2022 Semi-Punctual Mathematical Eliminatory

cannonball 1729

Member
SoSH Member
Sep 8, 2005
3,367
The Sticks
As has become tradition, I'm starting this about a week and a half late (it seems like there's usually some deadline for something in early/mid September that I need to take care of), but now that that's over...let's get this puppy fired up! I'll be posting stuff as it gets done (with the goal of getting caught up to real-time eliminations at some point soon!) but in the meantime let's at least get on the board here with the two worst teams:


washington nats.png


It’s always a bittersweet moment when a team decides to sell off its impending free agents. Sure, the sale is borne of a belief that the future can be better, and the writing has usually been on the wall for weeks or months...but there’s a dreadful finality to the fact that a team has intentionally decided to hamstring itself for the remainder of the season in hopes that future years will be better.

That moment takes on whole new level of despondency, however, when the traded player won’t be a free agent until next year – a tacit admission that the team won’t be worth watching next year, either. And that admission becomes particularly plaintive when that departing player won’t be a free agent for two and a half more years.

Ever since he arrived in Washington as a 19-year-old in 2018, Juan Soto has been an offensive force. He’s never finished outside the top-5 in the NL in OBP, never finished outside the top-7 in OPS, and never finished outside the top 9 in the MVP voting except during his rookie year (when he finished 2nd in the ROY voting instead). His 2022 season has been a down year only in comparison to his otherworldly 2020 and 2021; this year he’s “only” OPSed 147, a step down from last year's 177 but still an MVP-caliber number. Oh, and he's still just 23. By all accounts, he’s the sort of player you build a franchise around....the sort of player whom you lock up with a huge, back-the-Brinks-truck-up offer that makes him the centerpiece of the rebuild. And this season, that’s exactly what Washington tried to do, offering him a 15-year deal worth $445 million dollars.

But Soto had every reason to be skeptical of the offer. For one thing, the Nationals are soon to be sold, and Soto worried about committing a decade and a half to a “ghost” owner, as his agent called it. More importantly, though, while $445 million is a lot of money...it might not even be fair market value for Soto; that deal works out to less than $30 million per year, and it’s fairly likely that Soto will command far more than that on the free agent market after the 2024 season. (Plus, if there’s one constant with Boras clients, it’s that they looove testing the free agent market). Soto already makes $17 million after just a single, Super-2 year of arbitration – he stands a good chance of earning more than $50 million in his last two pre-arb years alone.

And so, in one of the most pathetic admissions of futility in baseball history, Washington all-but-announced that they were giving up on the next three years of baseball and traded the young star to the Padres. That the Nationals then traded Soto away is understandable – ever since they committed to a full-on teardown last July, the Nats have made little pretense that they would be a watchable team in 2022, 2023, or even 2024. Nevertheless, for Nats fans who happen to like watching competitive baseball, it was a sad reminder of just how deep the rebuilding trough will go.

Having traded away their last remaining star, the Nationals are now left with a bad, bad, bad baseball team. They’ve either set or are on pace to set all kinds of franchise and league records; their recent stretch of 43 games without a win by a starter was an all-time mark, and they're currently in the lead for the "worst three-year stretch after a World Series victory" crown, surging "ahead" of legendary teams like the 1914-16 A's and the 1998-2000 Marlins. Many words have been written about Patrick Corbin this year (none of them good), particularly in terms of his chase for 20 losses, his pursuit of the all-time worst ERA+ in history (his 64 ERA+ is now probably a bit too "good" to catch the all-time record, but he’s still vaguely in the running againt Jose Lima’s liveball-era record of 62), and his contract (six years, $140 million, running through 2024), but what’s been overlooked is his efficiency – had Corbin lost 20 games this year, he would likely have smashed the record for fewest innings pitched by a 20-game loser. Fortunately for Patrick, his FIP is about a run and a half better than his ERA, so he could see some significant improvement just by the team defense being a bit less clank-tacular, but...his FIP is still around 5, which isn’t exactly worth a $20 million-a-year contract.

