Some things to talk about while the Cubs ruin our dreams hours after they go live...
1) Non-tender deadline tonight
Another big, important date tonight for the baseball world, as Monday evening marks the deadline for teams to tender arbitration-eligible players contracts.
The free agent class figures to grow substantially today, as 11:00pm CT marks the deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players.
That, of course, means that it is also the deadline for teams to non-tender players that they feel are set to become too expensive via the arbitration process.
Lots of possible names could be coming onto the market for Houston to salivate over. MLBTR mentions John Axford, who might be a late-inning option for this dumpster fire of a bullpen, but there are plenty more names out there. Take Seth Smith, who's offense has cratered in Oakland, but who could fit in nicely in right field for Houston.
At any rate, the names will be leaked as the day goes along. As of right now, it looks like Daric Barton is staying in Oakland but Chris Getz is leaving Kansas City. That helps you not at all, does it?
If interesting names pop up throughout the day, we'll try to throw together a quick post on them. Or just snarkily tweet about them. We haven't decided which, yet.
2) Astros end of the bench contributions
Well, color me surprised. There's something new we can fight about after Chris Jaffe came up with a way to analyze the back end of every roster. Specifically, Jaffe is looking at players who aren't starters, who didn't start the top five games for a team and who didn't have the five most relief innings on a team.
What can we say about the rest of the roster? What impact does it have on the course of the season? This is something I looked up in midseason, and now that the year is over, I want to take a look back at how it played out over the course of the full year.
Let's look at how much production all 30 teams got from the back end of their benches and then look at how it affected them over the course of the season. There are three things we're looking at here: 1) marginal position players, 2) marginal starting pitchers, and 3) marginal relievers. In all cases, they are defined primarily by what they are not rather than by what they are.
The results for the Astros were only one-third surprising. Not shocking were the rankings for both the bullpen (dead last!) or the bench (third-to-last!). But, look at where the starting pitchers were. Houston had the fifth-highest production outside its top five starters.
Why is that?
I'm guessing because of all the young players they brought up late in the season. Most of that top five was a disaster, but Brett Oberholtzer and Jarred Cosart were very good. They alone might have put Houston that high.
So, if you're looking for a sign that 2014 might not be as bad as the past three seasons, start there. Houston showed some rotational depth last season. Who knew?
3) Holiday shopping for baseball books
Andrew Ball over at Beyond the Box Score has a pretty in-depth look at which are the most essential baseball books to have, if you're shopping for a baseball nut for the holidays. I'll concur with nearly all of them, as they are either on my bookshelf or in my wish list for the future.
The only two additions I'd make are both from Rob Neyer and are because I'm a nerdy history kind of fan. They're both his "Big Books," one of Baseball Blunders and one of Baseball Legends. The first just runs through some of the biggest gaffes in MLB history and gives you the context. Ever wondered about Merkle's Boner? Neyer's there for you. The Legends book is also great in another way, as it gives any sportswriter a philosophy for any anecdote or story they're told. Basically, don't take anything at face value. Do some research to get the facts right.
Otherwise, Andrew's list is a great place to go if you're looking for holiday purchases.