roster management for dummies: tony cruz, skip schumaker up . . . .

well, the news is in. for those who haven't heard:

  • gerald laird official starts his DL stint with a broken finger bone.
  • mitchell boggs demoted to AAA
  • tony cruz called up from Memphis as backup catcher
  • skip schuma. . . . what!?!? wait, MITCH BOGGS got demoted!?!! what! WHAT!!?

apparently, dave duncan wasn't kidding when he named mitch boggs closer. note: he didn't say ". . . for the st. louis cardinals."

there's nothing about mitch's statistical performance so far that would make demotion make sense for this team: by FIP he's at 3.06; xFIP - 2.84; tERA - 3.46. heck, even by good, old conventional ERA he's at 3.66. by most of those measures, he's running behind salas, motte, and in some cases sanchez. here's a good article on it.

it's not like he's got an xFIP of 5.24, an FIP of 7.00, a tERA 7.78, and an ERA of 9.20. it would be obvious, if you had a completely disastrous start to the season, why you might be demoted. it's not like mitch boggs is such a flamingly horrible pitcher that he goes a week and more without being used, because the coaching staff is literally afraid to put him on the mound until we're losing by eight runs. it's not like he's only been used FOUR times this month.

and it's not like he's an aging pitcher with no ceiling who periodically shows up in a game, allows a bunch of baserunners and runs, then has to be pulled because the manager is scared to leave him on the mound. it's not like he has an empty ERA  - say, around 2.76 - that hides nightmarishly bad peripherals (like a 1.11 K/BB ratio, a 4.68 FIP, a 5.35 xFIP, and a 5.74 tERA). it's not like he allows lots of long flyballs and liners (25.9% LD rate).

no, if he were either of the above "fictional" pitchers* he would be off the team, and nobody would wonder why.

* for children reading along at home, foreigners unfamiliar with the game of baseball, and aliens reading this on their plasma datapads, these "fictional" players are not actually fictional. i will provide their scrambled names here as a game for the children: "ranklinf" and "atistab."

if there is anything to be said for this move (there is nothing to be said for this move), the slender reed of support would be this: boggs (or really any of the other youngsters) has an option. you can move him down to AAA and bring him back. if you truly believed that franklin or batista . . . err, either of the fictional pitchers . . . had anything left to offer, you might justify this move by saying that you want to give batista or franklin more of a chance, rather than designating them for assignment and taking the chance that either would be taken in waivers or choose to retire. i don't think franklin has enough time with the cards that he could elect to be a free agent, though i stand ready to be corrected; also, who the hell would take on a pitcher with his stats as anything but a minor league free agent?

the fact is that neither of them have anything worth salvaging. batista has persistently been a sub-replacement value player, last posting a positive WAR in 2007. any success he appears to be having is just an illusion of luck. franklin has long been a pretty marginal reliever, even though he has held the "closer" title for a while. he has clearly lost whatever he had that separated him from replacement value. both are older at 40 and 38, and their skills are certain to wane. waiting around for either of them to improve is a waste of time. it is certainly no basis for demoting a solid, productive young reliever.

bgh wants me to draw attention to brian broderick's K rate, which at 2.92 K/9 in the majors for the Nats is impressive in its ineptitude. notably, he only walks guys at a 2.19 BB/9 rate, which makes his 1.33 K/BB rate BETTER than either franklin or batista's K/BB rate.

on the other machinations, skip schumaker's return from the DL is unfortunate, since he's no more valuable than his replacements there and probably less valuable than some. to the extent that the refusal to demote schumaker or franklin comes from some sense of loyalty, i guess i understand it, although sentimentality is no way to run a ballclub. skippy seems like a nice guy, but if being a nice guy qualified you to be a major league baseball player, i still probably wouldn't be a pro baseball player.

tony cruz's promotion was as predictable as it was disappointing to bryan anderson fans. you have to feel for bryan - he's faced some ridiculous roster decisions from the club, notably the pagnozzi infatuation. he's missed chances he should have gotten. he's watched older guys with less skill back up yadier. at the same time, his offensive performance at AAA has been uneven, and i personally believe tony cruz is the better catching prospect right now. there's a case to be made for both sides, and i would not have complained no matter which of the two had been promoted. let's wish tony luck.

that said, gerald laird has been a surprisingly refreshing player, as backup catchers go. he's been hitting above his weight, with his best offensive performance since 2008, and been very solid behind the plate. i hope he heals up.

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