All told, the current Nationals’ ERA+ is at 78, which puts them just a few points off of the worst pitching staff in the post-deadball era. The hitting has been surprisingly league-average (even after the Soto/Josh Bell trade), and Bell-replacement Joey Meneses has been a revelation in his short big-league tenure, but when the starters are posting a combined ERA of around 5.80, well, you’re not going to win a whole lot of ball games.

It’s going to be a long road for the Nats. They stand a good chance of finishing dead last in the bigs this year (although they picked the wrong year to do so, now that the top of the draft is determined by a lottery); their farm system is still middle-of-the-pack (even after the Soto trade!); and Patrick Corbin will continue to be a $20+ million dollar anchor for the pitching staff (in several senses of the word “anchor”). Hopefully the fanbase’s memories of 2019 are still fresh, because those are going to have to sustain the Washington faithful through several years of abject futility. In short, the new owners are going to have a lot of work to do.

The Nationals last made the playoffs in 2019.

oakland as.png

One of the time-honored maxims in sports is, “If you want a new stadium, make sure the fans have a miserable experience in the current one.”

This year, Oakland clearly took that maxim to heart. After the 2021 season, the A’s did everything they could to make the team less watchable on the field while also making the fan experience more miserable off of it. On the field, nearly every player who might actually be recognized by fans was sent to a team that is better at baseball: Matt Olson headed for the Braves, Matt Chapman went to the Blue Jays, Chris Bassitt and Starling Marte became Mets, Sean Manaea was shipped to the Padres, and essentially the entire bullpen was scattered to the four winds. Even manager Bob Melvin, under contract through 2022, was allowed to leave for San Diego.

Worse, though, the A's decided that now was a good time to make the fan experience as bad as possible. Parking prices went up by 75%, tickets around the park took hefty hikes, season-ticket-holder benefits were cut, innovative services like the subscription-for-standing-room memberships were discontinued, and the sales offices basically gave up on trying to get fans to come to the ballpark. A's fans have dealt with a teardown before, but the middle finger from the fan experience crew added a special new twist to the proceedings.

In fact, nothing could have better encapsulated the A’s open disdain for their own fans than a late-September 2021 season ticket “deal” wherein the A’s hiked their ticket prices, then emailed season ticket holders and asked them to re-up within the next week in exchange for one game in a complimentary suite and....wait for it...a free Matt Olson jersey. Because nothing says "fan relations" like offering a jersey that will be obsolete before it even arrives at the fan's house.

Now, it's not particularly unusual for a team trying to move to a new location to make life as bad as possible for the fans in the current location. In fact, the playbook that the A's are following was essentially written by the Expos in the early 2000’s, when the Montrealers played home games in San Juan and completely removed the Expos from local TV. On some level, it makes sense - if your fans don’t show up, you can claim that you’re just looking for a place where they will, and then you relocate to wherever you want to go.

What is weird about the current A’s situation is that they’re making life miserable for their fans in an attempt to move…to a different part of the same city. Sure, there have been flirtations with Las Vegas, including some entirely cringe-worthy photos of businesslike Dave Kaval surrounded by the tackiest Vegas décor imaginable. But Oakland is still plan 1a, 1b, and 1c. The A’s have zeroed in on the Howard Terminal project, a new downtown endeavor that is slated to house the A’s, revitalize the downtown, and cause mayhem in one of the largest shipping ports in the US. And yet...Oakland is also the city whose fans they're currently at war with. Usually, when a team is trying to move to a new ballpark, the team's actions have an undertone of, "We love our fans, but gosh this ballpark experience is terrible!" The A's, however, seem to have gone straight into "EVERYTHING WILL BE HORRIBLE FOR EVERYONE!" mode. Will those fans forget the madess of the 2022 season when the new park opens? Will the new location attract enough new fans that the antagonzation won't matter long-term? It's not clear what step 2 is for the A's if the new park opens in Oakland in 2025 or 2026.

Oh, and of course 2025 is still three years away, so the A's will have at least two more years of battling with fans and the local Coliseum Authority - the latter of which have basically given up, leading to reports of a stadium with backed-up sewers, colonies of feral cats, mold, a moth infestation, and concession stands so understaffed that the team has resorted to bringing in food trucks.

