Brian Bannister Rumors

Brian Bannister Q&A, Part 2

Royals starter Brian Bannister was kind enough to answer questions for MLBTR readers.  Check out Part 1 and Part 3 of the Q&A, also.

MLBTR: What’s the most misunderstood aspect of succeeding in baseball by typical fans, sportswriters, and announcers?

Bannister: There are two things that make baseball unique from other sports. One, baseball is a game of skill that is accentuated by the physical tools of the person performing those skills. Most people superficially judge a position player solely on size, strength, and speed, when his eyesight, balance, rhythm, hand-eye coordination, and mental makeup are much more influential factors in his future success. It is when a player embodies all of these qualities that we get our superstars and hall-of-famers. I would much rather face a hitter with "80" power and "80" speed but bad strike zone discipline than one with no power and a .400+ OBP. Over the course of time, the hitter with the .400+ OBP is going to hurt me much, much more, especially if he is surrounded by other good hitters.

Secondly, whether you like it or not, baseball is a game of randomness. We play outdoors (mostly) in changing elements and field dimensions, and each pitch results in a series of events that can go in either teams favor. One thing that I have have come to accept is that just because I train hard physically, I practice perfectly, I prepare diligently, and execute a pitch exactly as I wanted, it can still result in a home run. In golf, if you analyze all the variables correctly (lie, distance, slope, wind, etc.) and execute your swing perfectly, it will result in a great shot. Not so for a pitcher or a hitter. A hitter can swing the bat perfectly and it will result in an out more than six times out of ten. Therefore, as a pitcher, I study and play to put the percentages in my favor more than anything because I know that I can’t control the outcome in a single game or series of games, but over the course of a season or a career I will be better than average.

MLBTR: How will you prepare to face the Tigers’ everyday lineup?

Bannister: I have a good knowledge of and also a healthy respect for the Tigers’ lineup, and I have faced new additions Miguel Cabrera and Jacque Jones before. Edgar Renteria is the one new player that I don’t have any experience against.

I think the most important thing when preparing to face a lineup of this caliber is to be realistic and to recognize how they have been playing recently, because confidence level is everything with a good offense. If you look at good lineups, they tend to be extremely streaky, but their cold streaks will be much shorter than their hot streaks over the course of a season. During the hot streaks, teams and opposing pitchers tend to be intimidated by their offensive prowess, and games can be blowouts. In contrast, during the cold streaks they can seem to be a totally different team because they have very high expectations placed on them by the fans and media, and when they’re struggling, it tends to snowball.

When a good lineup is hot, the only thing you can do is throw strikes and not allow yourself to put hitters on base unnecessarily. They are going to get their hits, and when they get them, you don’t want a lot of runners on base. By keeping yourself ahead in the count, you can reduce your pitch count and hopefully their slugging percentage as well.

When a team is struggling at the plate, a pitcher can take advantage by expanding the strike zone, especially with runners in scoring position. Hitters that have had a drought of home runs/RBIs tend to press in those situations, and they will underperform their historical OBP because they are anxious to drive in runs and break out of their slump.

I will also apply this strategy to individual hitters within the lineup. I choose my spots to try and get outs while avoiding the hitters that are hot. A lineup is a constantly changing dynamic that requires a mix of planning, psychology, and quick adjustments in order to be successful.

Brian Bannister Q&A, Part 1

We’ve done some Q&As with players before – Curtis Granderson, Jason Hirsh, and Michael Barrett.  This time, for our Brian Bannister Q&A, we had readers submit the questions.  Brian really went the extra mile to accomodate, providing thoughtful and elaborate answers.  Great stuff – many thanks to him for participating.  We’ll break this up into several parts. (UPDATE: Read Part 2 and Part 3).

MLBTR:  What was your initial reaction when you heard that the Mets had traded you to the Royals? Where were you when it happened, and who told you?   

