Saturday, February 13, 2016

Season 33 Predictions

Divison Winners/Wild Cards

AL North:  White Sox
AL East:    Red Sox
AL South:  Royals
Al West:     Athletics
AL WC 1:   Angels
AL WC 2:   Twins

NL North:  Expos
NL East:    Nationals
NL South:  Astros
NL West:   Rockies
NL WC 1:  Braves
NL WC 2:  Mets

Most Wins (AL) - White Sox 107
Most Wins (NL) - Nationals  100

ALCS:  Angels defeat Red Sox
NLCS:  Nationals defeat Rockies

World Series:  Nationals defeat Angels

AL MVP:  Magglio Rodriguez, 2B White Sox (#2 Matt Lawrence, 1B Red Sox)
NL MVP:  Cecil Bonilla, LF Mets (#2 Freddie Lanning, RF Braves)

AL CY:  Luis Osuna, Angels (#2 Manuel Cano, Tigers)
NL CY:  Jim Colin, Expos  (#2 Tony Moya, Astros)

AL ROY:  Vin Gumbs, Yankees (#2 Deven Carter, Mariners)
NL ROY:  Leonardo Grimm, Expos (#2 Tony Baerga, Pirates)

Season 33 AL West Preview

The Angels keep the powder dry ...Mariners get a table-setter ...Diamondbacks gear up to lead the league in runs...A's hope for a pitching rebound

Anaheim Angels
Season 32:  93-69
GM: kennedrj

"Breakthrough" Means:  Winning 2 of the next 5 World Series.  They've done everything else - 15 straight winning seasons, 13 of those in the playoffs, 5 WS trips but just 1 win.

To Do That They Have To:  Round up a monster setup man (or 2) to fill the gap between the starters and closer Felipe Jose.  They had a couple of very short relievers have decent seasons, but for the most part their RP's disappointed...they're losing some games in the 7th and 8th innings.  

This Team Is Built On:  Power Bats :  250 HR's last year and 8 hitters had 20+ (DH Amaro with 40 and LF Acosta with 33 led); Starting pitchers that go deep into games :  their 5 primary starters all had 10+ wins in Season 32.

Player to Watch:  Emmanuel Prieto moves in as the CF starter.  Incredible range - the Angels could add 25 "+" plays to the ledger from him alone.  Will botch the occasional easy catch, but his range far overshadows that.

Seattle Mariners
Season 32:  89-73
GM: captain10a

"Breakthrough" Means:  getting to the World Series.  captain10a has been piloting the Mariners to (almost all) winning seasons for 15 years, but the trip to the Big Dance has eluded him.

To Do That They Have To:  Get on base much, much better.   Despite leading the AL with 267 HR's (in a difficult park to boot), the M's were 14th in runs scored with 724.  The culprit: a league-low .299 OBP.  Their pitching is always in the top 5 (watch Eswalin Camacho this year at age 38) and they have a nice core of power hitters (1B Paul Stock, RF Gerald Crane and rookie C Deven Carter.

This Team Is Built On:  The 1-run homer rather than (unfortunately) the 3-run homer, and tough pitching top-to-bottom.

Player to Watch:  Larry Sewell could be the table-setter (or at least one of them) they desperately need.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Season 32:  80-82
GM:  drichter

"Breakthrough" Means:  Cracking 90 wins and challenging for the Division.  They've done it twice (made the playoffs) during drichter's tenure, and there were positive signs last year with an 11-win improvement.

To Do That They Have To:  Get some pitching!  That 4.86 ERA won't cut it for contenders. Some defense wouldn't hurt, either - 93 unearned runs, a .980 fielding % (15th), and 15/61 +/- plays are not the numbers of playoff teams.  To be fair, they did make some moves on the pitching front in FA.

This Team Is Built On:  Scoring runs!  They led the AL with 897 runs in Season 31 and tied for 2nd with 864 last year.  They hit all kinds of ways: HR's:  Andrelczyk, Sodowski and Hawkins had 30+ and 10 players were in double figures; walks - 7 players over 50; triples: their 41 led the league.  Their SS (Sodowsky) went .302/32/104 when most teams' SS's are hitting .237/3/35.

Player to Watch:  2nd-year SP Patrick Hunter.  The Snakes had high hopes for the 7th pick of the Season 29 draft, but he was a huge disappointment as a rookie, going 8-14 with a monster 5.85 ERA.  He'll improve, possibly by a lot.

