Saturday, May 2, 2009

Small Sample Size fun with Jon Heyman

Now, in my attempt to hastily name this blog, I probably picked the wrong guy. Especially in the world where men like this are allowed to roam free and spread their crappy opinions to the masses.

And of course, the marriage between him and one week sensation Emilio Bonifacio was personified in this little write up.

Bonifacio breaks out with Marlins, aces struggle and more notes

Don't get it wrong, Bonifacio still has the capacity to become a solid major leaguer. He has great speed, and he is a rangy defender. He's also only 24.

But... .285/.341/.362 in the minors. 63.6% of those PA's came from Rookie ball to High A ball, and he's been highly volatile due to his low walk rate. But hey, let's see what the 5 star general of the anti-stats crowd has to say:

MIAMI -- When the oh-so-smart Marlins traded arbitration-eligible players Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham to the competing Nationals in November, it looked like a typical small-revenue club salary dump. But with the Marlins, typical dealings are almost always more than they seem.

Beside the obvious benefit of extricating themselves from two arbitration cases they didn't need or want, the Marlins received three younger players in the deal, including speedy infielder Emilio Bonifacio, whose value was declining fast -- at least in the eyes of others. When Arizona dealt Bonifacio to Washington straight up for set-up man Jon Rauch only last summer, many figured that the Diamondbacks had ripped off the Nats (although Rauch has turned out to be nothing short of a disaster for the Diamondbacks). And this winter most accounts of the Marlins-Nats trade involving Bonifacio portrayed the speedy infielder, who hadn't distinguished himself during his brief tenure with the Nats, as an afterthought or throw-in.

I'll bite here. Rauch has been pretty disastrous for Arizona, and I don't really know much of anything on P.J. Dean. But of course Bonifacio was considered a throw in. Smolinski is 20. He could still develop into a very good MLB'er. Bonafacio is kind of the epitome of a utility player. And it's not like the Nats were making a huge splash by dealing for Olson and Willingham.

But the Marlins knew better. And now, a week into his Marlins career, Bonifacio, who moves faster on the diamond than anyone in baseball, has moved up in everyone else's eyes. Those outside the Marlins organization once again view the 23-year-old as an exciting young player after watching him ignite the Marlins offense with a .500 batting average, exhibit the best baseball speed since Deion Sanders and lead his club to a 5-1 start.

Truths in this statement:
Bonafacio is exciting
Bonafacio is fast

Truths in my statement:
Chris Shelton had the same kind of start to his MLB career.

The Marlins' scouts seem to know things others do not, so they figured it might be worthwhile to give Bonifacio, primarily a second baseman, a look at third base.

True, but who else could they use at third in 2009? Wes Helms? Maybe the corpse of Judy Johnson? That's probably better than Wes Helms at least.

So far the slap-hitting speed demon has looked like a star at a position normally reserved for power hitters.

Kind of neutral on this statement. Most of the good ones are considered bangers, but I don't know. There are good, and have been good, third basemen that don't go for 25 HR / season. Point, nobody.

Bonifacio put together multiple-hit efforts in the Marlins' first five games of the season and produced enough theatrics to excite even the minimal crowds they draw down here. Johan Santana shut him down on Sunday, but his 0-for-4 effort only dropped him to .500 on the season. President of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, while noting that it's still very early, said, "We recognized the bat was still developing. It's not a finished bat."

Beinfest is ok here, maybe he's right on Bonifacio. But, Jonny boy, Bonifacio was 13 for 21 on Balls in Play to start the season. That's a .619 BABIP in 5 games. That's nearly double what his BABIP was looking like in the minors. That means a lot of luck. That means it's probably not a good idea to base your opinion of a player on that data.

His legs, not his bat, will make Bonifacio, but if he can make consistent contact he'll be dangerous. Scouts say he's an 80 runner (on their 20-to-80 scale), and viewers could see why during his Opening Day inside-the-park home run against his former Nationals mates, during a triple in Game 2 and then again on an infield hit that caused fellow speedster Jose Reyes, the Mets shortstop, to rush to try to record the out (he couldn't do it).

Speed is great. Speed helps players a lot. But...seriously...speed will make him? How's that working out for Joey Gathright, Heyman? 79 for 107 in career steal attempts. Willy Taveras? Emmanuel Burriss (yes I know he's a rookie. He's here anyway)? Speed's probably not the ability a player wants to hitch on for his career.

