Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Owner Interview: erffdogg

1. How did you get into whatifsports?

found it thru and started playing SLB. as soon as HBD came out though i was hooked and i rarely play SLB anymore. i still have a team or 2 going every now and then but nothing like HBD.

2. What is your favorite thing about HBD?

all of it. being able to build a team the way you want and then watching it (hopefully) dominate. i get as much pleasure from watching my prospects develop as i do in winning in the bigs and if it takes 3 or 4 seasons to build a winner that's all part of the fun. a close 2nd would be the comraderie you develop with certain owners and competing against them season in and season out.

3. Least favorite thing about HBD?

coach hiring. nuff said.

4. How did you find out about Major Leagues?

i was the Reds owner for a couple seasons earlier but left for reasons i can't remember now. i've always liked the mlb themed worlds and when letch dropped his teams i figured it would be a good opportunity to get back in. first and foremost i am a Reds fan but i've been know to root for the mariners from time to time as they are the closest AL tam to where i live. so i thought it would be a good fit.

5. Who is erffdogg?

hmmmm.... erff is a 30 something year old scotch irish auto mechanic who is hopelessly addicted to baseball, beer and babes. i live in montana so in the summer i play amateur baseball, i fish, i camp, i golf and i drink. in the winter i just drink. if you met me you'd think i was a redneck. i have a kick ass mullet and i sometimes wear a kilt.

6. What are your favorite sports and/or sports teams?

baseball. the Reds. i'm originally from Cincy and grew up watching the reds of the 80's and 90's. i watch football but don't really have a team. the Bengals suck ass. my girlfriend is a Bears fan so i do have a team to root against at least. i like hockey but not professional hockey. i catch an amateur hockey game every now and then up here.

7. All-time favorite sports moment?

although it was just before i was born i'd have to say the 75 and 76 world series's. who doesn't like beating the red sox and yankees? in my lifetime, and i know this isn't baseball related, but i think when Dale Earnhardt won the Daytona 500. i was and still am a huge Earnhart fan. i've kinda strayed away from Nascar since he died. it's just not the same anymore.

8. What other baseball games have you previously played? (tabletop, fantasy, video, computer, i.e. anything from Strat-O-Matic to Baseball Mogul to RBI Baseball and everything in between)

not much really. i played RBI. i still play games on Playstation. i currently have the newest Show game. I still play actual baseball in a wood bat league so all fantasy and video game baseball is of secondary importance to me there. yes even HBD. i spend way less time on my teams in the summer when i'm playing ball.

9. What player, in your minor league system, has the most potential to be a star and why?

if i had to pick one i'd say Erik Thompson in AA. he's no all-star but he'll be a decent defender and an average bat. i have a few guys that have some good tools in the minors but no real stars. i do have some good young guys just starting out in the bigs though.

10. Who is your Franchise Player and/or team MVP?

don't know yet. Mike Dejean will be an excellent #1 and hopefully this year. i fear he may have been rushed but hopefully it won't hurt him too much. just traded for Harry Alonso, Taylor Mullin and Cesar Castillo on the offensive side and i could see any of them being an mvp type as far as the team goes. Alonso especially. we'll see.

11. What are your team's prospects in the short, medium and long-term?

i'm looking to win now which is why i made the trades i did. letch did a good job of building the pitching staff on this team but the offense was lacking. i'm a big offense guy so i went and got some big bats and we'll see if they can overcome Safeco. most my guys are younger so if it works i should be good for awhile. if not it'll be a rebuild as the minors are thin.

12. Who is your biggest Major Leagues rival?

looking at the names in here i don't really have a rival. i've played against several of the owners here and against some like chase39 in the same division for seasons in other worlds. i'd like to meet my old Reds team in the WS if were ever possible. i'd like to beat my old team.

13. What do you look for in a Hitter?

good splits mostly but i love guys with big power and good eye. i'm not too attached to contact and wtf is bunt? of course there are guys you look for different thing is like a leadoff hitter but i've many succesful teams without a leadoff type. big bats from top to bottom.

14. What do you look for in a Pitcher?

splits #1. then gb/fb though i've never been in a pitchers park this extreme so i don't know if i'll put as much importance on it here. control and pitches would be next. i don't mind a guy with average control if his pitches and splits are good. i rarely pay attention to velocity.

15. What is the best move you’ve ever made in Major Leagues?

hopefully the Alonso, Mullin trade but it is yet to be determined.

16. What is the worst move you’ve ever made in Major Leagues?

i'd say trading one too many pitchers away this early. i'm ok now but an injury will hurt.

17. What is your most memorable HBD moment, any world?

finally winning a WS in MLB world. i had already won 4 but that one was the sweetest. i'd had a dominant team for several years and always made the playoffs but then i turned into Bobby Cox (or MikeT) and couldn't win. finally did after 9 seasons though.

18. What is your team’s #1 strength?

before i made the trades i did it was the pitching staff. i still have 2 very good frontline guys and a decent backend of the rotation but a kinda shaky bullpen. i have yet to see how a potent offense does in a pitchers park like this but in any other stadium i'd put my offense up against anybody's i'm hoping it works. we'll see.

19. What is your team’s #1 weakness?

probably Safeco. it's a new experience for me. that and not much depth.

