Stan Van Gundy on "Experience"

by Daniel Gettinger

After last night’s game 4 loss to the Lakers in overtime, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was asked to “talk a little about the value of experience.”  Van Gundy responded “that had nothing to do with anything.”  When pressed further, Van Gundy explained that a basketball game is a basketball game, and all of his players have played in thousands of them.  He chided experience as “cliched,” and seemed genuinely perturbed by the suggestion that experience played any roll in the outcome of the game.  I wish more baseball managers would take Van Gundy’s lead and admit that things like “experience” and “chemistry” make very little difference in the outcome of games.

Here is the full video (h/t: Sports Illustrated):

Myron's Musings: A change in philosophy?

by Myron Logan

The Padres have garnered perhaps as much attention as any team for what appears to be a dramatic shift in draft-philosophy this year. Over the past few years, San Diego has consistently shown a preference towards taking college ball players in the amateur draft. For the most part, that has corresponded with the selection of guys with little “signability” issues; players that shouldn’t be too difficult to sign and will likely not demand over-slot money.

In the 2007 draft, for instance, they passed on high school right hander Rick Porcello and opted to sign Arkansas lefty Nick Schmidt. Porcello, a top talent, fell to the Tigers at #27 largely because of fear that he’d demand a large signing bonus.

The Padres strategy, at least from an outsider’s perspective, has appeared to have a couple of angles. One, college players are safer bets to reach the majors and at least turn into solid contributors. There is more reliable data on them, especially in the form of numbers, with most high school stats being close to useless. They are older and more mature, and generally they are a little easier to evaluate.

Secondly, since they have less options than their high school counterparts, college players are generally easier to sign (and cost less money). Schmidt, the junior from Arkansas, ended up signing for $1.3 million (recommend slot money). Porcello, on the other hand, signed for $3.6 mil, well above the recommended slot ($1.2 mil). A similar example, from the same draft, is Andrew Brackman, who fell to the Yanks at #30 and signed for $3.3 million.

While the Padres have gradually improved their farm system year-by-year, slowly the criticism started to mount. College players are fine, but the Padres were getting too college centric, the critics said. They had a farm system full of solid players, but most of them with little upside or star-potential.

In this 2009 draft, the Padres have surprised a lot of people by taking two high school outfielders with their first two picks, Donavan Tate and Everett Williams. In the fourth round, they nabbed highly touted prep pitcher Keyvius Sampson. Three high school players in the first four picks is not what anybody was anticipating, with rumors that the Padres were considering Vanderbilt lefty Mike Minor – of the Nick Schmidt mold – swirling.. All three HS players taken are expected to be somewhat tough to sign, and will probably demand above-slot money.

I thought it would be interested to look at the Padres draft selections since 2006 to really get a sense of their preferences. I separated the draft into three ‘tiers’ and counted up how many college hitters, college pitchers, high school hitters, and high school pitchers San Diego selected in each tier. Note: I counted junior college players in the college bucket, and I didn’t determine whether or not the Padres signed the player. It’s not a detailed analysis, but I think it paints a decent picture:

First Tier (Rounds 1-10)

Year College Bat College Arm HS Bat HS Arm College HS
2006 6 4 2 0 10 2
2007 7 6 3 1 13 4
2008 9 3 1 0 12 1
2009 2 4 2 2 6 4

From 2006-08, the Padres picked 35 college players and just 7 high schoolers in the first 10 rounds. This year, they picked 6 college and 4 HS – and, as mentioned previously, 3 of the first 4 were from HS. It certainly appears to be somewhat of a shift.

Middle Tier (Rounds 11-30 approx.)

Year College bat College Arm HS Bat HS Arm College HS
2006 10 7 1 2 17 3
2007 8 6 1 0 14 1
2008 9 8 0 2 17 2
2009 11 8 1 0 19 1

In the middle of the draft, the Padres have a (recent) history of being tremendously college-heavy. It didn’t change this year, as 19 of the 20 picks came from the college ranks. Overall, from 2006 through 2009, 67 of the 74 ( 91%!) selections have been college players.