Unsurprisngly, fans this year have stayed away in droves. The average attendance has been below 10,000 a game, which (if it holds until the end of the season) would be the first time a team has averaged less than 10,000 in a non-covid year since Montreal still had a franchise. In fact, there have been four games so far this year where the announced attendance has been less than 3,000..which means that the A's are sometimes being outdrawn not just by other major and minor league teams but also by many megachurches, symphony orchestras, high school graduations, and perhaps even large college classes.

If I haven’t written much about baseball here, well, there’s not much to write. Fresh off of a bullpen collapse in 2021, the A’s turned over the roster and decided to start over. With Frankie Montas being shipped out at the deadline, the 2022 A's are basically down to a skeleton crew, and they've given a whole lot of playing time to older players whose time has passed (like Steven Vogt, Jed Lowrie, Tony Kemp, and Elvis Andrus - although the latter is having a dead-cat bounce in Chicago), former mega-prospects who have lost their luster (Ramon Laureano, AJ Puk), a whole lot of AAAA filler, and a couple of ringers to help other clubs remember that this is still, in fact, a major league team (like Sean Murphy or Cole Irwin). The farm system, which was weak going into last year and further depleted by the Starling Marte for Jesus Luzardo-and-others trade, is still a ways from supporting the next contender; the offseason trades have since derricked the system up to mediocrity, but there's clearly little major league-ready help on the way. Moreover, owner John Fisher has said (through team officials) that the payroll will not expand until there are "shovels in the ground" - because apparently team performance is just another bargaining chip to use in a real estate battle with the city - which means that there will also be little help arriving from the free agent market.

So...now, we wait. The Howard Terminal project seems to be moving forward, and 2025 or 2026 will come soon enough...but for the near future, it looks like the A's will be a horribly overmatched team in a close-to-condemned stadium with few fans to witness the spectacle.

The A's last made the playoffs in 2020. Their last World Series came in 1989.
 

DeadlySplitter

Member
SoSH Member
Oct 20, 2015
28,406
Thanks for the annual thread as usual.

The <3000 A's games were mostly against Florida teams, also highlighting how unpopular baseball is there.
 

jon abbey

Shanghai Warrior
Dope
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
63,134
Yay this thread yay!

The fascinating thing to me about the current A's is that they have very little overall talent but they have an absolutely loaded catcher pipeline. Sean Murphy is under control through 2025, and was just ranked 4th highest of catchers on the Fangraphs trade value list, behind Rutschman, Will Smith and Kirk. Then their best two prospects are also catchers, both top 50 overall MLB prospects, Shea Langeliers and Tyler Soderstrom. And if that wasn't enough, their first round pick this year (#19 overall) was Daniel Susac, the second highest catcher drafted.

I don't see how they don't trade Murphy this winter, that will be a bidding war.
 

loshjott

Member
SoSH Member
Dec 30, 2004
13,198
Silver Spring, MD
Hate that the Nats are the first ones on here, but always absolutely love this thread!
Yeah, my season ticket group that's been in existence since almost the beginning is disbanding next year. Partly it's because our kids have largely moved away to college but we'd have continued if the team had any pretense of contending.
 

dynomite

Member
SoSH Member
Praise be. God these summaries are good.

It’s always a bittersweet moment when a team decides to sell off its impending free agents. Sure, the sale is borne of a belief that the future can be better, and the writing has usually been on the wall for weeks or months...but there’s a dreadful finality to the fact that a team has intentionally decided to hamstring itself for the remainder of the season in hopes that future years will be better. That moment takes on whole new level of despondency, however, when the traded player won’t be a free agent until next year – a tacit admission that the team won’t be worth watching next year, either. And that admission becomes particularly plaintive when that departing player won’t be a free agent for two and a half more years.
Usually, when a team is trying to move to a new ballpark, the team's actions have an undertone of, "We love our fans, but gosh this ballpark experience is terrible!" The A's, however, seem to have gone straight into "EVERYTHING WILL BE HORRIBLE FOR EVERYONE!" mode. ... So...now, we wait. The Howard Terminal project seems to be moving forward, and 2025 or 2026 will come soon enough...but for the near future, it looks like the A's will be a horribly overmatched team in a close-to-condemned stadium with few fans to witness the spectacle.
 