20. In what ways, if any, do you think Major Leagues could improve?

ask me again later. i haven't noticed anything i dislike yet and as of now i wouldn't change anything.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Trade Spotlight (Update on Sydney White)

Following up on the prior Trade Spotlight, Sidney White has a new home in Seattle, and it is suiting him just fine. 25 games into S6, White is hitting .315/.371/.562 while playing 3B for the Mariners. To land White, the Mariners gave up Cristobal Vizcaino, Jolbert Acevedo, and Antonio Maeda.

White, along with the recently acquired Taylor Mullin and Harry Alonso, has the potential to help Seattle field a top offensive team, even while playing home games in the pitcher's haven of Safeco Field. Only time will tell whether that is enough to help the Mariners rebound from a disappointing S5 and revert back to the S4 form that netted them a 101-61 record.

Season 6 Power Rankings: Through 25 Games

After taking a brief poll amongst Major League Owners, the following Power Rankings have been published for your enjoyment only. It is a representation of how the owners around the league feel the teams should be ranked. Hopefully, the next round will get a little more input!

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Minnesota Twins
3. Washington D.C. Nationals
4. Philidelphia Phillies
5. Kansas City Royals
6. San Diego Padres
7. Arizoa Diamondbacks
8. Chicago Cubs
9. Oakland Athletics
10. San Francisco Giants/Houston Astros (Tie)

Amongst the surprises here are that the Atlanta Braves were only mentioned by a single voter, despite being a perennial contender in the NL. The KC Royals have certainly made some huge strides an a relatively weak division with their incredible offense. The Giants slip in, all that talent should start paying off. I cant say I disagree St. Louis at #1. The combination of youth and talent there is amazing. Current WS Champs, the Twins, seem to be slipping in a lot of owners opinions. Washington was consistently ranked between 2-4 by almost all the voters. Oakland and Arizona come up fairly even across all the voters and should make for a great divisional chase down the stretch.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The 2-Hole:First Look At Oakland Part 2

The 2-Hole

Welcome to the second installment in our "lineup" of blog material out of Oakland. This time, we'll glance over the 11-man pitching staff in Oakland for Season 6. Having only 11 pitchers means that outside the 5-man rotation, and the long/swing man, there are only 5 arms available out of the pen in the late innings. Further complicating this matter is the fact that there is only one left-handed pitcher on the enitre staff, and he's in the rotation. This will require some heavy workloads and very good bullpen management by the coaching staff consisting of Bench Coach Jorge Estrada, Bullpen Coach Sterling Staley, and former Detroit Pitching Coach Louie Porter. Estrada and Staley were both previously with the Athletics orginization. Estrada was the team's Bullpen coach last season, and Staley served as the AAA Pitching coach in Oakland since the start of Season 3. Having these cats on board helped to form the plan to go with the 11-man staff. Let's take a look:

Starting Rotation

1. Fernando Rosado (15-9, 3.33 ERA over 208.0 IP)
2. Steve Kennedy (15-5, 3.74 ERA over 192.2 IP)
3. Spike Shannon (13-4, 3.67 ERA over 154.1 IP)
4. Matt Scalici (13-9, 4.08 ERA over 165.1 IP)
5. Rico Rijo (11-4, 4.04 ERA over 120.1 IP)


Long/Swing: Herbert Piper (Career 49-28, 3.50 ERA in 655.0 IP as SP in MiLB)
Setup B: Virgil Picasso (3.23 ERA, 0.99 WHIP in 61.1 IP)
Setup B: Danny Leach (3.78 ERA, 1.17 WHIP in 33.1 IP)
Setup B: Doug Bay (5.34 ERA, 1.55 WHIP in 60.2 IP)
Setup A: Fonzie Wayne (1.56 ERA, 1.15 WHIP in 17.1 IP as Sept. Callup)
Setup A: Lance Woolf (3.36 ERA, 1.39 WHIP in 142.0 IP!)

A lot has changed since the days of running a more specialized bullpen Oakland. A few seaons back, it was all about slotting guys into specific roles. There was a lot of success found using the LHS/RHS roles under the old coaching staff. However, with the acquisition of Woolf and the drafting of Wayne, Oakland was given a unique opportuniy to really shorten the bullpen down. These two workhorses can easily provide shutdown innings totaling between 250-300 innings between just the two of them. They key wil be them remaining healthy, and Wayne to show he is indeed ready for the big leagues. His "struggles" in the minors have long been attributed to his not feeling challenged at any level, as he was generally considered ready when he was drafted in Season 3.

As far as the middle innings go, Picasso has certainly proven he's capable of being a quality reliever. Posting excellent numbers and keeping a great deal of inherited runners from scoring, he has consistantly proved his worth as one of the most underrated of the Athletics. Bay and Leach are also no stranger to shutting down opposing hitters, although Bay certainly seemed to have lost his touch last season. Hopefully, taking the ball a little less often will help him regain his form. Herbert Piper has the ability to come in any inning, any time. He can start, bridge the gap to Woolf and Wayne, or fill in if/when the injury bug strikes. He definitely showed us the ability to get Major League hitters out last season in his first taste of the bigs (1.01 WHIP, 5.84 K/9, 1.46 BB/9).