Bannister: As baseball players, all we want is an opportunity to play. I don’t know what plans the Mets had for me in 2007 before the trade, but I knew that the Royals wanted me to step up and be in the starting rotation right away, and that’s all I could ask for. The Mets will always be very special to me. They took a chance and drafted me, they invested a lot of time and resources in me over the years in the minor leagues, and they let me represent their organization in 2006 at the major league level. I have a lot of respect for the Wilpon family and the way they run their organization, the coaches that made sacrifices for me, and the fans that supported me. I will be eternally grateful to the Brooklyn Cyclones and their fans, because my career began there, and at the end of 2006 they retired my number 19 at Keyspan Park.

Ironically, the day before I was traded I was at a card show in New York City, and was signing autographs at a table in between my friend (and Mets pitcher) John Maine and Royals great Bo Jackson, whom I had known as a child when my father played for the Royals but had not seen in over 15 years. Bo and I talked for a while afterwards, and we told Royals stories from the 80’s. Little did I know I would be a Royal the next day.

MLBTR: How much of your success in this game so far do you contribute to having a father who was a successful Major Leaguer? Do you have any kind of rivalry with him, hoping to put up better numbers than he did in his time?

Bannister: One thing I’ve always appreciated about my father is that he never forced me to play the game of baseball. Instead, he always made himself available to practice with me if I felt like it, and that’s what made me want to work even harder at the game.

I attribute a lot of my success to the simple fact that I grew up with a baseball and a bat in my hands at all times. I believe that the human body develops coordination and skill in the early years much easier than in the adult years, and that is a reason you see so many fathers and sons in the big leagues. I also was able to watch Major League players practice, train, and prepare for games, and I have carried those principles into my own career.

There is no competition between my father and I, but I will openly admit that I am envious of his power left arm. We pitch in a totally different style, and I think we have learned a lot from watching each other pitch.

MLBTR: Have you ever talked to Greg Maddux?  Who was your favorite pitcher growing up, outside of your father?

Bannister: I have never had the privilege of talking with Greg Maddux, but I have spent plenty of time watching him on video. I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Tom Glavine, who is from the same mold as Maddux as a pitcher. The one thing I appreciate about both is their mental toughness and unwillingness to give in to hitters. My favorite quote from Maddux is:

"When they’re in a jam, a lot of pitchers…try to throw harder. Me, I try to locate better."

I have pitched with that quote in the back of my mind for my entire career. Every pitcher is going to give up walks and hits, but the only thing that matters at the end of the day is how many runs you give up.

Greg, if you’re reading this, I’d love to play golf with you someday. Just let me know when and where, and good luck this season.

Questions For Brian Bannister?

I first became a Brian Bannister fan when I read about how he prepares for AL vs. NL lineups (scroll to the bottom of this post).  The 26 year-old Royals starter definitely seems like an intellectual pitcher.

Brian has kindly agreed to do a Q&A for MLBTR.  Hit me with your questions for him in the comments and I’ll choose the best five or six.

Bannister for Burgos: done

ESPN is reporting that the Mets are sending Brian Bannister to Kansas City for Ambiorix Burgos.  Neither pitcher is a difference-maker, but I’m a bit surprised the Mets are giving up a solid rotation option (albeit a back-of-the-rotation option) for a short reliever. 

Burgos has upside, but this says to me that Omar Minaya is very confident of landing at least one more starter this offseason.  The Mets rotation could be spectacular once everyone is healthy, but there are a heck of a lot of question marks for Minaya to be trading away his insurance.  On the flip side, this seems like a solid deal for the Royals: they need somebody to eat a bunch of innings, and Bannister comes a whole lot cheaper than the Mark Redmans, Tomo Ohkas, and Miguel Batistas of the world.

By Jeff Sackmann, Brew Crew Ball

Gotham: Reds Still After Bonderman

According to Gotham Baseball, reporting from the Winter Meetings, the Reds are still trying to trade for Jeremy Bonderman.  Unfortunately, the Tigers probably will not trade him.  Wayne Krivsky is chasing a lesser option in Brian Bannister of the Mets.  Last week, we reported that the Rockies and Mariners have interest in Bannister.

