Monday, December 3, 2007

Nationals Deal for Mets' Milledge

In a recent deal the Washington Nationals sent catcher Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church to the Mets for outfielder Lastings Milledge. In a statement, General Manager Bowden said they expect Milledge to develop into a middle of the order hitter and a good defensive outfielder. Milledge will be given the opportunity to compete for the starting spot in center but can and could play either corner spot as well. Bowden also said that "To get a young player of the potential that Lastings Milledge has, you have to pay a price, and we paid a steep price."

Now, while I fully support this move and commend the Nationals for cutting ties to underachieving and struggling players, I certainly don't think the Nats paid a steep price. As a fan who wants to see this team develop their own identity, I was afraid that the organization would cling to non-essential personnel out of loyalty to the past. But, in the past two seasons they have shown they are willing to do what is necessary in order to make the club better. Both Schneider and Church had used up their opportunities in Washington and it was important to reshuffle the deck and get a player like Milledge in return. A 22-year-old prospect, he still has the potential to develop into a power hitter and excellent all-around ballplayer.

Schneider, who is a great defensive catcher, has regressed the past two years offensively. His dead weight was carried when he exhibited a bit of power and showed signs of making more contact, but backward offensive steps made him obsolete towards the end of the 2007 season and coincided with the emergence of
Jesus Flores. Flores will be given his opportunity to take the vacant starting catching job, but you should still look for the Nationals to pursue another catching option as Flores is still young and unproven.

Church has also been a disappointment as a National and many have looked towards his lackadaisical nature and poor work ethic as the contributing factor. As both a fielder and hitter, Church appeared to hit a wall and never took that next step that was expected to make him into a capable everyday player.

With the recent addition of Milledge and the previous addition of
Elijah Dukes from the Tampa Bay Rays, it looks like the Nationals are content with their outfield potential for the 2008 season. Both players will compete for center and right field alongside Austin Kearns (although Kearns is on the trading block to interested teams). The final spot will belong to Wily Mo Pena, who I have criticized before, but as pure talent and physical attributes are concerned, this group is definitely stronger than the starting lineup of 2007 and that’s what is most important to take away from the moves made so far this winter.

The Nationals are attempting to grow their own talent and have really put the responsibility to win on Manny Acta's shoulders. Can he and his coaching staff turn these guys into professional ball players? Can they not only coach but teach them how to play, how to win and how to get better? I like the potential chemistry they are trying to assemble and while it's funny to think about big league players getting better or becoming more than they already are, it's imperative for every player to continue to grow and take positive steps.

The Nationals still need to add starting pitching to their roster and the Twins have been mentioned as potential suitors for Kearns and
Felipe Lopez. In return the Nationals will expect a young but ready prospect and I suspect Kearns and Lopez will again be paired for a trade, this time out of Washington. With everything that has happened so far this winter, the 2008 Nationals could surprise some people and their success will be directly related to how fast their young talent develops. 2008 will be a different look than we've grown accustomed to, but that's a good thing.

- The Hokie


Yard Yoder said...

As a mets fan i can say the nats ripped us off big time. Milledge is a future all star and schnieder is below average. Also sending Ryan Church, an anti-semite, to new york city. did jim bowden do it?

DMG said...

(1) I don't think Church was a disappointment. He hit .271, OBP .348 and had 162 averages of 35 doubles and 16 home runs while playing on of the biggest parks in the majors.
(2)I don't think Schnieder is below average. I think he is mediocre offensively and good defensively, so about average; maybe slightly above average.
(3) Why do you think Church is an anti Semite?

DMG said...

oh, there, found the anti Semite thing...

DC SportsClown said...

I'm sorry to hear you are a Mets fan yard yoder. That can't be good for your personal life, haha, but the Nationals certainly ripped off the Mets.

Church did have a rebound year and is slated as the Mets starting right fielder right now because of it, but he is a horrendous hitter against left-handed pitchers (.655 OPS) vs. right-handed pitchers (.866 OPS). The Nationals do not have the depth or ability to start platooning players, and whoever takes their spot can't dissapear against half the league. Church has also had difficulty hitting curve balls and his talent seems to have plateaued, whereas Milledge still has the potential to be an impact player. Church is just another David Dellucci.