"It's a different feel for us," Beinfest said. "It's a different way to try to manufacture runs from a year ago, when we relied on the home run." The big game-changing twist came when the Marlins inserted Bonifacio, moved power-hitting Jorge Cantu from third (where he was a liability) to first and removed all-or-nothing first baseman Mike Jacobs.

"Manufacturing runs", the happy face way of saying "we don't hit well". But it's not like Cantu and Jacobs are the kind of guys you build a team around. Cantu is a crappy defender, so of course the Marlins stuck him at first, and moved out Mr. Hacker himself. The crappy Russell Branyan. Who, unsurprisingly, has cooled off big time and is now back to his nOBP ways. Bonifacio is a better option on the team than Jacobs, but that's really not saying as much as people like to think.

If Bonifacio's bat has been a revelation, his glovework has been no less so. "Our [scouts] thought he had enough arm for shortstop [when they acquired him], so they thought they'd take a look at third," Beinfest said. But there's a big difference between having the arm and playing the vastly different angles at third, and early in spring there were questions about whether Bonifacio would be able to make a smooth switch from second. (Some Marlins people believe the team would be better off with Bonifacio at second instead of power-hitting star Dan Uggla, though they do need Uggla's pop.)

Whatever Marlins person was in favor of benching Dan Uggla for Bonafacio deserve to be shot into the moon.

And once again, .619 BABIP.

But Bonifacio looks fine at third, and he has helped make the Marlins a speedier, slightly better-fielding team than a year ago, when they surprised folks by winning 84 games despite ranking 15th in the NL in fielding percentage.

Marlins really weren't all that bad...oh yeah, I forgot, Uggla made 3 errors in the All Star Game. This is obviously very important and indicative of the defensive aptitude of the club.

Florida also trots out an impressive quintet of under-27 starters this season, beginning with superb talents Josh Johnson (who looks like he's ready to emerge as a true No. 1 after outdueling the Great Santana on Sunday, 2-1), Ricky Nolasco and Chris Volstad. Nonetheless, Las Vegas odds makers posted the Marlins' over-under number at 76 wins. That's quite a slight considering they won 84 last year when journeyman Mark Hendrickson was their Opening Day starter while Johnson carried out rehab, Nolasco worked out of the bullpen and Volstad pitched in the minors. "We didn't have our pitchers lined up last year," Beinfest said when asked about the 76-win prediction. "We don't talk about rebuilding here. We try to play in October."

Don't know again. Marlins are always hard to read. The roster turns over faster than a Walmart checkout department, and is usually chalk full of high draft picks. But once again, in the fluke department, Volstad has been helped a lot by his current .182 BABIP against. Most baseball people coming into 2009 were high on Johnson as well. This kind of ebbing and flowing has just been the M.O. of the Marlins for years. Can you tell I'm not feeling well tonight? These aren't even jokes, these are just bitter comments.

That's true, even though, as always, the club made all its changes with the bottom line in mind. Beinfest delicately summed up the trade with Washington by saying, "We needed to reallocate our assets." In addition to Bonifacio the Marlins acquired two low-level minor leaguers in the deal, second baseman Jake Smolinski and pitcher P.J. Dean, two "young guys we like," Beinfest said. So far in Washington, meanwhile, Olsen has been awful and Willingham's an unhappy bench player.

Olsen has always been pretty crappy, and Willingham...well, Bowden loved him some corner outfielders this offseason. And once again, Smolinski has a .755 OPS in the minors and just turned 20. Bonafacio was not the pillar of this deal.

While the Nats deal with those players and their impending arbitration cases, the Marlins continue to maintain a payroll that, while up to $35 million this year from an absurd $24 million last year, is surely well below their revenues. (While Beinfest doesn't complain, their revenue-sharing monies alone should support a greater payroll than $35 million.)

With the Marlins, however, it's never worth looking at the payroll. No matter what they spend, they think they can compete. And by landing players like Bonifacio, they usually do.

Oh Jonny, Jonny, Jonny. Let us break down the Marlins two World Championship years, okay? In 1997, they decided to break the bank, relatively speaking. Made trades for Gary Sheffield, brought in Moises Alou and Bobby Bonilla. Their core was not young trade purges, it was established MLB stars.

And in 2003, they had players like I-Rod, D-Lee, Mike Lowell, and Juan Pierre when he sort of wasn't crappy. Actually, Bonafacio is a lot like Juan Pierre. Congrats, Heyman, point for you, Marlins will be lead to the title with a walk-impaired speedster again.

In closing, .619 BABIP. For now, I am off, and will valiantly protect the good citizens of America from more Jon Heyman keyboard-diarrhea.

No comments:

Post a Comment