A-Rod vs. Willie

Fivethirtyeight had an interesting article about A-Rod and Willie Mays. As you may have heard, A-Rod hit #660 and #661 quite recently, and there’s a bunch of shit about him not getting paid a bonus for various reasons. What I want to take a moment to talk about is Fivethirtyeight’s central assertion: Willie Mays was much better than Alex Rodriguez. Fivethirtyeight used rWAR (Baseball Reference’s WAR) as a baseline comparison, but you can do the same with fWAR (Fangraphs’ WAR). fWAR actually hurts A-Rod slightly and gives Willie Mays a boost, but the gap between them is largely the same.

I do not disagree that Mays was superior, as an overall baseball player, than A-Rod, based on the statistical record. By rate stats, they’re extremely close: Mays was .302/.384/.557, A-Rod is (as of this post) .299/.384/.558. Mays played a bit less than 500 more games than A-Rod has, which naturally gives him a boost in counting stats. Offensively, A-Rod has a career OPS+ of 143, but Mays trumps him with a 156. Of course, much of this is due to offensive era, but obviously you wouldn’t reject either of them on your team.

The most significant thing I want to address is something that might help close the gap, at least a bit: A-Rod was blocked from being as valuable as he ought to have been because Derek Jeter was, fundamentally, selfish. A-Rod should have been the team’s shortstop, not Jeter. By dWAR, Derek Jeter was a – 9.7; he cost his team almost 10 full wins over the course of his career; of course, his oWAR was nearly 100, but that’s still docking him 10%.

A-Rod added 11 dWAR over the course of his career (and was even better with the bat). This is a no-brainer of a decision — stick Jeter at third, not A-Rod. Maybe when Bernie Williams retires, dump Jeter in CF. Keep him away from shortstop. I think A-Rod’s value might have approached Mays’ if he stayed at SS (the gap is only 7.1 WAR in defense.) It doesn’t help him with Mays’ vastly superior base running, or ability to make contact, or that Mays stood out far more over his peers. But it does give us a fairer appreciation of A-Rod.

Some draft grades

Mel Kiper Jr. gave Cleveland a B (which 8 other teams shared). Kiper dinged the Browns a bit for Erving (why do people insist he’s a center when he doesn’t have much experience there and won’t play center with the Browns in the first season?), but dinged them more for not grabbing a QB. Kiper doesn’t surprise me any more; he’s as mainstream as mainstream gets.

Sports on Earth also gave Cleveland a B. They attack the Erving choice and immediately explain why they are stupid one sentence later!

Cameron Erving was an odd choice, unless the team really thinks Alex Mack is opting out after this year. On the other hand, he can play all five spots on the line.

Why is this so hard for people to understand? Sports on Earth, to be fair, did have a much better reason for dinging Cleveland, the lack of pass catchers. Kiper’s more optimistic than they are.

Football Outsiders didn’t mention Cleveland’s first round directly in their Day One Audibles, although they did have this gem:

Scott Kacsmar: Cleveland’s offensive-line spending is like paying four security guards $100,000 to escort Pauly Shore and Andy Dick around town. What’s the point?

Hey now, we’re going to be a run first offense, Kacsmar. Browns were passed by in Day Two and Three Audibles too.

SI gave Cleveland a B-, insisting that DeVante Parker was more useful to Cleveland than Danny Shelton (which is the height of absurdity); again, the standard “WHERE DO THEY PLAY ERVING HE’S A CENTER” line is paired with rare criticism for taking Duke Johnson — Johnson has a different skill set than Crowell or West, so this isn’t really fair either.

SB Nation says “B”. Nothing new or exciting in terms of commentary.

NFL.com was very kind, with a B+. They didn’t like Cleveland’s Day 2 (but praised Duke Johnson and Nate Orchard; I have to think it’s for what Cleveland didn’t do, that is, take a wide out.) They have nice things to say about Mayle and bad things to say about Cooper, the safety.

CBS Sports didn’t give out grades, but loved Cleveland’s draft.

Fansided had the best grade for Cleveland, an A-. They didn’t like Mayle (called him mostly a possession guy) and really hated Charles Gaines, who they think won’t even crack the final 53.