The only reason they say the Nats didn't really rip the Mets off is that they didn't get a second player in the deal. Evidently, that has been a sticking point since as far back as July of this past year. Getting Schnieder does help the Mets who need a veteran presence at the catching position. I wouldn't go as far as saying he is above average, because neither of these guys are everyday players, but he's adaquate for what the Mets intend to use him for.

DMG said...

That's a good point about Church and lefties. I still maintain that since Schneider is above average defensively and not terrible at the plate (we'll see how he does away from cavernous RFK) and the fact that defense is so much more important than offense for a catcher, he is a valuable player.

That said when I heard the Nats traded these two for Millidge my first reaction was "really? that's all it took to get get Millidge out of New York?"

Yard Yoder said...

I dont see Church as the starting right fielder for the Mets. Right now I would rank our outfielders as fallows: Beltran, Alou, Chavez, Gomez, Church/Green (Dont forget Martinez is fast comming). And yes i see the irony of pairing one of the best jewish players of all time with church.

1. Schnieder batted .235 with six home runs last year, only had a .323 obp and was not much better the year before.
2. The mets allready had Ramon Castro and Johnny Estrada prior to the deal, both offensivley supperior catchers to Schnieder
3. Because the mets got schnieder they dropped Estrada. Essentially they traded Mota(a good reliever) and Lastings Millege (someone with trade potential to pull in an all star) for Schnieder(a player they didnt need) and Church(yet another player...they didnt need)
4. Defense is very important for catchers I agree, more so then offense. But Schnider is aging and he only threw out 30 percent of runners this year. Thats only 1 percent more then lo duca who was condemmed for having a terrible arm. Something to think about...

Solution? Fire Omar Minaya. Well maybe he just felt bad about trading away grady seizemore from the expos, so he thought he'd give back to the franchise by adding another future allstar outfielder.

DMG said...

They may have had the same success throwing runners out but consider this: opponents attempted 77 steals in 1051 innings on Schnieder and 94 in 974 innings on LoDuca. Also the stats I found said LoDuca threw out 23.4% of base stealers last year.

I mean I really think both Church and Schnieder are borderline starters, but I do think Schnieder's defensive value more than offsets his offensive shortcomings (again, we'll see how he does away from RFK. Presumably he won't hit .229 with two home runs)

Yard Yoder said...

Evidently I was looking at 2006 stats, and also misread 24.3 as was late

DC SportsClown said...

This isn't little league DMG. There is a reason the NL is inferior to the AL. It's because they allow themselves to keep everyday players who sacrifice an entire aspect of the game. It's nice to be able to throw out baserunners, but of all the games that are determined by a picked-off runner or a blocked pitch there are a myriad of games that are determined by a timely hit or walk. Consistently starting strictly defensive players is a thing of the past. Catchers and infielders have to be able to carry their weight in some other aspect of the game.

That and the NL keeps trading away all their talent to the AL. Thank god we still have Pujols and Holliday.

Yard Yoder said...

Don't undercut the importance of a good defensive catcher though. Especially one who can work well with pitchers. Look at the teams who have been to the world series the last several years. Redsox have had Varitech, the Tigers went(but lost) with Pudge, who also carried the Marlins there and Anaheim had Molina, a defensive catcher.

DC SportsClown said...

yeah, but all those guys don't sacrifice offense. Even Molina who isn't the best offensive catcher still knows how to hit better than Schnieder and was very clutch during that playoff run. They are good defensive catchers (although I debate Veritek because he's so overrated it's not even funny) but they are also very good offensive players.

DMG said...

I don't know what "this isn't Little League" is supposed to mean, but I do know this....

(1) The median OBP in the NL for qualified leaders was .353; 2 of 15 catchers with more than 350 plate appearances did better. Median slugging was .463; 1 of 15 catcher with at least 350 PA was better. Median OPS was .807; 1 of 15 catchers with more than 350 PA were better.

(2) 6 of 15 NL catcher were above the median for all players with more than 350 PA in OBP; 4 of 15 were above the median in slugging; 4 of 15 were above the median in OPS.

(3) Catcher is the most difficult position to play in baseball (pitchers aside) and there are very few guys who can do it at the major league level. Since it is so difficult to catch in the major leagues there are very few who can do it who can put up above average offensive numbers. It's true defense has a small outcome on the game as a whole than offense but there are so few guys who can catch adequetly in the major league at all that the expectations on offense for a catcher are lower than for other positions, just as they are higher for a first baseman or corner outfielder.