Lastly, the rotation. Unfortunately, Oakland still lacks that elite-level Ace to propel them from perpetual playoff failure to World Champs. However, the rotation is still a top quality rotation, featuring very talented starters, top to bottom, all of which kept their ERA's around or below the 4.00 mark. Rosado leads this young and talented rotation as the pitcher who seems to be able to domiate the most often, although Kennedy is not far behind. These two form a solid 1-2 punch at the top, and can work a solid 200 innings each to head the rotation with certainty. Beyond that are three pitchers all still under 200 innings pitched in the bigs. Shannon, Scalici and Rijo have some of the most electric stuff you'll ever see at the bottom of a rotation. Scalici especially seems to have at least 3-4 plus pitches that he can throw in any count to get batters swinging away, or simply beating the ball into the ground for a ground-out. Rijo's control is amongst the best you will ever see, especially for a kid that inexperienced at the big-league level. Rico came up last year to fill a spot in the rotation due to injury and has never looked back. Spike Shannon (the lone Lefty) was that injured pitcher, and he was able to get back on solid ground after a shaky return from his DL stint for Elbow Inflammation. If any of these three falter, Piper will be around to step in, as will Brooks Everhart down in AAA.

It'll be intersting to see how the 11-Man-Plan holds up, and if Oakland can have another very fortunate year injury-wise. The talent is there for this team to dominate, but the consistency in the rotation is certainly the weak point that will need to be adressed at some point. Although there are some very talented arms in the system, there is no "Ace" ready to dominate in the bigs yet this season, so Oakland may have to continue to discuss trades with other teams if they wish to add that elite Ace. Great ptiching simply isn't enough. You need the best. Keeping opposing teams to 4 runs or less will certainly help this team win a lot of games, as the offense figures to score a ton. However, they need to find a way to cut that number in half if they want to ever see that WS trophy.

On Deck: The 3-Slot! A look at the Prospects in Oakland's system.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Leading Off: First Look At Your Season 6 Oakland Athletics

Leading Off

Welcome to the first of 9 installments focusing solely on the Oakland Athletics. Today, in the leadoff spot, is your Oakland Athletics Season Six Preview. We will cover how this team looks at the beginning of the season and what to expect from the Athletics in their quest to finally take home the Major Leagues World Series Title.

First, we'll take a brief look at the projected lineups for the Season 6 Oakland Athletics, which will be doing something a little different this season, as far as platooning some key players goes.
Roosevelt Thomas asked if he could be the everyday lead-off hitter, and has been granted his wish by Oakland management, who is very excited to see what he can bring as the full time table-setter with his combination of power and speed. Mo Springer brings his 51 homers in 432 AB's down to the 8-hole where he says he feels no pressure and can just drive the ball as he pleases and also utilize his incredible speed when he's not smacking the ball silly. Hey, whatever works for you Mo! Kent Lewis is expected to take on his share of playing time, as are rookies Ronald Traynor and Bud Hogan. Being able to shift former AL MVP Turk Weaver between 1st and 2nd helps get these guys into the lineup, as well as Charley Jameson's willingness to take a seat vs. lefties. Weaver will also be allowed to reclaim his 3rd spot in the order, where he too claims to preform much better.

The defense is all around above average, never lacking in range at any position. However, the glovework of Weaver at 2nd, Springer in CF & Piper Ross occasionally at SS could use a little improvement. Former SS Jeff Zambrano has transitioned into a very good, if not great, 3rd baseman defensively and provides a ton of value all around. C Hersh Hargrave has been aging extremely well for a catcher, able to play in over 135 games in four straight seasons and handles himself very well behind the plate. Last season was quite possibly his best offensively, but it's been told that the way he handles his staff is an overlooked and vastly underrated part of his game. Hopefully, the teams excellent range can help it to overcome it's faults with the glove.

Overall, the starting 9 are extremely solid vs. both lefties and righties. Take a look:

Lineup Vs. LHP
1. LF Roosevelt Thomas (.298/.377/.550 in 342 AB's)
2. 3B Jeff Zambrano (.323/.380/.571 in 396 AB's)
3. 1B Turk Weaver (.293/.373/.500 in 594 AB's)
4. RF Terry Heffner (.295/.367/.580 in 553 AB's)
5. DH Ronald Traynor (.326/.436/.675 in 1661 Career MiLB AB's)
6. C Hersh Hargrave (.331/.430/.488 in 523 AB's)
7. 2B Kent Lewis (.331/.408/.481 in 2271 Career MiLB AB's)
8. CF Mo Springer (.329/.374/.745 in 432 AB's)
9. SS Piper Ross (.279/.335/.503 in 569 AB's)

Bench Vs. LHP
C - Bart Morgan
1B - Bud Hogan
DH - Charley Jameson
1B/LF/RF - Peter Small
Utility - Timothy Jones


Lineup Vs. RHP
1. LF Roosevelt Thomas (.298/.377/.550 in 342 AB's)
2. RF Terry Heffner (.295/.367/.580 in 553 AB's)
3. 2B Turk Weaver (.293/.373/.500 in 594 AB's)
4. 1B Bud Hogan (.325/.412/.627 in 2324 Career MiLB AB's)
5. DH Charley Jameson (.286/.375/.497 in 517 AB's)
6. C Hersh Hargrave (.331/.430/.488 in 523 AB's)
7. 3B Jeff Zambrano (.323/.380/.571 in 396 AB's)
8. CF Mo Springer (.329/.374/.745 in 432 AB's)
9. SS Piper Ross (.279/.335/.503 in 569 AB's)

Bench Vs. RHP
C - Bart Morgan
DH - Ronald Traynor
2B - Kent Lewis
1B/LF/RF - Peter Small
Utility - Timothy Jones

Noticeably different this season is the fact that there are 14 position players on the 25-man roster. The Athletics approach this year seem to be slanted toward an even more powerful offense, better balanced by the capabilities of the bench players.

