Sarah's Take: Finding right players no simple task
By Sarah D. Morris
As free agency is upon all baseball teams, I thought it might be interesting for my readers to learn what I would look for when I choose players for my favorite team.
Choosing players is difficult and unpredictable. Sometimes people who watch baseball seem to forget humans play the game. No player will succeed every time he appears in a game. The general managers around Major League Baseball must figure out which player will be the most successful and attempt to lure that player to their respective team. Sometimes it works. Sometimes, even when the general manager acquires the particular player he wants, the player doesn't perform the way the GM thought he would. This disappoints the team and its fans.
On Friday, Dodgers starting pitcher Brett Anderson accepted the club's qualifying offer, so he will return with Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood, who was acquired in July from the Atlanta Braves, to the Dodgers' starting rotation in 2016. With his long history of injuries -- even though he was healthy this past season -- Anderson is a risk for the Dodgers.
I would choose him for my favorite team. Anderson, 27, still is relatively young, and perhaps he has learned better conditioning techniques that will enable him to prevent injuries. He has good control, which allows him to limit the number of pitches required to retire a batter. Since he is a ground-ball pitcher, Anderson can go deep into a game, and this gives the bullpen a break. It's a rare occurrence when he allows a home run. Although Anderson might go on the disabled list again, he is a quality starting pitcher who is worth the risk.
Zack Greinke should be wanted by every team who can afford his services. In 2015 with the Dodgers, he had the lowest ERA in the Major Leagues. He conserves his pitches well but can still strike out a batter when that hitter is in a quality run-producing situation. Greinke can paint the corners of the strike zone seemingly at will. At 32, he has had enough experience not to be bothered by pressure situations. He is a terrific fielder, winning his second straight Gold Glove Award this season. He also can hit, homering twice and batting .224 in '15.
When Greinke opted out of a lucrative contract with the Dodgers, many people saw it as greed by Greinke. However, Greinke's decision is completely understandable, and the Dodgers asked for this scenario when they allowed his contract to have an opt-out clause. He is not making as much as some other top starters in the game.
A hitter should have a high batting average and a good knowledge of the strike zone. Although home runs are exciting, they don't seem that important. A hitter needs to be able to shorten his swing to make consistent contact. Since the Kansas City Royals don't strike out often, they were able to prolong rallies and take advantage of most scoring opportunities.
To many people, a double play is known as a "rally killer." Although a double play is terrible, it doesn't kill a team's morale as badly as a strikeout when it comes with the bases loaded. The opposition must have good defense to turn a double play. If both the Dodgers and the Cubs hadn't struck out as much as they did against the New York Mets during the playoffs, either team could have advanced to the World Series.
Joc Pederson is one of the brightest young stars in the game. During the 2015 season, Pederson prevented countless runs from scoring with his highlight-reel catches. But if Kiké Hernández hadn't strained a hamstring in late August, Pederson probably wouldn't have played much in September. Although Pederson's defense was key to winning many games, his inability to make consistent contact at the plate hurt the team more than his superior defense helped them.
Choosing players is complicated. Many teams are using advanced statistics to help them evaluate a player's abilities. Yes, sometimes statistics can give the general manager a clearer picture of a player's worth, but those numbers don't tell the whole story. A combination of statistics and personality traits is needed to choose a player, but finding the correct balance of these is difficult.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.