Oakland Athletics
Season 32:  71-91
GM:  billhowell75

"Breakthrough" Means:  Get to the playoffs.  They've made it 3 times in the last 16 seasons, and not since Season 28.

To Do That They Have To:  Get some pitching, pitching PITCHING!  Their team ERA was dead last at 5.54 last year.  But that was a bit deceptive. They actually have some very good bullpen arms - Castillo, Canseco, De Aza, Aldridge, Buxton. They had 2  starters - Russ Hiljus and Al Rosado - who had their worst years as a major leaguers.  They should recover to ERA's around 3.50 (Hiljus) and 4.00 (Rosado).  Rookie Pete Stoddard (Season 29 #27) should be better than most of starters were last year.

This Team Is Built On:  Getting on base - their .347 OBP led the AL (C Tony Chirinos and 1B Stevie Foltynewicz paced the team at .389 and .382).  The offseason trade acquisition of Shawn Quinn should help drive home more of those baserunners.

Player to Watch:  SP Edgmer Cervelli.  A throw-in in the Max Mullens-Shawn Quinn trade, Cervelli has major league juice but as Harry Doyle might say, "occasionally has a little trouble finding the plate" (Cervelli broke Nuke Laloosh's Class A season record for hit mascots).  Will he be the phenom who posted a .539 OPS-against in 26 innings for Tampa Bay in Season 31?  Or will he be the Cervelli who walked 53 in 71 innings en route to a 6.78 ERA last year?  The answer may determine Oakland's season outcome.

Divison Outlook:

For my one crazy prediction, I'm saying Oakland goes worst-to-first and wins the division, with the Angels nosing out Seattle for 2nd.

Awards Watch:

Angels:  SP Luis Osuna has everything needed for a CY: good stuff, stamina, run support. It just hasn't happened yet.

Mariners: watch for C Deven Carter in the ROY competition, IF he can hit RHP a little

Diamondbacks:  Gil Sodowsky would be an MVP candidate - IF he moved to 3B, where he'd be winning Gold Gloves.  

A's:  Russ Hiljus is a good enough P to win a CY, especially with the home-ballpark help Oakland affords.

Friday, February 12, 2016

AL East Season 33 Preview

The Red Sox - so close ...Indians - quiet offseason...Yankees still building...Orioles developing the farm

Boston Red Sox 
Season 32:  91-71
GM: Spistol

Season 32 Strengths/Weaknesses: One of the top 1 or 2 offenses in the AL with 864 runs (t 2nd), 235 HR's (5th) and a .282 BA (1st). 1B Matt Lawrence had a huge career year with .295/46/147 and had plenty of help:  5 other Sox batsmen topped 20 longballs (and 2B Eddie Hines was right there with 19).  The pitching, with a 4.31 ERA, wasn't was good enough to get within 1 game of the WS.  But it's probably where Boston will seek upgrades.  The top end of the staff, with Sherry Grey (16-7, 3.21) et al. was fine.  But they had a few guys pitching 100 innings and turning in 5+ ERA's.  Felipe Tavarez is the ultimate mystery - his ERA's are always in the 3's or over 6 - never in the 4's or 5's.  The Sox' ML payroll is in the $100 million range, so they'll have to be picky about free agency help.

Addressed In Offseason:  They added SP Yorman Morales (4.86 ERA over 9 seasons) and short RP Daryl O'Halloran (4.36 ERA over 6 years).  They also promoted David Fernandez late last season - he could see a lot of work as both a SP and LR.

Cleveland Indians
Season 32:  75-87
GM: jgnjr

Season 32 Strengths/Weaknesses:  A little under the AL average with 749 runs scored - a little better on the contact/on-base skills, and  a little worse on the power categories(180 HR's - 11th).  C Ralph Dunn (.317/22/82) and LF Philip Rose (.283/38/102) had huge seasons and CF Joe Smith swiped 89 bases.  The Tribe could really benefit from a couple more solid bats.  The pitching was just above league average with a 4.24 ERA.  Ace Murray Hudson was excellent agin with a 3.00 ERA, but only pitched 165 innings - perhaps a non-DL injury. They got great work out of many of their MR and setup guys - Serra, Park, Meacham, Stairs and Burton - but the bulk of the starts went to guys whose ERA's were pushing 5.  Of special note, SS Kurt Blackley set a Major Leagues record by becoming the only SS in world history to win 5 Gold Gloves - and he's still pickin' at 32.  With a ML payroll around $78 million, the Tribe has some room to add FA talent.