Amongst those regularily on the bench will be backup catcher Bart Morgan, who's defense has kept him at the ML level backing up Hargrave for a couple of seasons now. It helps that he carries a bit of pop in his bat to go with those solid defensive skills. Timothy Jones will be around to handle the more demanding defensive substitutions that may need to be made. Not only can he cover any position on the diamond except catcher, he is lightning fast on the basepaths and comes in very handily as a pinch-runner. Peter Small is a cat that can handle 1B and the Corner OF positions nicely, while carrying a decent amount of pop in his bat and fairly quick speed as well. ALmsot equally effective against righties and lefties, he's handy for using against those managers who like to micromanage their bullpen.

When a LHP starts the game, Oakland will have two huge power bats than can come off the bench to hit later in the game if the opposing manager is forced to go to his pen. Bud Hogan & Charley Jameson are two of the most intimidating bats a manager can have at hand late in the game. As for when a RHP starts, Oakland will have the same luxury with Ronald Traynor available to pinch-hit late and the added versatility of IF/OF Kent Lewis to fill in capably anywhere on the diamond, and hit very well against lefty relievers. These added dimensions to the bench are expected to help boost an offense that will need to score plenty of runs after another failed attempt by Oakland ownership to bring in an elite Ace stater.

On Deck: #2 Hole - A look at the 11-man Pitching Staff in Oakland this season.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Owner Interview: jonboynky

1. How did you get into whatifsports?

I actually began on WIS back in May 2001. I first heard about SimLeague Baseball by our local talk radio host Lance McAllister and have been a part of the WIS community ever since. I’ve play SimBaseball and Football, Hoops Dynasty and Clutch Racing Dynasty. I have only played HBD since it came out.

2. What is your favorite thing about HBD?

In addition to watching your players grow and formulating a long term strategy for building your team, I enjoy watching rivalries develop over time. The NLCS between myself and Atlanta last season was epic and now that the Cardinals are competitive I see the NL South as being a toss up which should lead to some bad blood between us.

3. Least favorite thing about HBD?

I think the least favorite aspect of the game is that I wish our “fake players” had more personal aspects to them. I understand the temper, patience, and make up ratings but I feel they have very little aspect on a player. I would like to see 50 game steroid suspensions. I’d like to see a guy go postal on his manager for not getting enough playing time or get a 10 game suspension from the commish for starting a bench clearing brawl. Admin has done an awesome job with creating HBD and I hope that in the future some of the enhancement will include dealing with adversity just like in real life.

4. How did you find out about Major Leagues?

Simply by reading the forums. A great majority of my teams were located in Cheyenne and I saw Major Leagues starting and thought it would be fun to try a different type of team and theme.

5. Who is jonboynky?

I am a 36 year old single father of my son Jamie. I grew up in Michigan and have lived in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area for 13 years. I am self employed as a management recruiter specializing in the hospitality industry.

6. What are your favorite sports and/or sports teams?

I grew up a Detroit Tigers fan and still follow them along with the local Cincinnati teams (Reds and Bengals). My favorite sport is probably racing. I enjoy all forms of racing, including NASCAR and Formula 1 but my favorite is Dirt Late Models. Almost every Saturday night from March till September you’ll find me at a local dirt track.

7. All-time favorite sports moment?

Watching the 1984 Detroit Tigers win the World Series. I remember that team started off 35-5 and then went to the west coast and got swept by the lowly Seattle Mariners. I was pissed.

8. What other baseball games have you previously played? (tabletop, fantasy, video, computer, i.e. anything from Strat-O-Matic to Baseball Mogul to RBI Baseball and everything in between)

My first baseball game was the old Baseball on Atari 2600. I loved those stick figures and square baseball. I’ve played so many over the years it is hard to keep track, everything from salary cap challenges to keeper leagues.

9. What player, in your minor league system, has the most potential to be a star and why?

That would be the 6’2” lefty from Lafayette , GA, Mr. Bobby Ray Dixon. Dixon was the first player chosen in the S3 amateur draft. Dixon is only 21 and is already a 77 OV. Dixon will start this year at AAA but may get called up later on this year. Dixon is kind of quirky in the fact that his velocity rating is 94, projected 100, and yet his four pitches are a change up, cutter, sinker and slider. Last year he struck out 162 in 151.1 innings. I’ll take that

10. Who is your Franchise Player and/or team MVP?

The reigning NL Cy Young winner, Cesar Carrasquel. I traded for him at the beginning of last year and he did not disappoint going 19-4 in his first season in the NL. Carrasquel accounts for almost 25% of my total payroll with his $12M salary but he is well worth it.