Of course, plenty of teams are still trying to trade for Jason Jennings.  Those include the Mets, D’Backs, Astros, and Cards according to Gotham.  Previously, the Rockies had received inquiries from the Cubs and Twins.

Brian Bannister Available?

Word from my Mets source is that the team is in a holding pattern until Tom Glavine makes his decision.  He feels that the club will end up with either Glavine or Barry Zito and fill the other spots internally.

There is a chance Brian Bannister is traded for a solid reliever to replace Chad Bradford.  Interested parties include the Rockies and Mariners.  He mentioned the D’Backs as well, but their interest may have waned now that Doug Davis has been acquired.

Mets Trade Rumor: Milledge For Oswalt Or Schmidt

Jon Heyman busts out a big one early Monday morning: the Mets are in "serious talks" for Jason Schmidt or Roy Oswalt.  The key to any deal would be Lastings Milledge.

Heyman mentions that Brian Bannister would be needed to pry Oswalt away but not Schmidt.  He also says Aaron Heilman could be used to "enhance" a deal.

It seems now that Oswalt really is in play, which is strange given the Astros’ lack of depth behind Roger Clemens.  Speaking of which, why not put the Rocket on the block instead?   

Gotham Baseball’s Zito Rumor

Gotham Baseball’s Executive Editor, Mark Healey, had some informed speculation on Monday about a possible trade of Barry Zito to the Mets for Lastings Milledge and Brian Bannister.  I figured I’d pass it along, as these guys seem to have some good front office type sources.

Here are some highlights quoted from Healey from the thread:

"Call me nuts…but I still think something is happening here and will in the next couple of days…

Mike and I talk to scouts, front office people every week, sometimes daily….mostly to check on things, etc…

Before and after our respective trips to ST…we both did pre-work and post-work…

When people start getting tight-lipped, and strange things like Milledge and Bannister staying in Major League camp longer than they were supposed to be — my antenna goes up.

However, be that as it may, this thread was specualtion…if I had any corroboration, it’d be in the Rumor Mill.

[posted today] About five minutes after I posted the above I got a phone call from my West Coast guy saying that My speculation "might not be far off the mark" but wouldn’t elaborate…saying to check on what Oakland GM Billy Beane has been up to…

Hmmm…seems Billy traded the immortal Juan Cruz to the D’Backs for Brad Halsey (a 25 year old left-hander)…

Another starter, one less reliever for the Oaks?

The plot thickens…"

New Manny Scenario Discussed?

A source close to the Mets organization has supplied me with a possible trade scenario that is being discussed.  It’s complicated, but I thought I’d put it out there.

Mets trade: Aaron Heilman, Cliff Floyd, Victor Diaz, Brian Bannister
Mets get: Manny Ramirez

TB trades: Julio Lugo, Joey Gathright
TB receives: Aaron Heilman, Victor Diaz, Bronson Arroyo

Red Sox trade: Manny Ramirez, Bronson Arroyo
Red Sox receive: Julio Lugo, Joey Gathright, Cliff Floyd, Brian Bannister

Wow.  I’m not sure if this is any more plausible than the other complicated possibilities floating around, but this is a solid source.  Let’s see if it passes the reality test.

The Mets give up Heilman, Floyd, Diaz, and Bannister for Manny.  That’s a huge bounty, but the only real gem there is Heilman.  Plus, Manny is still a superstar.  Diaz is a good outfield prospect, and Bannister is a B level starter with a low ceiling.  Floyd is a year away from free agency and expendable if Manny is acquired.  The Mets could always try to get Manny and keep Floyd, but Floyd hasn’t played RF since 2002.  I would say this portion is not too far-fetched.

How about Tampa Bay’s side of things?  First off, my guess is that upper management would be reluctant to package Lugo and Gathright together.  As with the Huff/Baez rumors, why not just trade them separately and maximize the return?  The demand is certainly there.  Lugo is a hot commodity right now, and the Rays have been asking for a lot of Gathright (Scott Olsen?).  Arroyo would make a great #2 for TB; I’ve projected him to lead the Red Sox in wins in 2006.  The team doesn’t have a need for Diaz in a stacked outfield.  Then again, he’d be a decent fit at first base.  They’d probably love to have Heilman in the rotation or closing games.  Overall, I’d label this part of the trade as somewhat questionable.