Addressed In Offseason:  The Tribe was eerily silent this offseason - no free agent signings and no promotions.

New York Yankees
Season 32:  73-89
GM:  fsubwj

Season 32 Strengths/Weaknesses:  The Yanks are in a rebuild phase after the long and successful mikeymel era.  They were competitive despite scoring a league-low 691 runs.  More importantly, how is that rebuild project coming?  Well, they've signed their last couple of first rounders, IF Sean Benard (Sea 31 # 24) and SP Vin Gumbs (Sea 32 #1).  And they've dipped into the IFA waters for 2B Frank Bong, RP Rosell Miro (looks like a huge bargain), OF Harry Cayones, and RP Aurelio James.  And they've got the ML payroll trimmed all the way down to $20 million.  With some good prospects in the pipeline, it's not impossible to imagine the Yanks going for a big FA splash this season.

Addressed In Offseason:  In a bold move, NY promoted last year's #1 overall, SP Vin Gumbs, to the ML roster after only 100 innings in the minors (AAA last year).  He was a pretty advanced 22 year-old college draftee, he has the stuff to pitch now in the majors, and he'll keep getting better...why not?  Their six shortstops made 35 errors and bad plays last year - they stabilized that situation by promoting Juan Torres and signing Phil Singleton, both pretty good defenders.

Baltimore Orioles
Season 32:  63-99
GM:  NormanW5

Season 32 Strengths/Weaknesses:  The Birds have been rebuilding for 4 seasons now...are they getting anywhere?  Not if you look purely at last year's results: 63 wins, 15th in runs scored and 14th in runs allowed.  But they've drafted reasonably well (Adrian Garcia - #5 last year, Eugenio Cespedes - #2 in Sea 31, Keith Townsend - #3 in Sea 30, Randy Grant - Sea 29 #9) and added the occasional useful IFA (Vin Torrealba last year, Albert Banuelos in Season 30).  If we ranked farm systems, Baltimore's would be up there.  Combine what's coming with the existing young talent (SP Flip Harris, Season 28's #1 overall pick, and DH Rudy House, who hit a promising .321/14/47 in 190 ML AB's last year.  One glaring hole last year was Woody Brown's 49 errors and bad plays at SS; he'd be a good defender and plus hitter at 3B. They need to go find a real SS to plug that sucking chest wound.

Addressed In Offseason:  Baltimore mostly stayed away from FA, but they did add some pop with C Lonny Soto.  They filled all the other open slots by promoting C Arthur Parkinson, 1B Mitch McConnell, and LR Marvin Roth - not a lot of talent, but at least they're cheap.

Division Outlook:  I wish I could say there's something shaking this division up some, but I just don't see it.  The Red Sox win handily. Cleveland could improve but it looks like a struggle to get to wild-card territory.  And the Yankees and Orioles keep pumping up their farm systems.

Awards Watch:

Eddie Hines OPS'd .826 as a rookie, with 19 HR's, 35 doubles, 31 SB's and good 2B defense.  Pump those up 20% and you have an MVP contender.  Darkhorse candidate, but conceivable.  Cleveland's Murray Hudson has the stuff to win a CY, but needs to get more innings and wins.  Baltimore's Rudy House could hit enough to win a ROY (even as a DH, and if he still qualifies as a rookie).  Could Flip Harris win 15 with a not-too-good team?  He'll win a CY or 2, just not this year.  Vin Gumbs will get a head start on many AL ROY candidates and has to be one of the favorites.

What's One Thing You Know About HBD That's Not Common Knowledge?

Trade A and B designation for free agents goes off the day that the draft prospect list shows up so you can sign them without losing a draft pick.

Leftover free agents all drop their contract demands to 1 year on the 3PM cycle after the 8th game of Spring Training; they also start losing rating points after that cycle (although they're fractional and might not even show up on the next "ratings event").

The only time players are not subject to the demotion penalty is preseason (not exactly true  - when an injured player is brought off the dl, the player demoted to make room isn't subject to demotion penalties) - from the cycle after budgets are set to roster freeze day.  After that, the season has started and you risk a penalty when you demote.  There is a common misperception that demotion penalties are not in effect once ML playoffs have started.  I assure you from personal experience that demotion penalties DO apply during the playoffs.

Unless specifically demanded by the player, no-trade clauses do not add any value whatsoever to the Max Contract offer ($10MM bonus + $20MM salary x 5).