11. What are your team's prospects in the short, medium and long-term?

I believe the Cardinals will contend again this year for the NL South title. My team is young (average age of 26.3) and only two players are 30 or older. Many of my top players have yet to fully develop so I expect them to be better this year than last year’s 92 win team. I expect the Cardinals to become exceptional tough in a couple of more years once Dixon makes it to the bigs along with 20 year old Roberto Jacquez. I think that the Cardinals will have the best 1-2-3 starting rotation in the league for years to come which will make them a beast come a short playoff series.

12. Who is your biggest Major Leagues rival?

As I mentioned earlier, the battle with Atlanta in the NLCS was a classic and I think that has really lit a fire in the Cardinals. We open the season with four against the Braves and look to jump ahead early in the standings.

13. What do you look for in a Hitter?

I am attracted to more all around solid hitters. I am big on batting eye and contact. Also, I am a big speed guy which is why I prefer NL teams, I like the small ball aspect of the game. The push/pull rating is useless.

14. What do you look for in a Pitcher?

Obviously control and splits are important…..If a guys control is less then 60 chances are I won’t even look at him. I have exactly 2 pitchers on my staff whose control is less then 74. When evaluating pitchers I look at his 2nd and 3rd pitches. A guy with splits in the 60s or 70s can be equally as effective as a guy with splits of 80s if his 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th pitches are above average.

15. What is the best move you’ve ever made in Major Leagues?

Dealing for Cesar Carrasquel last year. I gave up 2 MVP caliber players in SS Miguel Lopez and 3B Brian Morris, along with SP Harpo Patterson. In return I got OF Trevor Corsi who batted .297 with 18 HR and 36 SB, along with the NL Cy Young winner. Pitching wins championships.

16. What is the worst move you’ve ever made in Major Leagues?

There are two actually…..a deal in S4 where I sent Vin Moya and Roosevelt Thomas to Colorado for Walker Leonard, Courtney Shaw and Jose Johnson. I would not have done that deal again, that goes to show that you should NOT evaluate trades while at work….not a good idea. Also a S5 trade where I sent Brian Richardson to Montreal for Solly Yearwood I probably should have thought twice about.

17. What is your most memorable HBD moment, any world?

That would probably be me very first world title in S2 of Rookies. Your first one of the most special but I’m proudest of winning 3 out of 4 titles in Pete Rose and am currently going for a three-peat.

18. What is your team’s #1 strength?

Balance and youth. My team is still developing and the future is bright in St. Louis. My team has a nice blend of speed and power. Lead off man 23 year old Alex Solano led the league with 130 SB while batting .299 in his rookie season while LF Hideo Hyun is the teams power threat slugging 39 HR last year which was down from 56 in S4. The Cardinals had 4 players with more than 30 SB and 6 players with 17 or more HR.

19. What is your team’s #1 weakness?

At this point lack of a dominate closer. Carl Ashley had a solid season recording 40 saves in 43 chances and posting a 2.63 ERA but the year before was 28 for 35 in save opps with a 5.61 ERA. While there are plenty of good relief pitchers in HBD, I think WIS needs to do a better job of creating dominate shut down closers. In MLB, there are always 5 or 6 guys who are money day in day out, in HBD, it is a crap shoot from day to day or season to season on how relief pitchers perform, even for the best of the best.

20. In what ways, if any, do you think Major Leagues could improve?

I think that Major Leagues is quietly one of the most solid worlds in HBD and peanut has done an awesome job as commish after the fiasco that was thaceo. I think the only think that could improve the world is having the Cardinals represent as World Champions, which will happen within the next three seasons. I have my international scouts assigned this year to the jungles of Nigeria searching for a mild strain of the Ebola virus to bring to Atlanta, Houston and Minnesota……not looking to kill anybody but it wouldn’t hurt my feelings either if a few teams lost some players for 250 days because of an airborne virus. 8 )

Monday, December 15, 2008

Nationals Season 6 Preview

After winning the NL East in season 5 handily.   The Nationals were shut down by the strong pitching  of the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Nationals have a strong bullpen, good starting lineup, decent starting pitching and good defense.   The problem is and has been they do not have two top Ace pitchers that can shut down the other teams lineup in the playoffs, when every run scored or prevented is crucial.  Nationals management did not address this issue during the spring, but will be on the lookout for something to develop later in the season.   The Nationals starting line-up for Season 6:
C: Karim DeRojas offense fell off a bit from season 4
Ned Holmes will be the back up.
1B: Miller Locke had a nice sophomore season.
2B: Eric Brantley tailed off a bit from season 4.
3B: D'Angelo DeLeon moved to 3B last season, think he's more suited there
SS: Chad Fitzgerald gold glove winner last season
Horace Curtis will see some time at SS, in the IF and OF
 Ralph Rivers listed at SS, but more of a backup at 3B and the OF
LF:  Tomas Pascual not ready to start at 2nd but bat is too good
CF: Enrique Rodriguez not ready to play SS, will give him a shot at CF
Duffy Bell gold glove winner last season, will backup in the OF
Juan Rosario backup in the OF
RF: Evan Strange moved him to RF last season

