Nasty no more- who's moneyballin' now?

Wednesday, December 15 2004 @ 11:45 AM EST

Contributed by: Mike Green reports that Tom (Nasty) Mastny was sent to Cleveland to complete the trade for John McDonald.

It's a minor trade- a 23 year old pitcher who has just completed a successful year in the Sally League for a good glove, no hit shortstop. Digging a little deeper though, the trade seems to suggest to me that the Moneyball label does not always belong on these Jays, and sometimes could equally well be placed on the Indians.

Tom Mastny is 23 years old, and has 4 average pitches. He has very good control, and has demonstrated an exceptional ability to avoid the home run ball to date. There have been no reports of any injury. Pitching prospects are historically much more difficult to project than hitting prospects. The best ones (Dustin McGowan, Mark Prior) succeed much more often than the lesser ones like Mastny, but the ratio is on the order of 3-1, whereas it might be 10-1 or more for comparable hitting prospects. Mastny might have a 10-20% chance of being a major league pitcher. Mastny is also the kind of pitcher who traditional scouts do not like. He doesn't possess the 95 mph fastball or the sharp slider or the sweeping curve or the nasty change. That is why he was available in the 11th round of the draft, despite leading the NCAA in ERA in his last year of college.

On the other hand, the market for major league pitching awards even average pitchers with much higher salaries than average players at other positions. From a "Moneyball" perspective, Mastny is precisely the kind of pitcher who would be undervalued, albeit at a relatively low level.

John McDonald is a fine fielding shortstop, with a career major league line of .231/.270/.308. Traditional approaches to the game have often favored this kind of trade-off of defence for offence in a shortstop. It is easy to see this in Hall of Fame voting for shortstops, as described in a recent article of mine. Performance-based approaches would generally take the approach that it takes Ozzie Smith level defence to make up for a .231/.270/.308 line, unless it was possible to give him 150 defensive innings and 30-40 at-bats.

It has been commonplace to characterize the Ricciardi Jays as a "Moneyball" team, based on his prior work with the A's and the hiring of Keith Law. This seems to me to be an oversimplification; the team attempts to meld performance-based and traditional approaches to the game. In this case, traditional approaches seem to have taken precedence.

I would describe this as a poor trade for the Jays. I guess that means I find myself a little closer to the performance-based approach than to the traditional one.