Stats & Info: Willie Bloomquist

How will Sanchez, Cabrera + others help?

November, 13, 2011
11/13/11
1:44
PM ET

US Presswire
Melky Cabrera (left) and Jonathan Sanchez (right) will be swapping uniforms next season.
The Hot Stove heated up this week with our first major free-agent signing of the winter, when the Phillies agreed to a four-year, $50 million deal with Jonathan Papelbon (pending a physical). We covered that signing in detail on Friday.

Here's a closer look at some other notable transactions from the past week, including a potentially significant trade and a few under-the-radar signings.

Jonathan Sanchez Traded by Giants to Royals for Melky Cabrera
This was a classic trade where both teams dealt from a strength while looking to improve a weakness. The San Francisco Giants last year had the second-best ERA and the fourth-worst OPS in the majors, while the Kansas City Royals had the fourth-worst ERA and seventh-best OPS.

In Sanchez, the Royals receive a hard-throwing left-hander who has the third-highest strikeout rate since 2008 (minimum, 500 innings pitched). He also struggles with his command, never averaging fewer than four walks per nine innings in a season, including last year’s league-high rate of 5.9.

One concern for the Royals is Sanchez’s diminishing strikeout rate and fastball velocity over the past three seasons. Last year, when Sanchez missed more than a month with a biceps injury, his fastball averaged below 90 mph for the first time in his career.

Sanchez should help a Royals rotation that struck out just 621 batters, fifth-fewest in the majors last year. But he’ll need to improve his efficiency if he is going to make an impact on a Royals rotation that ranked 24th in innings pitched. His average of 5.3 innings per start was second-worst in the majors (minimum, 100 innings).

The Giants hope that Cabrera, who had a breakout season with 18 homers and a .305 batting average in 2011, can help improve an offense that scored the second-fewest runs in the majors last year.

Cabrera's career-best numbers were partly fueled by a .332 BABIP that was well above his career mark of .299. Cabrera also posted the lowest walk rate (5.0 percent) and highest strikeout rate (13.3 percent) of his career.

Pirates Sign Rod Barajas
The Pittsburgh Pirates inked Barajas to a one-year, $4 million deal following his 16-homer season with the Dodgers. Barajas will bring some much-needed power behind the plate to the Pirates. Since 2004, only three catchers have hit more homers than Barajas’ 111.

Pirates catchers hit just 13 homers (23rd in MLB) and had a .382 slugging percentage last year (18th in MLB). The last Pirates catcher to hit more than 15 homers in a season was Jim Pagliaroni, who had 17 in 1965.

Diamondbacks Sign Willie Bloomquist
Twins Agree to Terms with Jamey Carroll
The Arizona Diamondbacks signed Bloomquist to a two-year, $3.8 million contract. On a positive note, Bloomquist is a versatile defender, having played at least 100 innings at every position except catcher in his 10-season career.

But he is also the definition of a replacement-level player. Bloomquist has never posted a season with a WAR of at least 1.0. His career OPS of .654 is the ninth-worst among active players (min. 2,000 PA), and his .073 Isolated Power is seventh-worst.

The Minnesota Twins also found a utility man to their liking with the addition of Jamey Carroll, who has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal. The Twins had a rough go last season at second base and shortstop. The metric Defensive Runs Saved, which measures a middle infielder's ability to turn batted balls into outs and turn double plays, showed that Twins middle infielders went from saving the team 27 runs in 2010 to costing them 39 runs in 2011.

Though Carroll contributed positive value defensively at second base as recently as 2009, last season was his worst in that regard. Carroll's defense was viewed by that metric as costing his team 14 runs.
Our weekly statistical take on some recent moves by major league teams

How good of a hitter is Jim Thome against right-handed pitching?
Jim Thome
Thome

Historically he’s among the best of the best, and statistically speaking, he’s a needed fit for the Minnesota Twins, who re-signed him earlier this week.

Last year, Thome proved he still had his magic touch against right-handers, batting .302, with a 1.154 OPS against them. The only hitter in the American League who was better was Josh Hamilton (1.163).

Rank the top 50 seasons of OPS against right-handed pitching since 1974 and two names show up more frequently than any others. One is Barry Bonds (seven times). The other is Thome (six).

Of the top 15 seasons in the American League in that span, Thome has five of them.

Amazingly, last season was one of the best in Thome’s career by that measure. Baseball-Reference.com has a means to compare a player’s performance in a split-stat (such as versus right-handers) to the rest of his league, adjusting for ballpark.

Thome’s OPS+ against right-handers was 204. The only season in which he rated higher was in 2002, when he hit 40 home runs against righties.

Last season, with Thome’s help, the Twins rated fourth in the American League in OPS against right-handed pitching. They jumped seven points (from .768 in 2009 to .775 in 2010) despite a) moving into a less-hitter-friendly home ballpark and b) it was a season in which most offensive performance declined.

It was their highest AL rank in OPS against right-handers since being third-best in 1992. The last time the Twins were even in the top five in the AL in that stat was in 2003, when they rated fifth.
-- Mark Simon

Balfour not so bad
Newest Oakland Athletics reliever Grant Balfour finished the season in the Tampa Bay Rays’ bullpen with the seventh-lowest FIP (an ERA estimate based on strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed) of any American League reliever at 2.68, even lower than former teammate and now New York Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano.

Grant Balfour
Balfour
That’s due primarily to his better strikeout rate (9.1 per 9 innings, compared to Soriano’s 8.2) and a lower rate of home runs allowed per nine innings.

Left-handed hitters may have hit .267 against Balfour last season, but his ability in those three FIP stats, was a match for his performance against right-handers (who hit .174 against him). Of note: Of the 100 lefties he faced in 2010, he yielded only one home run.

Balfour rated at 1.2 Wins Above Replacement in 2010, according to Fangraphs.com, a match for both Jonathan Papelbon and Scott Downs, both of whom will make considerably more than the $4 million Balfour will be paid in 2011.
-- Ben Duronio

Farnsworth's unusual 2010 skill
Kyle Farnsworth may not be the most obvious choice as a shutdown reliever for the Tampa Bay Rays, but last season Farnsworth was able to raise his game when facing the toughest lineups.

Against the teams that finished with a .500 or better record, Farnsworth finished with a 2.09 ERA, .611 opponents OPS, and a 5.3 strikeout-to-walk rate.

Against teams with sub-.500 marks, he had a 5.19 ERA, .670 opponents OPS, and 2.23 strikeout-to-walk rate.
-- Katie Sharp

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