Tuesday, November 29, 2005

So Much To Say

A veritable cornucopia of information to impart and discuss this Tuesday morning. I mean, what could ever have created such Nats news on a November 29?

But He Really Looks Good In Jeans Department

What happened to Billy Beane? Wasn't Moneyball written because Billy Beane had figured out how to more scientifically evaluate players, and to capitalize on inefficiencies in the market for baseball players? Somehow, Billy Beane walked right into the biggest inefficiency of the 2005 baseball market - RFK stadium.

Oh, sure, we at Nats Blog have highlighted the use-RFK-to-your-advantage-to-sucker-in-opposing-GM's strategy in the past. But we never thought that it would work on someone like Billy Beane. Billy Beane! fell for the RFK bait and switch, signing Esteban Loaiza to a 3-year, $21 million contract. Yes, that Esteban Loaiza.

Good old Stevey Loaiza had nice overall numbers of 12-10 with a 3.77 ERA last year. Sure, looks good on paper. Of course, most people would expect Billy Beane to look at how he did at RFK versus the road in 2005:

RFK: 6-4, 2.86 ERA, 96 H, 23 BB, 95 K in 110 IP
Away: 6-6, 4.71 ERA, 131, H, 32 BB, 78 K in 107 IP

If you judged his RFK performance, Esteban Loaiza was worth a lot of money. But Loaiza won't have the benefit of pitching half of his games in RFK next year - he'll be in Oakland, which had a 103 park factor last year (vs. RFK's 93 park factor). That's why it is so stunning that Billy Beane would spend so much money on Loaiza. After adjusting for RFK, Loaiza put up an ERA+ of 105 last year - a roughly league average performance, and equivalent to that of Brandon Claussen, a guy whose ERA was half of a run higher.

[Counterpoint - Jon Lieber signed a $21 million, 3-year deal last year with the Phillies after he had a 104 ERA+ season with the Yankees in 2004.]

But He Really Wrote Well Some Time Ago Department

Even more amusing than the apparent breakdown of Billy Beane is the breakdown of Thomas Boswell. Boswell writes in today's Post, somewhat oddly, that:
Esteban Loaiza, who led the Nationals in quality starts last season, is now an
Oakland Athletic. If Washington had an owner (one will presumably be named
before the next presidential election cycle), the Nats would have had the choice
in recent weeks to make a competitive offer to the classy free agent. Maybe they
would have matched Oakland's offer of $21.375 million for three years. Or,
perhaps, they wouldn't have. Loaiza will be 34 soon. The Nationals' brass
grumbled about his non-work ethic all season. And a 12-10 record with a 3.77 ERA
when half your games are in cavernous RFK doesn't make you a Hall of

I guess Boswell is making the point that the Nats should have new ownership, and that the ownership should have the ability to at least consider re-signing Loaiza. OK, Tom, if you are saying that the Nats should have new ownership, great, we agree. But the Esteban Loaiza signing is not the vehicle to make that point.

In fact, I would argue the opposite - that the Nationals, without an owner, are making exceptionally good decisions this offseason. Boswell further writes:
But a Nats franchise with an owner would have had the option of making an
aggressive bid. In reality, they didn't. Washington's final offer to Loaiza ($8
million for two years) was somewhere between a joke and an insult.

I'm not sure when Boswell started considering a $8 million, 2-year deal to a league average pitcher a joke. But it clearly was recently. Elsewhere in Mr. Boswell's own fishwrapper, more details on the Nats' offers came out:
The Nationals will receive a first-round pick in the 2006 draft as compensation
for losing Loaiza. They initially offered him a two-year deal worth just more
than $8 million, and a club source indicated the team might have been willing to
go as high as $5.5 million per season. But Boggs said the Nationals never
offered more than two years . . .

Here we see that the Nationals were willing to go to an $11 million, 2-year deal, which is a very aggressive pursuit of a league-average pitcher. The Nats were unwilling to give a 33-year old pitcher a long term deal, again, a very reasonable position. It strikes me that the ownerless Nats are making good baseball decisions - does Boswell want someone making bad decisions in the ownership box? Making deals like Beane's with Loaiza - that Oakland will surely regret in 2007, if not in 2006?

But She Really Is Good At Changing Her Mind Department

Oh good grief, Linda Cropp is back trying to change the City's deal with MLB. I just hope that when they name a grandstand after her - no one deserves it more - it's the Linda Cropp Memorial Grandstand.

Luckily, Marc Fisher hits Linda Cropp's high, hanging slider out of the park today with his column. My favorite paragraph:
Let's remember that these council members who are suddenly so concerned about
cost overruns are the very same elected officials who oversee a government
that, as The Post's David Fallis and Dan Keating documented in devastating
stories this week, throws your money around like a million drunken sailors
and hasn't a clue how the loot is spent.

I guess that the difference between the two cost overruns is that the ones documented by Fallis and Keating are going to cronies of DC officials. If you are not friends with someone in the DC Government, I guess cost-overruns are taboo. Disgusting - especially since the potentially horrible glass-and-steel design demanded by the DC Council is causing the cost overruns.


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