The Nationals Pitching staff for Season 6:
SP1:  Dave Rizzo lack of a good 2nd pitch hurts him at times 
SP2:  Pedro Torres had a nice season last year
SP3:  Mark Knight made a starter in season 4 and hasn't dissappointed
SP4: Del Jang 
SP5:  Albert Ontiveros hoping for a breakout year this season
LRA:  Butch Barker mopup, the odd start
SuA:  Earl Simmons hoping for a big year from him
SuA:  Matt Cole 
SuB: Scooter Mann Rule 5 pick this season
CL: Vic Toca was great last year

Youngsters:  Ross LambHerman MahlerAlex Mercado may see some 
time in the Majors this season. Nationals management is excited 
about this season. Management expects to make the playoffs, 
than who knows what will happen.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chicago White Sox Season 6 Preview

Season 6 will be the second season under new ownership here in the Windy City. Season 5 showed signs of progress for the Pale Hose. Despite finishing just below .500 at 80-82, the Sox outscored their opponents by 84 runs in season 5. That projects to an 89-73 record normally. So the Sox really underperformed their true talent last year. The vast majority of the blame has to go to the bullpen, which was atrocious at times and had a gaping hole at closer. The Sox one major Free Agent signing this offseason was a major move to address that deficiency. Let's take a look at the team.

Position Players:

First Base: Benji O'Keefe
O'Keefe established himself as a force to be reckoned with as a rookie in S5, putting up .284/.348/.561 with 38 HR and 105 RBI. He was a top 5 selection for the AL ROY. At 24, he should be a solid contributor for seasons to come.

Grade: B+

Second Base: Carlton Barker
Barker was the Sox' biggest FA signing of S5 and he paid immediate dividends. Barker won the Silver Slugger award for 2B, posting a .315/.393/.523 line with 26 HR, 95 RBI and 35 SB from the top of the order. He also scored 114 runs. Barker earned his hefty paycheck of $8.75 million and will be expected to repeat his S5 performance. His range has diminished at age 32, so there are concerns about his defense. The White Sox system is rich in 2B prospects, so he will need to remain at the top of his game to avoid being shifted to the outfield.

Grade: A-

Shortstop: Wilfredo Lopez
Lopez may carry a bat made of balsa wood, but his glove is made of the finest leather. Lopez won the AL Gold Glove award in S5, making 9 + plays and just 12 errors. As long as he's vacuuming up balls in the IF, he should continue to play regularly and keep the job from Delanor Hemingway, who is also a gifted fielder with some power. Both are young, Lopez is 25 and Hemingway is 27.

Grade: C+

Third Base: Neal Kelly
Kelly carries a lot of thunder in his stick. Kelly led the AL in HR's with 52 while driving in 119 runs. His line of .272/.338/.566 was rock solid. Kelly was underutilized as a DH under the previous regime. While his defense is not stellar, it is more than adequate to play the field regularly. Kelly is just 28 and was signed this offseason to a very reasonable 4 year contract at $4 million per season. Expect another truckload of bombs this year.

Grade: B+

Left Field: Davey Morales
Morales is another power bat in the Sox lineup. Morales contributed 31 HR and 91 RBI while posting .260/.339/.473 in S5. In three big league seasons, Morales has averaged 34 HR per season. An adequate defender, Morales would seem to be holding a place for super-prospect Benito Andujar, whose ETA is S7. His reasonable arb-contract of $1.8 million makes him a sensible holdover this year.

Grade: B-

Center Field: Juan Diaz
After GM Ferris Bueller dealt high-ceiling CF Paul Wagner early in S5, the job fell to Diaz. Diaz is a player of modest talents, but he stepped up and outperformed Wagner, posting .275/.355/.373 from the #2 spot in the lineup. He also chipped in 26 SB and solid defense. Diaz would seem to have a hold on the position for the next 1-2 seasons until prospect Aaron Taylor is ready.

Grade: C

Right Field: Deivi Mercado
Deivi is a player that seems like he should be better than he is. He is talented, with good splits, power and a decent eye. He posted .256/.327/.456 in S5 with 30HR and 96 RBI. He was drafted as a SS and was the franchise's first #1 draft pick, going #17 overall. At just $378K, Mercado is worth the starting nod for another season, but a lack of improvement may hurt his chances with the team long term.

Grade: C+

Catcher: Sandy Webster
Sandy was acquired from the Reds before S5 to address the Sox' serious OBP deficiency. Webster delivered, hitting .319/.399/.452 from the #3 hole. His defense and pitch calling is merely adequate, which is why the Sox keep a defensive stalwart, Teddy Smalley, on the roster to back Sandy up.

Grade: A-

DH: Josias Vega
Vega is yet another youngster on the Sox roster at 25, but is entering his 4th ML season. Vega's specialty is hitting RHP and getting on base. His .305/.369/.459 line shows he succeeded at that goal. This is an area that could be open to upgrade, should the Sox find the right deal.

Grade: B

SP1: Garry Brinkley
Garry is a 22 y.o. wunderkind and was the #1 overall selection in the Season 2 draft. S5 was his rookie year, and after a mediocre first half, he tore through the league after the All Star break. His final numbers showed a 16-9 record in 33 starts. He threw 218.1 innings and posted a 3.13 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. Brinkley earned a spot on the AL ROY ballot for that performance. The Sox expect big things from Brinkley in S6 and a 20 win season is not out of the question.