When the amateur prospects come out, the comp picks for any available type a free agent is dropped or voided. You can sometimes pickup a good player at this time. this season it is 2/28 am cycle.

Players involved in trades that complete within 24 hours of the roster freeze are not exposed to the Rule 5.  If a trade completes more than 24 hours before the roster freeze, the players can be eligible for the Rule V.

If a player is selected in the Rule V Draft, any outstanding trade offer involving the player is automatically canceled. If the drafted player is on the waiver wire, any pending claims are canceled and the player is also removed from the waiver wire.  Rule V trumps trades and waiver claims. 

I am not sure any of my strategies are not common knowledge or not. lol :-) Is it common knowledge that free agents will agree to shorter contract lengths in the FA period, but they will not accept less than their asking price?

Near the end of coach hiring, ML coaches will accept offers of 50% of their demands.

All 100% rested pitchers are not the same. Take two pithcers assuming near identical stamina/durability ratings and zone in on 'Current/Next Day' rest rating on your Pitching roster. Player A: 60%current(red)/100%next day; Player B: 80%current(blue)/100%next day. If Player A pitches the next day at 100% rest, they will take a bigger Rest ratings hit and subsequently take longer to recover then Player B, who is also at 100% rest. Go figure.

The "non-trainable" player traits (range, arm strength, durability, health, speed, patience, temper, makeup, power, stamina, velocity) only improve over the offseason, and don't start improving until the player's second offseason (always wondered about the logic behind those traits not improving after the player's first pro season).

Season 33 NL South Preview

The Astros retool...Braves make a bold move...Cardinals re-sign their own...Marlins look for a fast rebuild

Houston Astros
Season 32:  106-56
GM:  steelforge

Season 32 Strengths/Weaknesses: Unbelievably, the team that came within 2 games in last year's WS of winning 5 titles in 6 years has its 3rd owner in as many seasons.  Excellent, (793 runs, 2nd) power-hitting (229 HR's - 2nd) offense and dominant staff led by future HOF'er Tony Moya.  OF the 13 pitchers who threw significant #'s of innings, only 1 had an ERA over 3.86.  Defensively, they topped the NL with a .990 fielding percentage and had 76 "+" plays to 24 "-" plays. Really had no weaknesses last year.

Addressed In Offseason:  The Astros probably had more free agents - or the most significant free agents - to contend with than any team.  The ultimately lost RF Eddie Hamels and SP Midre Espinosa but re-signed SP Garret Ward and RP's Tony Blanco and David Garces.  They did a lot of bullpen retooling in FA, the biggest move being the signing of rubber-armed Miguel Valdez.  Stefan Palmeiro moves from 1B to CF (and becomes an instant Silver Slugger candidate), FA Nathan Huff takes over 1B, and Pascual Lecuona inherits RF.  For all the scrambling to keep and replace free agents, I can't see them falling off much if any,

Atlanta Braves
Season 32: 87-75
GM: majnun

Season 32 Strengths/Weaknesses:  Allowed a paltry 551 runs thanks to excellent team D (.986 fielding %, 84/18 +/-) and a deep (nobody had 200 IP - reliever Wayne Counsell led with 181), talented (nobody an an ERA over 4.18) pitching staff.  Despite some excellent individual seasons (C Leach, 1B Hogan, 2B James, LF Hunter), they only scored 631 runs (11th).  Need more production from 3B and RF.

Addressed In Offseason:  from GM majnun: The Braves led the NL in pitching last year with a combination of talent, devil magic, and a masterful use of the bullpen. I worried about our ability to replicate this, so the defense has been upgraded, a trio of frontloaded platoonable vets was added to help the defense, and of course big money was splurged on Lanning for offense. It might take some time for me to get my bullpen and low stamina staff running smoothly, but I have high hopes for the season. The goal is a World Series victory and nothing less.

St. Louis Cardinals
Season 32:  81-81
GM:  jclarkbaker

Season 32 Strengths/Weaknesses:  580 runs allowed was 3rd-best in the NL.  They have mostly their pitching to thank - good seasons all around (worst ERA on the team was 3.94), but RP Tony Tabaka (7-2, 2.06), SP Dick Pederson (14-4, 2.59), SP Daniel Jeffries (13-11, 2.76) and Fireman of the Year Sadie Stephenson (50 saves) stood out.  A better-than-average defense helped - .984 fielding % and 58/28 +/-.  The offense sputtered all year, ending with 549 runs (15th) and a league-worst .290 OBP.  They got an excellent .265/47/112 season from LF Jack Hodges, but little else.

