Wiki-pedia Gonzalez

JMB · December 15, 2005 at 2:44 pm · Filed Under General baseball 

The Nationals signed Wiki Gonzalez to a minor league contract yesterday. Perhaps taking a page from the M’s 2005 approach, they also signed three other catchers to similar deals with the hopes that one of them will stick as the backup next season.


35 Responses to “Wiki-pedia Gonzalez”

  1. Evan on December 15th, 2005 3:08 pm

    I saw that news crawl across the bottom of the screen while I was watching yacht racing last night (the Volvo Ocean Race rocks!).

    My first thought when I saw Wiki’s name was “Bowden’s really lost his mind now”, but then I noticed he signed 3 other catchers, so it’s more just Bowden recognising that he has no idea what he’s doing, and just hoping for the best.

  2. Ralph Malph on December 15th, 2005 3:33 pm

    Sure, for $2 million plus Wiki was ridiculous, but for the major league minimum you could do worse for a backup C. In fact we have.

  3. eponymous coward on December 15th, 2005 3:38 pm

    What, you mean the Nationals decided to do dumpster diving at minimal risk instead of signing a below-average player with a history of conflict to a deal that makes him overpriced?

    What a novel concept.

  4. Deacon Blues on December 15th, 2005 3:38 pm

    According to wikipedia, his first name is Wiklenman. I’d go by Wiki, too.

  5. AK1984 on December 15th, 2005 3:51 pm

    Well, for what it’s worth, Wiki Gonzalez’s $250,000 buyout is on the Seattle Mariners payroll during the 2006 season.

  6. Jim Thomsen on December 15th, 2005 4:15 pm

    I like the Nationals’ approach here. Bring in a bunch of scrubs, vets and burnouts, and see if one can surprise for minimal money. If I were a GM, I’d NRI lots of players, rather than just a few, if I had position vanacies because if you’re reasonably smart, you can find at least a combination of two players who can do a replacement-level job.

  7. chris w on December 15th, 2005 4:45 pm

    Problem is, how do you determine your dumpster-gotten player has turned out to be good? Seems to me if you’re going to go dumpster diving, you’d be better off going after players with at least something going for them (unlike Wiki). Otherwise, you lose a lot of games in the process of confirming what you already knew, i.e. that they do in fact suck, a la Aaron Sele.

  8. Jim Thomsen on December 15th, 2005 4:46 pm

    You determine such things by a) learning to be an astute judge of talent; and b) surrounding yourself with smart people you actually listen to.

  9. Lokiforever on December 15th, 2005 4:47 pm

    6 – Jim

    Yes it’s a good approach, but this is how Sele and Nelson ended up on the M’s roster last year

  10. Jim Thomsen on December 15th, 2005 4:56 pm

    Was Jeff Nelson all that bad? He certainly wasn’t GOOD, but he had a 3.93 ERA, struck out almost one batter an inning and gave up just three HRs in 36 2/3 innings. He was a low-level innings sponge who didn’t take a job away from anybody healthy who could have done better in the organization (except, arguably, Jeff Heaverlo as of mid-June). I don’t understand why everybody dumps on him.

    Sele happened in part because the Mariners didn’t have any better options on hand. If they had taken the shotgun approach to rounding up free talent, they might have found a better pitcher than Sele coming out of spring training. Instead, they framed it as a Sele-vs.-Franklin battle, which only became Sele AND Franklin in the rotation because Bobby Madritsch had a time-released shoulder blowup caused by his criminal misuse in ’04.

  11. Evan on December 15th, 2005 4:57 pm

    The problem with this approach is it gives disproportionate weight to spring training performance.

    If you bring in scrubs and decide which ne to keep based on their performance over 40 AB against pitchers who aren’t ready yet, you’re really just guessing.

    The fact is, if they’re scrubs, there’s a reason they’re scrubs. If you see something in their history that says they’re valuable, then get those guys, but not a bunch of scrubs hoping that one will impress you enough that you won’t send him away until June.

  12. Evan on December 15th, 2005 5:01 pm

    Jose Canseco made a really good point, once. He complained that he got released after spring training because he didn’t hit well during it. He insisted that that was a lousy way to evaluate players, and that spring training’s role was more to allow players to experiment with new approaches and refine their game for the games that actually count.

    And he was right.

  13. Jim Thomsen on December 15th, 2005 5:02 pm

    But if you don’t have any better options already on your roster, and would rather not overspend for an aging, declining “veteran talent,” then what’s the harm? This is how players like Brady Clark and Wes Helms and yes, Bucky Jacobsen got a long-deserved shot. There are diamonds in the rough out there. If you’re willing to sift through the crap and have good judgment, you can find them.

  14. King Dog on December 15th, 2005 5:17 pm

    [“Rule V”]

  15. Jim Thomsen on December 15th, 2005 5:23 pm

    #14: It’s addressed here:

  16. chris w on December 15th, 2005 5:46 pm

    Jim, your proposal depends entirely on evaluating a guy based on his spring performance, which I think you would agree is much to small a sample to really learn from. I just don’t see how having a bunch of scrubs running around in spring training gets you anywhere. Jeff Nelson doesn’t count – he had a track record of success, plus he had a bad spring. He made the team based what what he’d done in the years before, not spring training.