I, personally, think Cleveland deserves an A. They addressed needs, found quality players, and didn’t make many picks that seem likely to fail. Those that do are sixth and seventh rounders.

Day three of the draft for Cleveland

I already covered the first two days of the draft; let’s wrap this up!

Our first pick in the fourth round went to DB Ibraheim Campbell. Based on Tom Reed’s report, he sounds like more of a safety than a cornerback, with good tackling skill but weak in coverage. Our second fourth rounder went to a wide receiver, Vince Mayle. Mayle’s more of a possession guy, at least for now, but scouts seem optimistic he could be more than that.

Charles Gaines, chosen in the sixth round, has some off-field issues but apparently showed tremendous growth of character. Gaines isn’t the ideal height for a corner, but he has experience as a wide out, which means he should have good hands. He’s very bright, so he could fill in the depth chart nicely. The next choice was Malcolm Johnson, a TE but most likely an NFL H-back. The NFL’s website had nothing other than height and weight; he apparently did not attend the combine. Dawgs By Nature has a little more, but not much. We’ll have to give him an incomplete for now. A trade with Arizona (to move down in the fourth round) bought Cleveland another fourth rounder, plus a sixth and seventh. That third sixth turned into another TE, Randall Telfer. He’s a blocker first and receiver second; that still has a lot of value in a run heavy offense, and for a sixth rounder, it’s great value.

A pair of defensive players rounded out the Cleveland draft in the seventh round. Hayes Pullard is an athletic linebacker who sometimes act lazy. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Cleveland’s last pick, is an extremely talented cornerback with serious injury issues.  NFL.com doesn’t like his technique, but he could be a real star with some luck.

Overall, Cleveland addressed the team’s most glaring issues, didn’t add yet another QB, and made smart, safe picks in the early rounds. CBS thinks very highly of the class, and so do I. I’m looking forward to next season, to seeing how the new guys integrate with the veterans.

Let’s talk the third round

Cleveland got two selections in the third round as well; I am somewhat less sanguine about those. First was Duke Johnson, a running back. Cleveland has two great running backs already; Johnson, however, is more of a pure speed guy/receiver. A poor man’s Reggie Bush, maybe. This line makes me a little optimistic: ” He’s perfectly suited for a role as a zone-scheme back.” Gee, like Cleveland’s offense!

Xavier Cooper, the last pick in the third round (which Cleveland got in another trade), is another DT, but he’s the anti-Danny Shelton: a pass rusher who happens to play at tackle. I could see him moving to the outside, maybe.

I really wanted to see Cleveland grab a wide out or tight end; they still have two fourth rounders, so maybe that’ll get addressed tomorrow, but I overall do like the direction they’ve taken in the draft. I’m just not enthusiastic about Johnson or Cooper… yet.

More draft news

Cleveland swapped their second rounder and a seventh rounder to Houston for their second round pick, a fourth, and a sixth, which I call a win. Cleveland then drafted edge rusher Nate Orchard. Orchard projects to be quite similar to Paul Kruger; even though we’ve already got one of those, why not have two? Although pass rush wasn’t as pressing a need as stopping the run (and the scouting report on Orchard is troubling, saying he gets “engulfed at the point of attack”), it was still a place we could improve upon.

We have to go offense in round 3, preferably a receiver of some sort. As I write this, nobody has taken Bryce Petty yet, and if the Browns really like him, I could see him snapped up.

Round 1 is in the books and I couldn’t be happier

We got Danny Shelton! When the only glaring weaknesses, according to SI, are that he sucks as a pass rusher, well, the Browns didn’t draft him for that. We need to stop the run in 2015 and we’re in a much better position to do that.

We also got Cameron Erving! I hadn’t heard of him before the draft, but the more I hear, the more I like him. He’s a future replacement for Alex Mack (if he walks), Mitchell Schwartz (if he walks or outplays him in camp), or even start at RG (since John Del Greco is what advanced sports analysts term ‘meh’.)

Assuming Cleveland also grabs a wideout tomorrow, I am a happy camper. So is Terry Pluto, and if he’s happy, I’m happy. The best move Cleveland made is the one they didn’t make: trading up for Mariota. McCown can fight him in camp to see who wins the spot; I’m looking forward to Manziel either proving he can’t handle the NFL or proving that he can. I just want proof.