The Red Sox are basically getting three quality Major Leaguers in return for a superstar and a promising young starter.  Given Floyd’s injury record and impending free agency, I can see his inclusion.  Gathright hasn’t proven anything at the Major League level yet; only Lugo is a known quantity, and he’s also got free agency looming.  So if you look at it that way, things seem fair for the Red Sox.  The Mets might even have to throw in some cash to make this work for the Sox.       

Wild Rumor From Gotham Baseball

Gotham Baseball’s Mark Healey has heard a massive trade rumor from "multiple independent baseball sources."  Of course, it’s subject to change, isn’t close, and all the usual disclaimers.  Here’s the Cliff Notes version of it:

"Mets would send Heilman and Matsui (and $5 million) to Tampa Bay for Lugo. Then New York would send Lugo, Kris Benson, Brian Bannister and Victor Diaz to Baltimore for Tejada, and then send Tejada to the Red Sox for Manny Ramirez."

Let’s stop right there.  My opinion on each step of this possible deal:

Aaron Heilman for Julio Lugo sounds like fair value to me.  Gotham’s sources have the Mets eating $5MM of the $8MM owed to Kaz Matsui in 2006.  That part gels with the information I’ve heard from my Mets source that New York would have to pay at least half of Matsui’s salary to unload him. I’m not sure how the Devil Rays would structure their infield, with Jorge Cantu entrenched at second base and B.J. Upton ready to take over at short.  I had thought the D-Rays would hold out for more than this for Lugo – a good reliever plus someone else’s baggage.  I still feel that they’ll want more.

So then the Orioles are giving up their superstar shortstop, possibly one of the five best players in baseball, for Julio Lugo, Kris Benson, Brian Bannister, and Victor Diaz.  This is where the plausibility of the rumor breaks down for me.  The Orioles have given every indication that they need a star player back for Tejada – they’re not even sold on Mark Prior.  Lugo’s a good player for $5MM, but he hits free agency after that.  Benson is a fourth starter who figures to post an ERA around 4 over the next two seasons while being paid more than $15MM.  That doesn’t add much value for the O’s.  Bannister is a smart young pitcher with a good minor league track record, but Baseball America has said he’s "not overpowering" and "doesn’t have a high ceiling."  Diaz is still a valuable prospect, but could easily turn out to be a career reserve.

To sum it up, the Orioles are giving up Tejada to get a pretty good SS in his contract year, an overpaid fourth starter, a B-level pitching prospect, and a solid outfield prospect.  That’s quantity over quality, and I don’t see it happening.

To finish it off, the Mets ship Tejada to the Red Sox for Manny, effectively giving up nothing impressive for the superstar outfielder, considering the players sent to Baltimore.  Not entirely sold on that step, and I’d heard the Orioles did not want Tejada to play for a division rival.

UPDATE:  Just asked my Mets source whether the above scenario could happen.  He said there’s no way: "Orioles get screwed, the Red Sox get screwed, and the Mets have everything go their way." 

Healey’s article also mentions these comments from a baseball official:

"If Barry Zito doesn’t get dealt before opening day, the A’s are screwed.  No one is willing to pay Beane’s price after what the Braves paid for Hudson [Namely, Dan Meyer, Juan Cruz and Charles Thomas]."

I don’t agree with the baseball official, for what it’s worth.  The A’s hold all the cards with Zito.  They have absolutely no need to unload him, and will boast a deep rotation if they keep Zito until July.  I find it odd that the official cites the Hudson trade as hurting Beane’s ability to make major trades.  The Tim Hudson deal is one where the Braves can be labeled a clear winner.  The highly touted Meyer quickly got hurt and is a question mark, Cruz wasn’t deemed Major League ready by Oakland, and Charles Thomas has completely crapped out.  Perhaps the official meant to refer to the Mark Mulder trade.