Addressed In Offseason:  from GM jclarkbaker:  So, my offense sucked last year, but I still almost made the playoffs, 'cause i had pretty solid pitching. My pitching staff is essentially the same. I'm trying to get a handle on my team since picking them up, particularly salary. I didn't really see any offensive guys I wanted to fight for, so instead of fighting and spending $ on FAs, I used $ for bonuses in resigning Stephenson, Pedersen and Jefferies. I brought up Sims (Sea 27 #30) to play 3B and Marquez (Sea 28 #23) to play CF - moving Nova to SS. I think my offense underperformed last year - not saying it should have been leaps and bounds better, but should have been a bit better. I'm hoping my pitching stays the same and my offense performs a bit better and I can sneak into the WC.  And used some $ to sign ML pitching + hitting coach (missed out on the fielding coach).

Florida Marlins
Season 32:  68-94
GM: cyben5150

Season 32 Strengths/Weaknesses:  It wasn't that long ago that this franchise reeled off 4 straight 100-win seasons, but it was a far cry talent-wise from last season's edition.  That squad showed neither power (158 HR's - 15th) nor speed (53 SB, 42 CS), although they did work a 6th-best 502 walks.  The offense is not without building blocks - C Yorvit Beltre hit .288 with 27 HR's and 3B Magglio Espinosa banged out 185 hits, but otherwise the offense needs an overhaul.  The pitching fared a bit better was was far from contending status.  Anibal Olmeda (8-8, 3.53) and Ed Reed (9-15, 3.85) kept some games close but did a lot of bullpen-cursing.  On the plus side, their payroll is low and they have managed to land some decent prospects via the draft and International free agency the last 2 seasons.

Addressed In Offseason: from GM cyben5150:  this was a bad old team last season and it is a bad old team this season. Sadly, this team appears to have had a lack of direction in building a farm system. I am all for drafting BPA, but in 13 1st round and comp picks over the past 5 drafts the Marlins have selected 10 pitchers, 2 catchers, and 1 DH. This has left a farm system flush with relievers and guys without a position on an NL team and no real future core around which to build. Combine this with an ML club that could use upgrades to every position other than 3B and C and we're going to be in for a long few seasons. Season 1 goal is 69 wins. My personal worst season (not counting midseason takeovers) was 69 wins and I do not want to set a new personal record. Looking forward my goal is to improve upon the previous season's win total leading up to an eventual playoff performance. Good luck projecting this team; I run it and I still have 2-3 spots on my 25 man completely up for grabs. As always in this situation my roster will be very fluid and I'll be looking for value in the Rule V and on the waiver wire. Bottom line....I think I stepped into a situation much more dire than I had anticipated.

Division Outlook:

This could be one of our better races and will certainly be one of our better divisions...the South could easily produce 2 playoff teams and has a fair shot at 3.  The Braves, Cards and Astros were 1-2-3 in NL ERA last year and will no doubt be top staffs again.  Houston has been so dominant here for so long (7 straight Division Crowns), it's hard to think about someone challenging them.  But the Braves have perked up their offense enough to do it. Ultimately, I see the Astros holding on and topping the Braves in a close race.  Atlanta looks like a wild card lock and with their pitching, the Cards could well contend.  We'll trust cyben's prediciton of 69 wins in the first year of Florida's grand plan.

Awards Watch

Houston's Alex Field has 3 MVP's and hasn't lost a step, so he's an automatic contender. Tony Moya has 4 CY's and has 4, maybe 5 more years to pick up more.  Atlanta's Philip O'Toole could win a CY...and Wayne Counsel has probably the best arm in the NL.  If he were used more in middle relief and threw 180 innings again, he might pick up 25 wins and...???  Lanning has had pieces of an MVP season in many of his 8 years: .375 OBP in Sea 30, 42 doubles in Sea 28, 10+ triples 3 times, 50+ SB's 5 times, 121 RBI last year.  But he's never put it all into one season.  Let's say he hits .310 with 40 HR's, 40 doubles, 10 triples, 125 RBI and 60 SB's...could anyone top that?  The Cardinals' best shot at a major award probably comes in the CY with Dick Pederson or Daniel Jeffries, although I wouldn't count 3B Ronald Sims out of the ROY.

Should the Portland Mavericks replace the Nashville Sounds when the opportunity arises?