(4) Brian Schneider was 6 of 15 catcher with 350+ PA in on-base percentage, #1 in walks per plate appearance and #1 in BB/K ratio, so he shouldn't have too much trouble getting walks or timely hits. His power numbers were crap, which was partly affected by playing in a stadium with 390 foot power alleys and 10 foot high fences. Schneider is an average/slightly below average offensive NL catcher. He is not a strictly defensive player.

(5) Brian Schneider is a very good defensive catcher.

(6) Left-handed hitting catchers have more valuable because there are so few of them.

(7) (Average/slightly below average offense) + (Significantly above average defense at the most important defense position ) + (value added b/c he's a lefty) does not equal below average.

Hey, I'm happy the Nationals traded for Millidge, I think it was a great deal for them, but Schneider is a decent player.

Yard Yoder said...

Molina batted .260 with a .380 slugging percentage in the 02 playoffs. He was the worst offensive preformer on the team during their run. Pudge Rodriguez had a terrible showing in the world series of 03, but of course is one of the best offensive catchers of all time. He is clearly known for his defense however.

I'm not sure how Varitek is over rated. Offensivley I think he is terrible, probably about at the same level as Schnieder(a little more pop). Thats just my point though, that offense isn't that important from the catcher position. It's the gamecalling ability and the defensive presence. In the last four seasons, Varitek has been healthy for three. Two of these seasons the Redsox won the world series, the other they had a very good season but got eliminated in the playoffs. The year he was out with injury the sox failed to make the playoffs.

DC SportsClown said...

I don't doubt that a good gamecaller is important for a winning team, but you guys are missing my point. The reason Schneider was moved and the reason he shouldn't be an everyday player is because he can't hit.
Defensive prowess aside, I think there is enough talent in the major leagues or the minor leagues where teams can find a player who is better. Decent players are just that, decent, but that doesn't mean they deserve a spot on a major league roster. At some point a team doesn't just want a pair of shoes behind the plate. They need and can get more out of that position. (that's what I meant by this isn't little league, they don't have to play a scrub just because that's the only kid left in the county)
You are putting catchers on a pedestal, that we should forgive them because they have other responsibilities, but there are individuals that can do both. Why would you settle when that kind of potential is out there?

Yard Yoder said...

What individuals do both so well? And who will be doing that for the nationals? If there is more then enough talent in not only the majors, but the minors, are you implying that the major league clubs are choosing to have bad players catch?

Dont get me wrong, I think the mets over-valued Schnieder. However I think its ridiculous to believe that there is an abundance of great hitting catchers in baseball.

Also, if you have a catcher who can handle a pitching staff well but only hits .240. Thats better then a catcher who hits .275 and can't handle a pitching staff well. While your sacraficing 1-2 hits a game by having worse offense, you're saving more then that by having better pitching.

DMG said...

The reason Schneider was moved and the reason he shouldn't be an everyday player is because he can't hit.

And my point was that catchers aren't very good hitters, if you look across baseball and it makes sense. Catcher is both the most difficult position to play and the most important, so that isn't surprising. The reality is that it's just so hard to find players who can hit at at least an average level and play adequate defense at that position.

Among guys who are qualified to catch in the major leagues, Schneider was mediocre last year, when he played in RFK and had no protection in the lineup (he hit .201 hitting #8 and .270 everywhere else). I do think that most team would want to do better than Schneider as their #1 catcher and that he'd be best suited as a platoon player, but he is still an okay hitter for his position and an above average defender, so I think he's an above average player.

DMG said...

Just to expound on that:

It makes sense that generally offensive output from a position is going to be inversely correlated with a combination of how difficult the position is and how important it is - that's why pitchers are the worst hitters and no one minds. It's also why catchers and middle infielders are less productive than first basemen and corner outfielders - there are fewer people who can play the position, thus a smaller pool to select people from, and thus the middle of the pack (25th-75th percentile) of guys is going to be worse in terms of offensive ability. It's just the way it is - some position(s) have to be worse than others and those are going to be the ones that are hardest to play defensively, and it makes sense to compare players across positions rather than to the whole league.

As I said before, only 1 of 15 catchers with 350+ PA had an above average slugging or OPS, so it's very difficult to get a player who can catch and be above average in those categories. Thus, if you have a guy who is #3 of 15, you're ahead of most teams in terms of output at that position, which is what you aim to do.