Grade: A

SP2: Daryl Payton
Payton was the 2nd big free agent signing of the S5 preseason and was handed a handsome 5 year contract that pays about $11 million per season. Payton has a terrific 80-46 career record, but was only 13-12 with a 4.05 ERA in S5. Payton is going to need to improve on those numbers to pull the Sox into playoff contention in S6.

Grade: B

SP3: Thomas Connor
Connor is entering his 5th season in Chicago pinstripes. After signing a 3 year/$21 million extension before S5, Connor posted a solid 12-6 mark with a 4.01 ERA in 197.1 innings. With his good control and solid splits, the 29 y.o. Connor should anchor the #3 spot this year.

Grade: B+

SP4: Felipe Lee
Lee is the sole left hander in the rotation. Lee is just 23 y.o. and has some ability. He comes off a disappointing S5, when he went just 9-14 with a 5.01 ERA. He started 32 games but pitched just 169 innings. That's not going to get it done. If Lee can return to S4 form and post a mid 4's ERA and pitch over 180 innings, he will be an asset.

Grade: C-

SP5: Ned Gaston
Gaston has a lot of ability, when he knows where the ball is going. The current White Sox regime places a large emphasis on control, which would seem to make Gaston's position in the rotation tenuous. Still, the 25 y.o. went 9-12 last season with a 4.96 ERA in 194.2 innings. That's not bad for a #5 starter. Still, Gaston would seem to be keeping a seat warm for Kane Delaney, who will be starting at AAA in S6.

Grade: C-

Long Relievers: Eugene Carey Warren Perez
Both are options as starters, but given their control problems, seem best suited for long relief roles. While Perez was nothing special in S5, Carey posted a 3.05 ERA in 85.2 innings. He may see some time in the rotation should Gaston or Lee falter.

Grade: B-

Setup Men: Torey Lee Al Tomlinson Ben Gray Ira Lawrence
Lee and Lawrence were nice finds by GM Bueller in S5. Lee was picked up in the Rule 5 draft and posted a 3.81 ERA in 106.1 innings. That is a valuable setup man, and he's a lefty to boot! Lawrence was released by the Rockies in S5. So while the Rockies pay Lawrence's $5.6 million salary for the next 3 seasons, Ira comes off a 3.44 ERA in 55 innings.

Tomlinson is last year's (failed) closer. While he converted 28/34 saves in S5, he was awful in other situations, posting a 2-11 mark with a 6.84 ERA. He has been shifted to 2nd lefty behind Lee. He has talent and may perform better in lower leverage situations. He had 2 fine seasons before S5.

Ben Gray was a F.A. signing before S5 and disappointed. He was paid $5 million (incl. bonus) in S5 and rewarded the ChiSox with a 5.59 ERA in 75.2 innings. He also has a better prior track record and is hoping to rebound.

Grade: B

Closer: Yuniesky Romano
Romano is this season's big free agent prize for the Sox. After a bidding war, the Sox signed Romano to a 3 year/$20 million contract. At 35 y.o., Romano is a risk, but the Sox have cranked up their training budget in an attempt to keep his (and the other vets) skills sharp. Romano has 135 career saves and a 3.21 ERA. He is desperately needed to stabilize the end of the game and allow the Sox to play up to their Pythag record.

Grade: A

The Sox had the talent of an 89-73 team last season. Had they played up to that run differential, they would have snagged the #1 wild card slot in S5. By addressing the bullpen woes, the Sox hope to close the gap between potential and reality. Another year for young studs like Brinkley and O'Keefe should also help. The goal of this year's Sox is to finish with 88-92 wins and make the playoffs. The ultimate goal is S7, with the integration of prospects Andujar and Delaney, followed by Taylor in S8 when the Sox hope to compete for the whole ball of wax.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Look Ahead to Season 6 for the Minnesota Twins; Part 2 - Position Players

Join us as we preview the position players for the Twins as the try to make it back-to-back-to-back World Series titles. Also, don't forget to check out the preview of the pitching, posted earlier.

Without further ado, here's the position-by-position breakdown for the coming season - at least as things stand right now.

Jesus Alcantra
S5 stats - .348/.414/.719
Career - .285/.349/.551
Contract - $1,730,000, 1 year
Outlook - The Twins are counting on Alcantra to stay healthy this season. He'll be a part-time player due to his 38 Durability and lack of strong pitch-calling (65), but he needs to produce about 200 PA of quality for things to go according to plan.

Brutus Morris
S5 stats - .221/.308/.326
Career - .217/.286/.364
Contract - $1,290,000, 1 year
Outlook - Morris will hopefully log a lot of AB this year, both as a starter and as a defensive/rest replacement in any game started by Alcantra. His splits and contract are poor, but reasonable eye (52) and solid power (76) enable him to have a bit of pop (23 career HR in just over 1 full season of AB). Really though, he fits with the Twins' focus of pitching and defense, and his 92 pitch-calling has helped him post sub-3.75 CERA in each of his 3 MLB seasons.

Overall Rating: C+
The combo of a good bat and good glove make this a slightly above average position, but nothing spectacular. Hopefully the two combine for 15-25 HR and Good D.

