Nerd of Batman, sports, logic, objectivity, Star Trek, personal enlightenment, Lincoln, the Rays, psychology, mic dropping. Kind've in that order.
Going into last night the NBA was inverted in a sense. Two teams in the East had more than 9 wins. 9 wins in the West was two spots from 15th, the bottom of the conference.
Eek. In a post for another time, yes, David Stern in his final league mandate should slice up the standard playoff format and go with a top 16, or top four in each and then best records, or some variation. Why? Because I want that Stern grin once more and it's the right thing to do. Rules are meant to be...adjusted to the climate. The climate in the East, outside of Miami and Indiana, is as frigid as the iciest moon around Neptune.
As noted yesterday, strikingly, the East is loaded - not an overstatement - with quality centers. Not necessarily centers in the traditional sense, but what's traditional in the NBA anymore? It's not short shorts, high socks and fundamentally sound bounce passes. OK, there IS those.
Not far behind that sizeable group are Joakim Noah, a double doubling Marcin Gortat, an improving Jonas Valanciunas, and for the second straight year, even Andray Blatche is playing well.
Next time you hear 'what happened to all the centers in the NBA' tell those observers to uh, pay attention.
There was no particular order to the list above, but in case you weren't familiar with the tone and topic selection of this blog, we're going to gush over Andre Drummond.
*Eric, try not to overstate things. Don't get caught up in his three-game December averages of 21.7/18.7 2 blocks, 3 steals and 69% FG. Don't do it.*
With Dwight Howard gone to the West, winning the fan vote to start at center for the East is wide open. Even though the Pistons have been off the national radar for years, Drummond's youth, rousing athleticism and of course statatistics, warrant notice by anyone even paying just half attention to the NBA. Take it from someone who used to be a kid, a teenager...we LOOOOOOOVEEE rookies and young players. We want the next hot thing. Hopefully that feeling remains true of today's young voters and they vote frequently in droves for the Pistons 2nd year center.
Of all those centers listed, Lopez is probably the most offensively skilled. That's usually the keystone to reaching the All Star game. However, Lopez has missed some time and his Nets team is a grease fire that's engulfed a Brooklyn city block of fast food restaurants in a relentless inferno.
In all reality though, the East's starting All Star center will be Hibbert, or Chris Bosh, who in a crummy year, is still deceivingly listed as a center. Grumble grumble.
Andre Drummond has the same chance as Andre the Giant has of starting the All Star Game in New Orleans.
Beginning last year the league, because of a dearth of quality at the center position, narrowed the starters down to backcourt and frontcourt. Here's the list of those on the ballot under the latter. You can vote for Drummond until your mouse or mobile device breaks, but the East's starting frontcourt will be Lebron, Melo and Tom Ford Paul George. If Drummond makes the ASG it'll be as a reserve, and by no means is that unfeasible.
Even if the league still went with the three conventional positions, my assumption is that Hibbert or Bosh would be your starting center for the East.
Drummond may or may not continue his malevolence towards the opposing frontcourts of teams. He may or may not make it to the NBA's exhibitional playground game in New Orleans in February. I can tell you this.
All Star now or not, or in forthcoming years, Andre Drummond is something I can't really say about other centers in the East whose names I've already mentioned.
Drummond is a force. Start reckoning.
I'm still learning how to interpret and use the vast ocean of statistics the NBA now offers due to the SportVU player tracking. Nothing posterizes me right away scouring through Drummond's stats and percentages in the way that say Lebron's might. It's just easy to see how dominant Drummond has become. Old fashioned stats are enough to support story here.
Early in the season I saw Drummond often confused defensively. Who to guard on pick and rolls, leaving his positioning in the post that created convenient passing lanes for penetrators, getting stuck on smaller players on switches and more. I can't definitively that all that's improved. I can tell you that if those lapses are still occurring I'm not paying as much attention to them because of Drummond's increased awareness and presence on the other end of the court, and his veritable domination of the boards.
Drummond doesn't have go-to moves offensively, but when you're able to position yourself in the lane the way he does, and with his freakish athleticism and ability to get off his feet and into the air so quickly, you don't need a baby hook, a back down, 8 foot jumper or an up and under.
Remember I said his shots should never, ever come outside of the 'restricted area' of the restricted area? He listened.
I'm desperately trying not to get caught up in the last three games, but if Drummond continues to improve almost in accordance with Moore's Law, his ability to score roughly 15 a game is not a statistic we should expect to dwindle. In fact the only way of minimizing Drummond's impact on the offensive end, is if HIS teammates start hitting their shots more consistently, thus not needing Drummond to clean up. Opponents could also hit THEIR shots preventing the Pistons from fast breaking out too.
Before I drop the 'STFU Eric' thought on you, let me give you that Drummond's at 13.5 points per game now and in just a trio of the Pistons' 19 games this year he's failed to score in double digits. In his best years, Ben Wallace NEVER averaged more than 9.7 points per game. Drummond's at 12.8 rebounds a game now, and at his peak Ben grabbed over 15. Drummond's played roughly less than a typical season of Miami Heat championship basketball. That's 100 games or so.