E5 Yaz

Transcends message boarding
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Apr 25, 2002
79,334
Oregon
Folks, this thread is a gift from the baseball gods. Think twice if you feel compelled to nitpick, and just send Cannonball a PM instead.
 

cannonball 1729

Member
SoSH Member
Sep 8, 2005
3,367
The Sticks
Thanks for the kind words, all! More coming later this evening...

Love that this thread is back. But why no mention of the Nats' World Series title in their postmortem?
My usual convention is that the tag at the end ("They were last in the playoffs in X, the last WS was in Y") only includes information that wasn't in the rest of the post. So if there's a mention of their last WS championsihp, I omit it from the tag, or if there's a mention that the team was in the playoffs last year, I leave off the "they were last in the playoffs in X" part (because it's obviously also their most recent playoff appearance).

I'm not entirely sure why I came upon that convention, but since it's now been 15 years since I started doing it, I think it's part of the brand at this point.
 

Mueller's Twin Grannies

critical thinker
SoSH Member
Dec 19, 2009
8,597
Thanks for the kind words, all! More coming later this evening...


My usual convention is that the tag at the end ("They were last in the playoffs in X, the last WS was in Y") only includes information that wasn't in the rest of the post. So if there's a mention of their last WS championsihp, I omit it from the tag, or if there's a mention that the team was in the playoffs last year, I leave off the "they were last in the playoffs in X" part (because it's obviously also their most recent playoff appearance).

I'm not entirely sure why I came upon that convention, but since it's now been 15 years since I started doing it, I think it's part of the brand at this point.
Ah, I blinked and missed the reference. Cheerfully withdrawn!
 

cannonball 1729

Member
SoSH Member
Sep 8, 2005
3,367
The Sticks
All right! On we go. I'm not entirely going in order here, but I'll try to stay at least somewhat close:

55756

The 2021 Detroit Tigers’ season was a showcase for everything that erstwhile GM Al Avila did well: using the draft to fill the minors with exciting players, being patient, and hiring a manager who worked well with Avila’s newly-rebuilt analytics department.

The 2022 Tigers’ season, by contrast, was a showcase for all of Avila’s faults: bad evaluation of trade targets, a propensity to throw money at the wrong free agents, an inability to identify when a player is at his peak (and sell accordingly), and a lack of creativity.

You may remember that seven years ago, Al Avila took over the Tigers after Dave Dombrowski’s tenure ended in typical DD fashion: a run of success that was ended by bad contracts and a strip-mined farm system. Avila’s first order of business upon taking the reins was to determine whether he should try to extend the contention window or rebuild. He sensibly decided to try to extend the window...and then promptly whiffed on player acquisition, signing Jordan Zimmerman and BJ Upton to huge deals and receiving negative WAR, and then trading for K-Rod and also receiving negative WAR.

After a year and a half of failing to contend, Avila decided that it was time to tear down and trade veterans for prospects….and promptly whiffed on that as well. The Tigers’ two major trade pieces going into the rebuild were Justin Verlander and JD Martinez, and Avila managed to turn those perennial stars into Daz Cameron, Jake Rogers, Franklin Perez, Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara, and, of course, the immortal Jose King. Later, Avila would have another major trade piece – Nick Castellanos – whom he would turn into middle relievers Paul Richan and Alex Lange. Worse, the Tigers had two young pitchers – Michael Fulmer and Mathew Boyd – who would have been great trade fodder because they absolutely didn’t fit with the Tigers’ contention timeline, but Avila instead decided to hold onto both pitchers until they were felled by injuries and thus untradeable.

One thing that Avila did not whiff on was the myriad high draft picks in his tenure. You see, Avila began his front-office career for the Marlins as a scout in Latin America and later the director of Latin American operations, and it was under his tenure that players like Miguel Cabrera and Livan Hernandez were signed to professional contracts. Clearly, amateur evaluation was in Avila's wheelhouse, and he drafted accordingly. With the Tigers posting a half-decade of futile results, Avila had many opportunities to pick at the top of the draft and/or trade veterans for prospects, and eventually the farm system began to bustle with talented young players.