    I just don’t see what you gain by having a bunch of scrubs around, no reason to believe they’re going to be good, and no time or method for evaluating if they’re good. Anyway, this is an argument over nothing. NRIs… who cares?

  17. Chris Miller on December 15th, 2005 6:06 pm

    OT (Delete it if you please) Iiinnnteresting. I’ve been looking at the numbers posted in the article by JC Bradley at the Hardball Times – on PrOPS. PrOPS has Beltre at .793, w/ .853 being the High95 and .739 being the low95. That would be an improvement, even with the low end of the projection. Just his straight PrOPS would be a 77 point improvement. I don’t totally by PrOPS, just like any componentized projection, BUT I do expect him to get better and if he does anything to improve his plate discipline (I know that may be asking alot, but he is still young, so it’s not asking the impossible), we could have a real offensive sleeper on our hands. Some more good signs can be seen looking at the hit location chart for him, as his doubles and home runs were consitently hit to all fields, which for a RH power hitter seems to be an important trait at Safeco (from what I can tell). I remember going back through the hitting charts of past RH sluggers that succeded here (Boone, Sexson) and it shows that’s important, RH power hitters who pull the ball consitently are probably going to be killed at safeco. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit at .850 OPS or better, with luck and maybe a little better aproach at the plate, but of course I won’t count on it. Oh, and another thing that’s intriguing is PrOPS shows Morse as a league average bat, and a good one IF he could actually play SS (time to trade him, if at all possible). Anyway, I don’t see a reason to be doom and gloom YET. There are some wonderful signs for our team.

  18. Jim Thomsen on December 15th, 2005 6:13 pm

    #16: Yes, but scrubs have a track record as well, and there are truly a number of credible hitters/defenders trapped in Triple-A because their organizations lost faith in them at a key moment (ala Jamal Strong) or because they’re trapped at their positions by players with long-term contracts. There’s no real reason Pete Zoccolillo, to name one at random, shouldn’t have gotten a shot — except he was stuck in organizations with a prejudice toward veterans.

    And analysts have done great work in developing models for projecting major-league performance based on minor-league stats.

    Scrubs they may be. Unknown quantities they are not.

  19. Ralph Malph on December 15th, 2005 6:13 pm

    The kind of spring evaluation that makes sense is evaluating a guy to see if he’s recovered from an injury. For a pitcher, see if he’s got his velocity back after an injury. Or whatever. Bringing in guys coming off injuries as NRI’s to see if they’re healthy makes sense. But making roster decisions based on spring training batting averages doesn’t.

    By the way I agree on Nelson. His bad games were almost always when he was left in too long or allowed to face tough lefthanded hitters.

    In his prime, he was at his best as a “ROOGY”. His good slider (when he’s getting it over) is almost unhittable for righthanders, but not so tough on lefties. Hargrove didn’t seem to realize that, and his problems in 2005 (to the extent he had problems) were a result of being misused.

    I’m not saying bring him back, but there’s no reason to dump on Nelson for his pitching in 2005.

  20. Jim Thomsen on December 15th, 2005 6:15 pm

    I call on Dave to explain anew, or link to, his “stars and scrubs” philosophy.

  21. Jon Wells on December 15th, 2005 6:16 pm

    #10 — yeah, Nelson was pretty bad last year — against left-handed batters, allowing a .342/.457/.579 vs. them.

    Since a majority of hitters are left-handed, there’s just no calling for a right-handed specialist who just faces righty hitters (unless of course you can afford to carry a 13 or 14 man staff 🙂 Hargrove must have noticed at some point that Nelson wasn’t getting the lefties out as he only faced 46 of them as opposed to 115 righty hitters…

  22. Jim Thomsen on December 15th, 2005 6:29 pm

    Which is when he fell into justifiable disfavor … although, a good manager would never have put him out there against lefties anyway (if he was going to carry him on his team at all) because even when Nelson was a good pitcher, his splits against lefties were usually pretty bad.

    In other words, don’t fault Nelson for doing what he usually does. Fault the doofuses who thought he should have been out there in situations in which he has never thrived. He is what is his, and in 2005, he was what he was.

    I personally would have replaced Nelson with Jeff Heaverlo by mid-July at the latest. But clearly Hargrove, at least, doesn’t much believe in replacement-level-talent theory.

  23. chris w on December 15th, 2005 6:46 pm

    But Jim, why would you bring in a “bunch” of scrubs, though? That’s what you originally suggested, remember, to see if one might “surprise”. You can’t add them all to your roster, and the only way of differentiating between them is by their performance in spring training. How are you going to know which one is the “surprise”? If you’re basing it on minor league track record, and not spring training, you *already* know. If you’re basing it on spring training, you’re ignoring serious sample size issues. What makes sense is bringing in a few legit AAAAers, who, based on a reasonable sample size, have a reasonable shot of contributing to the team, in positions where the team needs help. Bringing in Wiki Gonzalez X 3 is a waste of… everything.