My personal belief is that Ben Wallace was the most talented Piston in the middle of the last decade. Feel free to differ. I have no qualm with that. We all know that team was greater than its parts.
So in trying to calm my own drunk-on-Drummond hysteria, let's end with this:
ANDRE DRUMMOND IS THE MOST TALENTED PISTON SINCE...
First, I didn't spell trader wrong. Boston did. Trader is the new they're/there/their.
I hope ellsbury flops and doesn't play well for the Yankees #trader— Almighty J (@jakehigginbotha) December 4, 2013
Jacoby Ellsbury third richest AAV for an outfielder ever. Oy. Fangraphs says he'll age well, but I look at this another way.
It's undeniable Ellsbury has had two fantastic seasons '11 and '13, two good seasons '08 and '09, and a rookie midseason callup where he produced, and two years where his time was wrecked by freak injuries that he may or may not have a tendency for.
Not exactly the greatest resume, but that's why you hire Scott Boras.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
If Ellsbury can stay healthy I think his .789 OPS and 55 steals per 162 is reachable for the next three or four years easily. Maybe longer. Maybe less if his injuries accumulate and wear him down. I won't bicker too much with the Fangraphs write up.
If you come here or else where often, I think I've defined AAV for you. If not, it's average annual value. Ellsbury's is $21.8 million, 153/7. Elementary math. Even Fangraphs will concede Ellsbury's production will slide down a hill with age. That happens to 95% of all pro athletes, and probably 98.9% of civilization.
If I'm a GM, and if someone forced my hand to write up this contract, I'd view it in this fashion. You're not paying Ellsbury 21.8 for 7 years. You're paying for MVP type years first two years, All Star the next two, and as the decline continues, starter production, and then 'oh God, please just stay healthy' efforts. If you look at it strictly as 21.8 then if Ellsbury ages and you get the seasonal performances just mentioned, then you're underpaying for MVP numbers in the beginning, and overpaying for a potential replacement level player at the end.
'14 and '15 $80 million performances.
'16 and '17 $40 million
'18 and '19 $25 million
'20 $8 million
Fiddle with those numbers are you wish. It's just the way I try to project the season of a contract I'd NEVER offer a player. And if Ellsbury plays the first two years like an average of his best seasons (11 and 13) you can expect/hope for a nearly 7 win player. 6.95 actually, which would've made him the 7th 'best' positional played in MLB in '13.
Like I said, it's just the way I'd try to rationalize an absolutely nonsensical contract.
Why is it nonsensical, and WHY would I pay Castellanos and Porcello SOON, because of this...
So, um, given Ellsbury's deal it's worth noting #Pirates have Andrew McCutchen signed for next five years (inc. team option) for ... $59m.— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) December 4, 2013
Andre Drummond has improved immeasurably since the beginning of the year. He's going to have All Star numbers, but the East is surprisingly loaded with quality centers: Drummond, Hibbert, Horford, Hawes, Vucevic, Lopez, Jefferson. Stats here.
Pistons go up BIG, Miami storms back in the fourth, Pistons show resilence by holding them off and tightening up defensively just as the Heat within three. But...
This tweet inspired me to crunch some raw numbers.
Jim Johnson Saves 50 WAR, 1.5 $6.5 million - Drafted by Baltimore 5th round 2001.
Craig Kimbrel 50, 3.3 $655K - Drafted by Atlanta in the 3rd round '08.
Greg Holland 47, 3.1 $540K - Drafted by KC in the 10th round '07.
Rivera $10 million
Nathan $7 million
Soriano $11 million
Addison Reed 40, 1.2 $520K - Drafted by Chicago in the 3rd round '10.
Sergio Romo 38, .7 $3.5 million - Drafted by SF in the 28th round '05
Aroldis Chapman 38, 2.0 $2 million - Signed as amateur FA by Cincy in '10.
Grant Balfour 38, 1.4 $4.5 million - Signed as FA by Oakland in '11.
Four closers of the final playoff teams (that IS the goal, no?)
Kenley Jansen 28, 2.6 $512K Signed as amateur FA in '04.
Koji Uehara 21, 3.6 $4.25 million
Joaquin Benoit 24, 2.8 $5.5 million Signed as amateur FA in '11.
Trevor Rosenthal 3, 1.4 $490K Drafted 21st round by STL in '09.
Conclusions: The total cost of the 14 relievers is $56,962,000, or about $4.06 million per guy. Breaking it down further...
Half of them could be considered 'home grown.' They're highlighted. Their cost would be $1.84 million per player. Though I've precluded Rivera from this group. He's in the ensuing calculations.
The cost of those acquired through free agency/trade (Rivera) measures out to $7.04 million per player.