2021 was the year that this pipeline began to reach the majors, and the results were indeed promising. After a horrible start, the Tigers played the last 130ish games at an above-.500 clip, including an impressive September where they held their own with playoff teams around the American League. 2022, then, was to be the year of the leap; Avila supplemented the young core by spending $220 million on Javy Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez and traded for both Austin Meadows and Tucker Barnhart. With a weak division and an expanded wildcard, the Tigers rightfully felt that this year would be a good one to take a shot.

Unfortunately, none of those acquisitions worked out for the Tigers. Rodriguez and Meadows have both taken time off this year to address personal issues – Rodriguez left the team to deal with his marriage and Meadows has had mental health issues, an Achilles injury, AND vertigo. Javy Baez hasn’t been the defensive wizard of years past (due in part to right knee soreness), which is a problem since he was always a “very good hitter for a second baseman” rather than being a very good hitter; this year, though, his hitting also atrophied to the point where he found himself doing battle with the Mendoza line through the middle June. Barnhart didn’t hit, which is not surprising, but the level of not hitting was new even for him; in 88 games, Barnhart has posted a slugging percentage of .260, largely because he has exactly nine more total bases than he does hits.

All of that would have been survivable, except….nothing else worked for the Tigers either. For one thing, the pitching rotation was decimated with injuries, headlined by surgeries for staff leaders Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal (Tommy John for Mize, flexor tendon surgery for Skubal). In fact, of the ten pitchers who made eight or more starts for the club, five of them are currently either on the 60-day IL or the restricted list - and that doesn’t even include Mize, who made two starts. With most of the rotation shelved, the Tigers found themselves turning to players who were over the hill (like Michael Pineda), not yet ready (like Elvin Rodriguez) or just plain AAAA fodder (like Tyler Alexander or Drew Hutchinson) with predictably bad results.

And the pitching was the good part of the team. The hitting was absolutely, unabashedly, historically awful. There are exactly two players currently on the Tigers’ roster who have an OPS+ above 100, and only one of them – catcher Eric Hasse – has played in more than 28 games. The team leader in walks has 38 and the team leader in home runs has 14; meanwhile, there are seven Tigers who have struck out at least 90 times this year. It’s not just the new or the fringy players who are causing the problems, either; key 2021 contributors like Akil Baddoo (.188/.270/.263, ended up spending time in AAA), Jeimer Candelario (.207/.264/.357), Jonathan Schoop (.199/.233/.318 – worst OBP among AL qualifiers!), and team grandpa Miguel Cabrera (.256/.305/.316) have seen massive offensive declines this year. In fact, the Tigers are actually on pace to finish with a lower OBP (.284) than any other AL team from 1973-2021, and the only reason that stat isn’t getting more press...is because the 2022 A’s (.281) are even worse.

It’s hard for a GM to survive such a disappointing season, and indeed Avila did not. A trade deadline where Avila inexplicably did nothing appears to have been the final straw; less than two weeks after that empty deadline, the Tigers’ ownership fired Avila and hired Giants exec Scott Harris to be president of baseball operations. The good news for Harris is that his new team appears to have a strong core on which to build; the bad news is that that core apparently forgot how to pitch, hit, or stay healthy this year. Harris has been evasive about how much of a rebuild is required for this Tiger team; after five years of rebuilding already, Detroit fans can only hope that they’re closer to the end than the beginning. There’s still probably reason for optimism in Tigertown, but for fans giddy from a 2021 that exceeded all expectations, this 2022 experience was an unwelcome dose of reality.

Detroit last made the playoffs in 2014. Their last title was in 1984.


55755

Charles Dickens once wrote:

Everybody knows the story of another experimental philosopher, who had a great theory about a horse being able to live without eating, and who demonstrated it so well, that he got his on horse down to a straw a day and would most unquestionably have rendered him a very spirited and rampacious animal on nothing at all, if he had not died , just four-and-twenty hours before he was to have had his first comfortable bait of air.

For some reason, the Reds have decided to adopt this as their team-building model.