  24. Jim Thomsen on December 15th, 2005 6:48 pm

    Chris, I think we’re actually saying just about the same thing. I use the term “scrubs” and “AAAAers” interchangeably … and perhaps that comes off as misleading.

  25. Evan on December 15th, 2005 6:54 pm

    But see, if they’re scrubs using your definition, then you don’t need 4 of them. If you need a third baseman, and you find a guy who’s been trapped in AAA for a while (taking one at random, Justin Leone), then you sign him for the minimum and you’re done.

    Just grabbing every one you see and evaluating them based on spring training means that you’re just as likely to keep the bad one, given what a lousy data set you’re using to evaluate them.

    Even if that genuinely promising player is in your set of four guys, you can’t tell him apart based on 40 spring training at-bats.

  26. Jim Thomsen on December 15th, 2005 6:57 pm

    I guess I don’t agree with that. We like to say that spring training is useless as an evaluation tool, but it’s simply not true that you can’t tell ANYTHING from it. A combination of a solid spring on top of a astute analysis applied to a prior track record can tell you a lot.

    Okay, okay, so you don’t have to haul in every “scrub” on the planet as an NRI. I exaggerrated for effect to make the point about the mass availability fo free talent. Don’t take me so literally that you miss the bigger point.

  27. Ralph Malph on December 15th, 2005 7:54 pm

    a majority of hitters are left-handed

    For what it’s worth, this is not correct. I don’t have league-wide totals, but the M’s faced more RH than LH hitters last year.

  28. Terry Benish on December 15th, 2005 8:21 pm

    Nelson’s slider last year was not the pitch it
    was prior to his last surgery…less definition to it
    softer, and he could not locate it as before.

    Lot of years, lot of very critical situations in those
    years and he started to break down.

    Early on there was a characterizaton as an innings eater, which has
    never been his deal…couple of shots early on as a closer
    and then setup guy for years and then a rh specialist.

    The structure of the CBA is such that all young players are cheap. Not all young players have talent. The genius of Billy Beane is how to discern talent amongst younger players where others discard it and to continue to seek it through the draft. If you can’t discern talent in a systematic way, the ability shown by the As to keep a modest payroll is not transferable.

    Correct me please but the replacement level player as a concept is as much if not more about monetary value as it is talent. Further the As stack their money with pitching and the positions up the middle. Their minor league players then seem to arrive ready to play baseball at the major league level, pitchers and players both.

    Just some thoughts.

  29. Jeff Nye on December 15th, 2005 9:29 pm

    I’m sorry, but I have to. This just stuck in my head, and it now has to stick in all of yours.


  30. Jim Thomsen on December 15th, 2005 9:39 pm

    More like: “Oh, Wiki, you’re maligned, so benign you blew the signs, hey Wiki ….”

  31. joealb on December 15th, 2005 10:46 pm

    Jim your killing me!

  32. Brian Rust on December 16th, 2005 10:12 am

    RE: Spring training — I think one thing the manager and his coaches CAN tell in spring training is whether or not a player is actually WORKING at his game. Is he in shape? Is he mentally focused on the game? Is he listening to and responding to coaching? Is he spending the time needed to hone his craft?

    In a case such as cited by Evan above, while Canseco can tell everyone (and himself) he was released for “not hitting,” I would be surprised if underlying factors behind his “not hitting” did not weigh heavily on his team’s roster decision.

  33. Grizz on December 16th, 2005 11:30 am

    A combination of a solid spring on top of an astute analysis applied to a prior track record can tell you a lot.

    Jim pretty much nailed it, especially considering that a solid spring can mean more than simply good statistics. Based on some combination of scouting and statistical analyses, an organization has a pretty good idea of what each player invited to spring training offers and why he is not on someone else’s 40-man roster (e.g., struggles to make contact with curveballs, poor fastball command).

    From a pure statistical standpoint for projecting future performance, 40 AB or 20 IP during spring training are meaningless. But the performance itself in those 40 AB or 15 IP may provide some insight. This is a bit of an oversimplification, but if a Pedro Cerrano posts great K/BB and PA/K ratios and shows new found ability to make contact with plus curveballs, or if a Ricky Vaughn posts great K/BB and K/9 ratios and consistently spots his heater, a team has some indication that player may exceed previous expectations and might be worth keeping around or at least stashing away at AAA.

  34. Mat on December 16th, 2005 12:35 pm

    Other transactions news that some here may find relieving: Scott Elarton is off the market, signing with the Royals for 2 years at $4M/year. That the Royals think he might be helpful makes me believe he might be even worse than I thought.

  35. Rich on December 16th, 2005 2:30 pm

    Speaking of the M’s quest for pitching, does anyone think they should give Matt Thornton a shot as a starter? I am not saying he earned it last year but he does have some talent and upside and left handed starters do well at Safeco. It seems to me his control will get better if he pitches more and his development will be very slow as a long reliever. Also, can he be any worse than the Franklin/Sele duo we have run out there the past couple of years? At least the guy throws hard.