The Tigers needed to devote far too much salary to a closer for the same reason they've had to reconstruct their bullpen. If you don't have a stockpile of relievers who could be considered for the closer role, than you're going to have to search free agency, or find a trade partner with one too many bullpen arms. Funny, that now that's KC. I think Joe Nathan is actually underrated due to the legendary shadow of Mariano. He's a damn fine closer. But what he's being paid could've been allocated to improve the team either now, or shortly down the road.
Dave Dombrowski, lacking the respect to consult me, traded one of the steadiest and most reliable starting pitchers in baseball for a not-so-goodutility guy (there ARE good ones) and two young pitchers who weren't ever going to wrest away starts from Strasburg, Zimmermann and Gonzalez.
Read that again.
Wait, let me say I'm not stunned by this at all. There could not have been much market value difference between Fister and Porcello. Porcello could still bloom into Fister with a a sneaky deadlier fastball, or he might have peaked, while I don't have to be Bill James to predict Fister's numbers for the next many years.
Teams pay dearly for starters. The A's just gave Scott Kazmir $22 million over 2 years. Fister, still with two years of arbitration to go, was slated to make half annually of what Kazmir gets this year.
On a day they settled money with Leyland's adoptive nephew, Don Kelly, the Tigers upgraded over Ramon Santiago, and received nothing with proven Major League value in return.
Before the return was announced I suspected Adam LaRoche was going to be in the Tiger DH/1B rotation. Washington could then get Anthony Rendon to third and get Ryan Zimmerman and his progressing Sax-ian disease over to first. Didn't happen.
You don't have to be in a cape and cowl and be the World's Greatest Detective to figure out that something's up. More SHOULD be on the way, and Dombrowski alluded to just that in his 945pm press conference last night.
Acquired starter Robbie Ray reminds of long time Tiger prospect Casey Crosby. Gets his share of strikeouts, but puts a ton on base. He's labeled with mid to back end of the rotation stuff.
We can hope lefty Ian Krol turns into what was expected of Phil Coke. More than just a LOOGY. 8.1 K/9 in 274 minor league innings with a WHIP just over 1.1. Krol is fastball at 93, with a curve and a change mixed in. As a 22 year old he threw 32 games and 27.1 innings for Washington last year with no thing requiring obvious praise. Hopefully his nearly 4 to 1 K/BB minor league ratio eventually emerges for the Tigers bullpen.
Twitter got very testy that this was a salary dump by the Tigers. Dombrowski reiterated Detroit will still be a high payroll team, which didn't pull my eyebrown down to normal levels.
It's hard to retract trust in DD, but my worry is that the salary relief from Fielder and Fister could go in any of these directions, none I'd be pleased with.
A. Extension for Scherzer
B. Extension for Cabrera
C. Extension for both. I'll be on the roof.
D. They sign a free agent whose name fans have bandied around. Choo or Ellsbury specifically. You can find me plunging OFF the roof. Those contracts would be ludricous. Though you can talk me in 60/4 for Granderson, even if I give up a first round pick. There ARE other rounds in the draft. Make them count.
E. Something else that has me bowing at the temple of Dave.
There's one destination for that saved money I would spend it on though. Rick Porcello's got two more years of arbitration and then he'll be a free agent. If last year's positive gains were the beginning of his emergence, and remember that his defense will be much improved, I think I'm OK with buying out his arb and some free agent years.
Porcello will make 6ish this year in arb, then 7 or more next year. Do that math, and factor in the deal for Kazmir, and consider Ricky Nolasco getting 49/4. I think I might give Porcello that deal right this second, with a very reachable option for a fifth year, that would put another 15 on the deal, totaling 64 over 5. Down the road that should be bronzed Lincoln's for a quality mid-rotation starter STILL under 30.
The Porcello theory may be a pipe dream for me though because of other sentiments from Dombrowski. The crafty executive mentioned Ray profiling as a 1-3 rotation starter. You don't have to remind me YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH PITCHING, but Verlander and Sanchez are around for a while, Smyly should be as well, does this mean they won't even consider a Porcello extension? Recall who the Tigers target every year in the draft, BIG right handed starters. They have three of them in their 2014 prospects list. Jonathon Crawford, Endrys Briceno, and Jake Thompson.
There's more to come so no need at all to judge this trade now. We'll wait to the ensuing moves occur before I find the ladder leading to the roof.
#hashing out the tweets...
- I'll miss Fister. With Greg Maddux being my all time favorite pitcher, I enjoyed watching Fister work like Maddux. Quickly and with exceptional movement on what should be very straight pitches. Downright dominance at times with not much over 90.
- Elementary math says the Tigers have the same bullpen questions as they did when the season ended; possibly more. The proven Smyly goes to the rotation, and Krol is no sure replacement.
- The Nationals traded a pitcher to the A's last week who I sought in a potential deal. Fernando Abad. I also (think I) would've preferred the malleable Tanner Roark also over who the Tigers received. Anthony Rendon wasn't going to happen.