On Sosa, Wilkerson, and Botts

So we had #600 yesterday, and there are warm and fuzzy stories about Sammy Sosa and how he's revitalized his career in Texas, and all that.

Meh.  Maybe I'm cold-hearted, maybe I'm a bad baseball fan, but I just didn't care.  He isn't any greater of a hitter, any more or less HOF worthy, now that he's at 600 than he would have been if he hadn't come back and had retired with 588 homers.  Watching that yesterday didn't do anything for me, other than make me relieved that we were done with barrage of "Sammy is just __ homers away!!!" coverage, and hopeful that we'll see Jason Botts soon.

And to reiterate something I've said before, now that the 600 watch is done, and the Rangers are out of the race, I think the Rangers should trade him to a team that wants him, and if they can't trade him, release him.  There's no point in him continuing to be on this team.

There have been a plethora of responses to suggestions that the Rangers should let Sammy go, and I want to reply to some of them:

You can't release Sammy -- he's done better than anyone could have expected.

Sammy is hitting .242/.297/.458 on the season.  If that's better than the Rangers expected him to hit when they made him their regular DH when the season started, then put me on the fire JD/Washington bandwagon.  

A guy with a sub-.300 OBP, an OPS+ of 93, and an EQA of .254 is not a quality major league DH.  He hasn't been good this year.

As a point of comparison...Ian Kinsler, who seems to be viewed as a massive disappointment, a guy who some are clamoring to be sent to the minors, has a .271 EQA this season.  

If the .271 EQA second baseman is a disappointment, then the .254 EQA DH isn't a rousing success story.

If you want to release someone, release WilKKKKKKKerson/Whifferson, he's worse than Sammy, and all he does is strike out.

Well, first of all, Wilkerson is playing first base right now while Mark Teixeira is out (and Teixeira supposedly won't be back for another month).  You don't have a ton of other options to play first base right now, particularly if Jason Botts' back makes playing first base problematic.

But secondly, Wilkerson has been better than Sosa this year.  Wilkerson has a .264 EQA, compared to a .254 EQA for Sosa.  His line of .225/.319/.450 is better than Sosa's .242/.297/.458, as evidence by his 98 OPS+ (compared to Sosa's 93 OPS+).  His RC/27 is 4.98, versus Sosa's 4.65.  

And strikeouts?  Sosa has K'd once every 3.76 plate appearances, while Wilkerson has K'd once every 3.92 plate appearanecs -- Sosa is striking out more frequently than Wilkerson this year.

Sosa is SUPPOSED to strike out -- he's a power hitter.  Wilkerson doesn't hit enough homers to justify his strikeout totals.

I don't believe that the underlying premise -- that strikeouts are only acceptable if you hit for power -- but nevertheless...

Sosa's slugging percentage is 8 points higher than Wilkerson's.  Wilkerson's Isolated Power is 225, to 216 for Sosa.  

And remarkably, Wilkerson has averaged a homer once every 20.14 plate appearances this season, while Sosa has a homer ever 21.33 plate appearances this season.  Wilkerson is homering more often than Sosa.

You are just defending Whiffy because you liked the Soriano trade.

No, I'm defending Wilkerson because he's been a better player than Sosa this year.

That said, I don't have a huge problem if the Rangers decided to release Wilkerson tomorrow and call up Botts, rather than release Sosa, although I think Sosa should be axed first, given that Wilkerson, playing first base, isn't really blocking Botts, while Sosa, who has been the DH in the majority of Ranger games this year, is blocking Botts.

But if you release Wilkerson now to make room for Botts, that's fine.

However, I do think there are a couple of things that mitigate in favor of Wilkerson sticking around.

First is the fact that I think Wilkerson is going to be easier to trade.  Sosa is a DH.  He's played just 16 games in the field, and Ron Washington has said that he doesn't want to play Sosa out there too much because he's afraid he'll wear down, and the perception is that Sosa isn't going to be able to play the field regularly.  Wilkerson is viewed as more versatile defensively.

Also, Wilkerson is the type of patient, work-the-count hitter that a lot of teams are valuing more, and have been attempting to obtain the past couple of years.  Sosa...not so much.

This isn't to say that Wilkerson is going to bring back something huge in a trade.  But I think there will be more of a market for Wilkerson than for Sosa.

Wilkerson's contract also makes him more desirable to hold onto and try to trade.  Wilkerson gets $4.5 million even if he's released.  Sosa gets $500K and a few incentives if he's released.  If a team is willing to take Wilkerson, and send nothing back but another Jason Fransz or Steve Shoemaker, that still results in saving a couple of million dollars.

How can you get rid of the guy that is leading the team in RBIs?

Because the RBIs are pretty much irrelevant.  Sosa isn't hitting well.

Look at Pedro Feliz last year.  He had 98 RBIs, despite an awful .244/.281/.428 line.  No one would credibly argue that he was driving in runs and thus deserved to stay in the lineup for the Giants...why do that for Sosa?

RBIs are largely a function of opportunity.  Sosa has more ABs, by far, with runners in scoring position than any other Ranger.  He should be leading the team in RBIs.  But it doesn't change the fact that he's not been very good this year.

Sosa may not be great, but Jason Botts probably wouldn't hit any better than Sosa.

If Jason Botts isn't capable of putting up at least a .254 EQA and a .242/.297/.458 line in the majors right now, then the Rangers should have waived him, rather than Daniel Haigwood, in April.  If Botts can't hit that well, there's no point keeping him on the 40 man roster.

Of course, looking at his minor league numbers, there's no reason to believe he can't hit that well.  That's why it is so baffling that, with a last place team whose season is already over, he isn't being given the opportunity over the last few months of the season.

Sosa is an outfielder and can play defense -- Jason Botts doesn't even know how to use a glove.

No question, Botts isn't a very good defensive player.  He's a sub-par defensive outfieder.  

But does that really make much difference, in comparison to Sammy Sosa?  Sosa has DH'd 43 times this season, and played in the field 16 times.  Like Botts, he's a DH who is going to play some outfield occasionally.  They fill the exact same roles.

There are ABs available for the Rangers the rest of the year at the DH slot.  Botts should be getting them, not Sosa.

If Botts were really that good, the Rangers would be playing him already.

The problem with that argument is that the Rangers also thought Adrian Gonzalez couldn't hit well enough to be a good first baseman.  They thought Travis Hafner was a AAAA slugger.  They thought Adam Eaton was better than Chris Young.  They thought Matt Kata was a better option than Marlon Byrd coming out of spring training.  They thought Jamey Wright and his "electric stuff" deserved the #5 starter role.

And you know, maybe Botts won't be that good.  Maybe he's a AAAA slugger, a guy who won't ever hit in the majors.  

But now's the time to find that out.  Botts is going to be out of options next year, and the Rangers are going to need a DH next year.

There's no point in continuing to give a guy who isn't going to be part of the next good Rangers team ABs, when they could be going to Botts, a guy who at least has a chance of being a contributor when the Rangers are in the playoff hunt again.

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