thought his future position would lead to him being traded, 1 year later, for a player like Kouzmanoff. The tangible proof of what the Brewers thought of him, rather than the cash involved, is what matters. If they didn’t think they could use him themselves, or trade him for more than Kouzmanoff, why wouldn’t they have drafted Matt Dominguez, Jayson Heyward, Kevin Ahrens, or any of the pitchers who were available?

    I don’t doubt that LaPorta’s future trade value was considered. But they didn’t sign him so they could turn him into Kevin Kouzmanoff. LaPorta’s the kind of prospect you turn into an impact player, not a gap-filler, especially when Hall fills the gap already.

  25. #122@Marsh: I’m not blaming the Brewers for drafting a player that isn’t as good as what they had at the major league level as LaPorta still obviously has value. He needs to be traded to fully maximize that value — probably the sooner the better.

  26. #123@Marsh: Oh, I don’t think putting Braun back at 3b (or Hart in CF) would be their ideal outcome. But it’s better for them than selling low on LaPorta.

    I wrote 122 before I saw 123, else I might not have.

  27. #124@Tom Waits:

    But they didn’t sign him so they could turn him into Kevin Kouzmanoff

    That’s a great line. A clincher, if you will…..

  28. #127@Marsh: Um, your line should have been in quotes.

    “But they didn’t sign him so they could turn him into Kevin Kouzmanoff”

  29. I wish I could continue this discussion but I have to leave to go to the game tonight.

    I guess my main point is that I’m not sure that LaPorta will be an impact player as he is already as far right on the defensive spectrum as he can go — and I think the failure rate of drafted 1B or LF is so low. He better be an impact bad otherwise he’s going to be a bust.

    Maybe with more time we can figure out what the average 3B does in Petco vs. the average LF and then we can better figure out who is the better player. Superficially, whoever plays in Milwaukee is always going to look better then someone in San Diego due to the park factors (another reason why it would be good to trade with San Diego as pretty much no matter what you are going to end up with the better hitter).

  30. in game thread is up….