Late Rounds (Rounds 31-end)

Year College Bat College Arm HS Bat HS Arm College HS
2006 1 2 5 7 3 12
2007 3 3 4 0 6 4
2008 3 6 2 1 9 3
2009 8 8 2 2 16 4

The bottom of the draft has been all over the place. In 2006, the Pads loaded up on high school players late. But in 2008 and ‘09 combined, they’ve been very college heavy (78%).

Overall, the change in philosophy, if there is one, appears to have taken place at the top of the draft. In the first four rounds, from ‘06-‘08, the Padres took HS players just four times: Kyler Burke, Drew Cumberland, Tommy Toledo (didn’t sign), and Jaff Decker. This year alone, they took three.

But, is it a change in philosophy?

It is easy to look at the past draft results and make some casual observations. It is less clear, however, to truly access the Padres strategy and whether or not it has changed. There are a few potential problems:

“Small sample” – We’re only talking about ten picks here this draft, of which the Padres opted to take four HS players. Even considering all the picks, there really isn’t a ton of data with which to make any substantial claims.

The high school/college distinction– The distinction between college and high school players is not always clear. Is a JC player closer to college or HS? Is a projectable, raw college athlete really the same as a four year college starter? When it comes down to it, each player is truly unique, and it is tough to separate them into four buckets.

A long term plan – Maybe the Padres plan all along was to stock up on college players and replenish the system with depth, then once that was complete, begin to draft higher upside, riskier high school athletes. It’s tough for us to tell, from the outside looking in.

While I’m not sure how much we can conclude based on one draft, I will say that I think it’s a good thing to add more elite high schoolers into the mix. Nick Schmidt, the Padres prospect we talked about earlier, after suffering season ending surgery short after joining the Padres organization, is still stuck in A ball (albeit, pitching well). Porcello, after spending one season in the minors, is already in the Tigers rotation, carrying a 3.98 ERA in 11 starts. He’s about to be worth a whole lot more than that $3.6 million the Tigers initially paid for him, and he’s only taken a couple of years to develop.

While it isn’t necessarily wise to look too much into one pick, the Schmidt/Porcello comparison offers a glimpse into the benefits of taking the talented high school player, and giving him a little more money than you’d like. Some people might criticize the $6 million-plus that Donavan Tate is going to command, but if he develops into the kind of player the Padres are expecting, it will be well worth the price. Hopefully, the Padres can get Tate, Williams, and Sampson signed, or else all of this optimism is premature.

****

Yes, I’m back! As Daniel previously mentioned, I’ve agreed to write an occasional post for Friar Forecast under the heading Myron’s Musings. I’m truly excited about that, as I think Daniel and company have made this into an even better Padres-hangout since my departure. If you can’t get enough of me, I’m also blogging on my own again, too.

Picks 4-8

by Daniel Gettinger

Paul DePodesta has a bit on the Padre’s most recent selections.  Fourth round pick Keyvius Sampson sounds particularly interesting.  He was ranked 47 on Baseball America’s top draft prospects.  Keith Law had him at 98; still good for a fourth round pick.  From DePodesta:

Keyvius is a very athletic right-handed starter with a fastball that ranges from 90-96 mph and a very good changeup. This season he posted a 0.83 ERA, pitching 59 innings, giving up 19 hits and 14 walks while striking out 113. We believe he has big upside as a starting pitcher.

ESPN also had an interesting article about Sampson’s difficult (off the field) sophomore year.

The Padres also selected pitchers in the 6th and 7th rounds: James Needy from Santana High School, and Miles Mikolas from Nova Southeastern.  Like third round pick Gerald Sullivan, both Needy and Mikolas are tall right handed pitchers that supposedly throw their fastball between 90 and 94 mph.

In the fifth round, the Padres nabbed Jason Hagerty, a catcher from the University of Miami.  Eighth round selection was Nate Freiman, a Duke first baseman that absolutely raked this season.  (Note: His previous seasons were not too shabby either).  Freiman is also very bright, as evidenced by his 3.92 Duke GPA.

The First Three Picks

by Daniel Gettinger

I really like what the Padres did with their first three picks.  Recognizing that their system was already heavy on the type of players statheads love, but scouts hate, management selected three athletic players, all with decent upside.  Even more promising, cost did not seem to be a huge concern.  Yesterday, I discussed the importance of not ignoring the budget when evaluating the success of the team’s draft selections. However, as a fan, I certainly prefer the team to spend as much money as possible.

I am going to let Myron, Ben, and Mike (if they wish) weigh in with more in-depth analysis, but for some quick information on each of the players, I recommend you head over to Myron’s “Another Padres Blog,”  and Paul Depodesta’s blog.

My favorite quote of the day comes from Kevin Goldstein (h/t: Myron):

Kevin Goldstein (6:33:23 PM PT): Padres have the best pick in the round by a mile with EVerett Williams, the Texas outfielder who many saw as having first-round tools. His size worked against him in the end, but who thought the Pads would begin the draft with a pair of high risk/high upside guys

Draft Day

by Daniel Gettinger

Today is draft day.  The Padres pick third.  They won’t get Stephen Strasburg, and they probably won’t get Dustin Ackley (although I am still holding out hope that the Mariners shock everyone and take a pass). Other than that, nobody really knows what the Padres will do.  Some mocks think the Padres will select Donovan Tate.  Others believe Aaron Crow will be the selection.  And some buy into the rumor that the Padres are interested in Mike Minor.  There are about half a dozen other guys the Padres could select without shocking anybody. 

Personally, I am not going to make a prediction.  There is really no point.  In a few hours we will find out who it is the Padres actually select.  Furthermore, no matter what the Padres do with the pick, I will praise the selection.  

The main reason I will blindly support the pick is that the Padres have better scouting and analytical information at their disposal than we do.  If the Padres think Donovan Tate is better than Aaron Crow or any of the other top non-Strasburg arms, then they will probably take him.  From what I have read online, I personally prefer Crow, but I realize the publicly available information is incomplete, and unlikely to be as complete as the Padres’ information.  It seems silly to whine about the Padres potentially passing on “my guy,” when the information I used to determine “my guy” is not as good as the information the Padres are using to determine “their guy.”

I will support the Padres even if they select Mike Minor, or some other “cheap, polished, low-upside” player. Management probably has a budget devoted to the draft and international signings.  The baseball operations guys may decide not to spend a huge proportion of the budget on the first pick, and instead use it to take (and sign) pricier guys later in the draft, or sign a top international player.  

Hypothetically, the Padres could have decided that they prefer the combination of one of the young international players and Mike Minor to anybody at the top of this year’s draft class.  However, due to budgetary constraints, signing a player like Crow or Tate would preclude them from signing the international player that they like better.  In that case, the Padres would be better off selecting a cheaper option like Minor at number three, and using the savings to pursue the international player they like so much.  Of course, if Major League Baseball allowed teams to trade their picks, this sort of dilemma would never present itself.  

Okay, here are today’s takeaways:

  • I have no idea who the Padres will pick in the draft.
  • The Padres have a budget (whether or not we like it).  They also have better information about all of these players than pretty much any of us.  Therefore, I will blindly support whoever it is the Padres select…  
  • …Even if that selection is Mike Minor.

A Bizarre Game

by Daniel Gettinger

Most really long games (lets define a “really long game” as one that requires a second rendition of “Take me Out to the Ball Game”) are shaped by unlikely events.  But yesterday’s 18 inning game was one of the oddest I have ever seen.

Josh Geer started the game, throwing 5 innings of pretty abysmal baseball.  He walked 3, struck out 2, and surrendered 4 runs.  Unfortunately, Geer’s terrible start cannot really be classified as “odd.”  He’s Brian Lawrence without the movement, a combination bound to get rocked every handful of outings.  Meanwhile, the Padres bats were unable to muster much of a threat.  By end of the fifth inning, the Padres had about a 6% chance of winning the game.  Time to bring in the mop-up guys.

Joe Thatcher was the first bullpen arm to enter the game.  He wasted no time in allowing an additional run. The Padres failed to respond.  Odds of winning after 6 innings: 1%.

In the seventh, Greg Burke threw a shaky, but scoreless inning, and Kouz hit a solo shot.  The Diamondback’s lead was reduced to 5 runs, but the number of outs available to the Padres was also reduced.  Odds of winning after 7: still about 1%.

The eighth inning is when things started to get fun.  Cla Meredith threw a scoreless top half of the inning. With two outs in the bottom of the inning, Junior hit a double.  Then Edgar Gonzalez walked.  Adrian came to the plate with two men on base.  A home run makes things interesting again.  Anything else, even an RBI single, or a 2-RBI double still leaves the Padres down by quite a few runs.

Knowing that the Padres have their best hitter at the plate, are down by 5 runs in the eighth, and already have two outs, Tony Gwynn Jr. makes a ridiculously dumb base running decision.  He attempts to steal third.  He gets thrown out.  Threat over.  Adrian is forced to trade in his bat for his glove.  Odds of winning after eight: 0.5%.

In the ninth, Luis Perdomo retired the Diamondbacks in order.  Then the Padres bats came to life.  Adrian led off the bottom of the inning with a double, and Headley singled him in.  Headley scored as a few more guys reached base.  But a few guys also recorded outs.  

With two outs and two guys on in the bottom of the ninth inning, David Eckstein strolled to the plate in a pinch-hit appearance.  At this point, the team still had no more than a 4% chance of winning the game. Those odds changed with one swing.  For the first time in 2009, David Eckstein hit a home run.  The game was tied.  Odds of winning: 53%.  Gwynn Jr. grounded out to end the inning.

In extras, the two teams continued to battle, with each team’s bullpen refusing to surrender a run.  Because Geer was only able to go five innings, the Padres had used all seven of their relievers by the end of the 15th inning.  (Note: Maybe a 12-man pitching staff isn’t such a bad idea after all).  Enter Chad Gaudin, Friday’s starter.  He threw two innings, and struck out 3.  But the Padres were unable to score either.  

Unwilling to put Gaudin at further risk, Bud Black called on shortstop Josh Wilson to pitch in relief.  Now, I have seen position players pitch, but never before had I seen a position player pitch in a tied ball game. Black really had no choice, but it’s still odd-especially for a team that carries 7 relievers.

Anyway, Wilson allowed Felipe Lopez and Ryan Roberts to reach base.  But he also picked up two outs.  He was one strike away from escaping the inning.  But Mark Reynolds decided to deliver the 3-2 pitch into the seats.  Odds of winning after the homerun: 3%.

In the bottom of the inning the Padres could not answer.  Odds of winning: 0%.

Okay, the Padres lost.  But the game was fun and interesting-even more so than most Padres wins.  It started out like a typical Sunday afternoon blowout.  Complete with idiotic base running. Then got exciting when David Eckstein decided to channel his inner Babe Ruth, and hit his first homerun of 2009.  Then things just got weird.  Friday’s starter made a cameo appearance in relief, and a position player was asked to pitch in a tied game.  Had the game gone any longer, we might just have seen Henry Blanco attempt to pitch from the windup.  Oh well.  If Peavy is unable to go deep into the game, our chance may come today!

***Note: Win Probability Graph courtesy of Fangraphs

A Few Weekend Thoughts

by Daniel Gettinger

  • Mr. Gwynn is off to a very nice start in a Padres uniform.  It probably won’t last, but while it does, it is fun watching him get on base, and using his speed to steal bases.
  • Now that things have started to sort themselves out, the bullpen has actually pretty good.  Heath Bell has obviously been awesome, but Luke Gregerson, Edward Mujica, and Cla Meredith have been fine as well.  Same with Greg Burke, albeit in a smaller number of innings.
  • Chad Gaudin is a crazy pitcher.  He strikes out a lot of guys, but walks a ton too.  A low HR rate (0.4/9 innings) has allowed his FIP to remain at reasonable level despite the walks.  I expect he will cut down on the walks (his career walk rate is much lower), but give up more home runs.  The results might be the same, but the manner in which he receives those results is likely to change.
  • Brian Giles has had serious trouble catching up to fastballs (-2.23 runs below average per 100 pitches) and cut fastballs (-4.98).  Slower stuff like curves (0.05) and change ups (0.14) have not been such a problem.  Giles’ plate discipline is the same it has always been, and he has gotten a bit unlucky on balls in play, but this pitch data is just one more piece of evidence that the real problem behind his struggles is greatly reduced bat speed.  
  • Trevor Hoffman has still not allowed a run this season.  