Going into the 2021 season, the Reds did very little to augment their team. In fact, their only offseason transaction of note was sending Raisel Iglesias to the Angels for a bucket of balls. Nevertheless, the team surprised the league with a winning record, largely on the backs of surprise or rebound performances from Nick Castellanos, Joey Votto, and (especially) Wade Miley.

This year, the Reds decided to double-down on this Dickensian model of team construction. Not content to simply trade away role players like Iglesias, the Reds decided this year to jettison key players as well. Castellanos walked to free agency, with Reds’ GM Nick Krall indicating that the Reds had not even bothered to engage the outfielder in contract discussions (apart from a qualifying offer). Fan favorite (though not necessarily good player) Tucker Barnhart was sent to the Tigers for a prospect, due largely to the fact that his club option would have cost the Reds $7.5 million dollars. Wade Miley, who was a Cy Young contender in 2021, was placed on waivers and claimed by one of the first teams with the option to claim him, the Chicago Cubs. In mid-March (i.e. just after the lockout), the Reds really went into firesale mode, dealing Sonny Gray, Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez around the league over the span of a week for still more prospects.

True to legend, the horse died. The Reds stumbled out of the gate, posting a stunning 3-22 through the first 25 games. The rest of the season has been only marginally better – much as any cellar-dweller does, they’ve had stretches of competence and stretches of, uh, less competence. Unfortunately, the veteran players who should have provided ballast have caught the bad baseball contagion; Joey Votto looks cooked at 38 (despite an age-37 season that garnered MVP votes), Tommy Pham developed an allergy to hitting that seemed to last up until his trade to Boston, Tyler Mahle battled injuries before (and after!) also being traded, Mike Moustakas is two years past his expiration date, and “closer” Hunter Strickland has an ERA north of 5.

Now, as much as it's easy to criticize the Reds for sending away all of their best players....it’s not entirely fair to pillory the Reds for walking away from the players that they did. Miley has been injured for much of the season for the Cubs. Castellanos has been terrible with the Phillies and is owed $100 million. Suarez has had a great 2022, but his 2021 proved that it is possible to post a replacement-level season while hitting 30+ home runs. Jesse Winker, always an injury risk, has lost almost 100 points of batting average from last year to this one. Barnhart’s hitting has degraded from “tolerable for a good defensive catcher” to “tolerable for a pitcher,” which is a problem unless he learns to throw a fastball. Individually, each of these decisions is perfectly defensible.

That said, the goal of a baseball team isn’t to correctly evaluate veterans and free agents; it’s to win baseball games, and the Reds do not do that. It’s certainly reasonable to say that team that’s rebuilding has little use for veterans, and it makes little sense for such a team to commit long-term to an expensive free agent whose best years may not align with the team’s window. On the other hand, the Reds are now in year nine of the rebuild, and fans certainly had every reason to think that this year would be a step forward and not a massive step back; after two straight years with records north of .500, the Reds looked to be on the cusp of competitiveness, and yet the Reds decided that now was the time to retrench instead of reinforcing.

So the question remains: are the Reds a team with a plan, or are they just a team that’s cheap? The fans who clamored for a boycott in March and have followed through with their threats from April until now certainly feel that the answer is the latter, and the Reds have so far have done little to assuage those concerns. Most teams will at least try to get maximum mileage out of young, cost-controlled players before free agency arrives; the Reds, however, have proven that even arb-eligible players (e.g. Raisel Iglesias) can sometimes be too expensive for them. There’s a running joke (and now a t-shirt!) in Cincinnati that claims that “REDS” actually stands for “Rebuilding Every Damn Season,” and as we approach the second decade of the rebuild, that maxim seems to become less of a joke and more of a statement of fact. Sure, we could talk about Reds' bright spots like reigning ROY Jonathan India or Guy Who Throws Really Hard Hunter Greene, but there’s little reason to discuss those topics until we figure out whether owner Bob Castellini is actually serious about fielding a winning team or simply content to cash revenue-sharing checks.

In the meantime….our thoughts and prayers to the horse.

The Reds last made the playoffs in the NCAA-style Covid tournament of 2020. Their last World Series title was in 1990.
 
Last edited: