Yesterday the Washington Post’s Cameron Smith posted a little ditty titled “Why Pudge is a huge step forward for the Astros.” It’s full of wrongheadedness and backward thinking. If we didn’t know better we’d think Ned Coletti was moonlighting as a Post columnist.
The column is so bad that we feel compelled to ridicule it FJM style. Here goes.
[T]he Astros organization raved about what Rodriguez might bring to the team, adding veteran leadership and a more reliable bat.
Sure, the Astros have a shortstop who aged 2 years at the start of last season (now he’s 35), but if there’s one thing a team can’t get enough of it’s veteran leadership. Remember last season when Brad Ausmus’ leadership amounted to a .599 OPS? That was awesome.
All the hype is legitimate for a team that expected to start the season with either Humberto Quintero or J.R. Towles behind the dish. Sure, either one of them could have turned out to be a Jesus Flores or Giovani (sic) Soto (hey, maybe one still will), but Rodriguez is more than just an upgrade at catcher, he’s a player who immediately puts the Astros in the mix for the Wild Card or Division race, assuming they stay healthy.
You’re hoping that your catcher performs like Jesus Flores? The guy with a sub-.300 OBP? Really?
It’s not entirely clear that Rodriguez is an upgrade over Towles, as FanGraphs points out. And there’s the issue of Houston and the wild card. Baseball Prospectus projects the Astros will finish this season in fourth place with 68 wins. According to Smith, Pudge makes them a contender. So if you put any stock in BP’s projections, the man is worth an extra 15-20 wins. That’s impressive. And can you believe that Pudge made neither Buster Olney’s list of the top ten most indispensible players, nor Baseball Prospectus‘s list? Me neither. I’m betting Smith would be stunned as well.
Yes, Pudge is getting older, but if you discount his slumptacular stretch with the Yankees last summer, Rodriguez has always hit above .273 (at least since his third season in 1993), and while his OPS (on-base percentage plus sligging (sic again)) has dropped significant (sic sic sic) since a monstrous season in 2004, he still making contact with the ball and, as he showed with Puerto Rico, he still has the potential to be a game changer.
“Slumptactular.” That’s a great word. I’ve got to write that down.
This is a tightrope Smith is walking. He wants us to disregard Pudge’s stint as a Yankee last season, presumably because it’s just a small sample and, hey, slumps happen. But he wants us to value Pudge’s performance in the WBC — an even smaller sample! That’s thin.
Here’s a more reliable number: Over the past two seasons Pudge’s OBP has hovered around .300. His slugging percentage has dropped precipitously. He hacks at a ton of balls outside the zone and he almost never walks.
But wait, there’s more. Smith thinks Pudge isn’t enough…
Adding Rodriguez was clearly a big step for the Astros,
You must be used to taking REALLY small steps. I shall recommend you to the Ministry!
but they could go even further before the end of the week. There were rumors of a potential deal for Pedro Martinez on Tuesday night from Baseball Prospectus, but multiple sources are countering what Baseball Prospectus was reporting.
Pedro Martinez? The Pedro Martinez? No way!
That’s a shame, because Pedro Martinez might be exactly what the Astros need to reach the thick of the playoff race.
Quick recap: Pudge puts the Astros in the mix, Pedro puts them in the thick of it. I’m sure there’s a distinction there somewhere.
Think about it: Heading into the stretch last September, the Astros were within a long run of the Wild Card or an NL Central playoff bid.
Firstly, I don’t know what a “long run” means. But it sounds really far. Secondly, to say the Astros were “within a long run of the Wild Card” ignores the fact that the team won six in a row and 14 of 15 during a stretch that started in August and ended with a Carlos Zambrano no-hitter. Saying all they needed to do was get hot down the stretch ignores the fact that they were insanely hot for the better part of a month and no team can keep that up forever.
That followed a slow start that easily could have flushed Houston’s entire season.
So which was the fluke: the slow start or the nearly perfect stretch in August-September? You can guess what I think.
Add Pudge Rodriguez and a healthy Pedro Martinez (if he’s as healthy and locates as well as he did in the WBC), and the Astros might not fade out so quickly.
A healthy Pedro…that’s not much to ask for, is it? Just because he’s averaged less than 90 innings per season over the past three years and he’s coming off major surgery and he’s lost many miles per hour off his fastball and he’s 38 and has had a 4.74 ERA since 2006 and had his strikeout rate plummet and walk rate skyrocket last year… I mean, he’s still Pedro, right?
With Pedro possibly available at a bargain price — the pair might cost less than $5 million up front in total — why not give both a run?
Because neither deserve a run – not at that price, anyway, and not when cheaper options who could perform just as well are already in the system. Let’s face it. J.R. Towles sucked in his 171 PAs last year. But who could mean more to the franchise over the next three years – a 25-year old who has crushed pitching at every level of the minors or a 37 year old who has caught over 18,000 innings in the bigs and has been on a clear decline since 2006? And trust me, there are very few members in the Jose Capellan fan club. But at this stage in their careers, are they that far apart statistically? Since 2006, again, Pedro’s ERA is 4.74. Cappellan’s is 4.70 (in 99.67 IP). This isn’t to say that they are definitively equal (they’re not). But Cappellan is definitively younger and cheaper and is capable of pitching just as well and actually may give you 140+ innings.
Ed Wade clearly thinks the Astros are playoff contenders, and who are we to argue with the visionary that is Wade? But Astros fans and non-Astros-fans alike should be able to agree that Ivan Rodriguez, at this point in his career, doesn’t represent a giant step forward for anyone. Ditto for Pedro. Those guys were great, but the greatness has faded.
*Paul Moro contributed snark and statistics to this post.