Singing the Praises of Mat Latos

by Ben Davey

By now everyone in Padreville has learned of the recent accomplishments of “the golden boy” Mat Latos (well unless you are living under a rock in New York..cough cough Myron).  In case you have not, he is currently 2-0, with a 0.51 ERA in San Antonio, and overall is 5-0, 0.42 ERA, 43 IP, 17 H, 2 ER, 1 HR, 9 BB, 46.  But that is the stuff most of you already know.

I had never heard or watched a game that Latos pitched in, so I was a bit skeptical of all the hype he has been getting.  I had a chance to listen to the Mission’s game last night, and my skepticism is gone.  He looks (err sounds) like the real deal.  He was sitting comfortably around 94-95 mph, and had pinpoint control (walked 1 in 6.2 IP) of his fastball.  He topped out hitting 98 a couple times.  He threw mainly fastballs, but not in the same ratio that I had heard he threw in 07/08 (over 90%).  From what I heard, his changeup kept hitters from sitting on his fastball, and usually caused weak grounders foul.  Of his repertoire, his slider is his worst pitch but seemed better than what I had heard.  He did not throw it very often, but when he did, it seemed like a fairly good pitch.  It just didn’t have the same control that he had on his fastball and change.  When he did miss, it was outside.  He did not have the normal problem that we see with young talented pitchers where they miss over the plate (and when they try too hard the pitch flattens out).  I didn’t hear any of that with Latos.

From my viewpoint Latos can (and hopefully will be) every bit the ace that Jake is.  Yes I know that was a big statement (considering Jake is an NL Cy Young winner), but he seems like the real deal. Before this gets picked apart, someone pointed out to me that the Padres have had terrific pitching prospects before, and the name that was pointed out to me was Dennis Tankersley.

Both shot up through the Padres system at the tender age of 22 (actually Latos is 21.5).  Tankersley went 10-4 with a 1.98 ERA through 3 levels in 2001 and was named the Padres Minor League Pitcher of the Year.  He was every bit as dominant as Latos was and the Padres and their fans (including myself) were excited to see him make his Padre debut.  However after that amazing 2001 was season Tankersley was never the same.  In 2002, he made his major league debut, and while he didn’t necessarily pitch bad, he walked 40 in just over 51 innings.  Of course after that fateful start in 2003 (where he failed to record an out after 7 batters) he went off the deep end, and for the most part was never the same.

So I will end this post by saying why he is not the next Tankersley.  In Tankersley’s most dominant season of 2001 he still walked 44 in 136 innings.  Now that I am writing this post I have a hard time finding anything that could set Mat apart from Dennis.  But at the same time I am finding a hard time finding anything about Dennis that suggested that he would become the gigantic flop that he was.  But I can say that this year Latos’ 5:1 K/BB and IP/BB ratio is fantastic.  He has had pinpoint control and has actually improved his control with the slider and change in the past year.  Maybe Tankersley can be thought of as the worst case scenario, and maybe some skeptics will point to players like Tank, Carrillo, Stauffer, and possibly Schmidt (although Schmidt seems to be doing a lot better in his recent starts) to try and show that Latos will be nothing different…but in my book Latos is every bit the real deal and I am on the Mat Latos bandwagon.

(Now as far as calling him up and service time…that is a different issue for another post)

Welcoming Back a Familiar Name

by Daniel Gettinger

I am really pleased to announce that Myron Logan has agreed to rejoin Friar Forecast. His current plan is to write an analysis piece once every one to two weeks.  His first article (well first in a few months) will appear here somewhere around draft day.  As most readers of this blog know, Myron has demonstrated a consistent ability to tackle interesting questions about the Padres, sabermetrics, and baseball in general.  I am very much looking forward to reading his work, and I suspect many of you are as well.

In addition to the pieces he will publish here at Friar Forecast, Myron has set up a new website called “Another Padres Blog.”  There, he will tend away from some of the longer analysis pieces, but have a frequent assortment of links to interesting articles from around the web.  Brief commentary and opinion will accompany the links.  Another Padres Blog has already become a daily stop for me, and I encourage all of you to check it out.

Again, I am excited about Myron’s return, and am eager to read his thoughts both here at Friar Forecast, and also at his new site “Another Padres Blog.”

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