First Base
Herbert Lieberthal
S5 stats - .303/.386/.891
Career - .321/.406/.584, 215 HR, 393 XBH, 600 RBI, 597 runs
Contract - $7,650,000, 1 year
Outlook - The Iron Man of the World, Lieberthal hasn't missed a game in 5 seasons. Although Father Time has sapped him of some of his power (now 62), his contact, splits, and eye have remained very strong (all over 80). This may be the first season Twins management gives him some time off, both to keep him fresh for any possible post-season run and to see whether any of the newcomers has the chance to take over in S7.

Overall Rating: B+
In his prime, Lieberthal was an easy A and a consistent MVP candidate. He's coming off an All-Star appearance in S5 and can still rake, but he isn't the long-ball threat he used to be. Thankfully, as the younger Twins have developed, he isn't asked to carry as much of the load and can provide veteran leadership and timely hitting instead.

Second Base
Ed Wheat
S5 - .261/.340/.412
Career - .270/.343/.425
Contract - $360,000, 1 year
Outlook - Wheat has shown flashes of having his bat break through and his career .768 OPS is respectable, but he's really there for his glove. His still-improving 82 Range, 83 Glove, 88 Arm Strength, and 78 Arm Accuracy might be sufficient to play SS, but the Twins focus on D and so have Wheat playing 2B instead. It seems to have paid off, helping the Twins turn the 5th most DP last season despite the pitching staff posting the lowest OAV and WHIP in the league. The Twins are hoping the D holds strong and Wheat takes a modest step forward offensively, perhaps approaching 20 HR in S6.

Overall Rating: B+
Wheat seems unappreciated by the public, having never won an award and being overshadowed by his flashier teammates, but he is the type of glue guy that really does help win championships. His outstanding glove and arm make him among the best fielding 2B in the World, and his bat brings more to the table than people realize.

Third Base
Virgil Mendoza
S5 - .291/.344/.640
Career - .276/.335/.577
Contract - $360,000, 1 year
Outlook - A season 5 All-Star, Mendoza is an absolute force on offense. Another transplanted SS, he's above average on defense too (81-77-86-84 and improving). With 49 HR in only 131 games last season, he may push 60 HR if the Twins end up playing Virgil in 150+ games.

Overall Rating: A
Mendoza will challenge for an MVP in the near future. Offensively he's among the best at any position and defensively he's among the best 3B in the World.

Anthony Haney
S4 - .224/.277/.262 (only 40 AB in S5)
Career - .246/.296/.337
Contract - $1,505,000, 1 year
Outlook - Not particularly effective with the stick, Haney is in the lineup for his glove. 88-86-95-98 translates into gold glove level defense and the Twins are more than willing to sacrifice a little offense for great defense. That said, if he can stay healthy, Haney should be able to produce something positive with the bat, particularly against left-handed pitching (rated 71).

Russell Simpson
S5 - .267/.311/.289
Career - .270/.318/.301
Contract - $378,000, 1 year
Outlook - Simpson is the prototypical super defensive utility man (89-84-92-87) and speedster (98 speed). He filled in admirably at SS when Haney went down last season and also logged innings at 2B, 3B, LF, and CF. More effective versus right-handed pitching (rated 77), he gives the Twins the option of having an effective SS platoon without sacrificing a late-inning defensive replacement.

Overall Rating: C+
Excellent defense more than makes up for average bats, and the combo results in the SS position being slightly above average for the Twins.

Left Field
Michael Gordon
S5 - .260/.362/.540
Career - .277/.358/.537
Contract - $378,000, 1 year
Outlook - Gordon is one of the real sluggers on the Twins. His Power/Eye combo of 93/97 and his ability to switch-hit results in a high frequency of home runs - 15 HR in 79 games in S3; 32 HR in 119 games in S4; 35 HR in 126 games in S5. While his D is slightly below league averages, the Twins think it's worth it to get his bat into the lineup, and he is generally replaced by a better defensive player late in the game.

Overall Rating: B-
His bat strikes fear into opposing pitchers - particularly those with a penchant for giving up the long ball - but his sub-par D keeps Gordon from being a truly exceptional LF option.

Center Field
Jesus Morales
S5 - .253/.290/.427
Career - .251/.288/.437
Contract - $378,000, 1 year
Outlook - Consistent with the Twins M.O., Morales offers defensive first, bat second. While his batting average and on-base percentage leaves something to be desired, he does have some pop (75 power) and is good for about 20 HR per 130 games. His real value, however, is his (Gold) glove. After winning the 2B Gold Glove in S3 and th CF Gold Glove in S4, Morales was beat out in S5. In each of the last three seasons, he's recorded 14 plus (+) plays. Like others on the Twins, his defensive ratings (91-93-87-81 and improving) might make him a SS on other teams, but on the Twins he's a top-flight defensive CF.

Overall Rating: B
The combo of Gold Glove defense and ~20 HR per season is tough to find at the CF position and, despite the low BA/OBP, Morales is well above average.

Right Field
Hiram Bang
S5 - .304/.380/.594
Career - .289/.369/.547
Contract - $6,500,000, 4 years
Outlook - The switch-hitting Bang was rewarded with a lucrative contract extension following S5, and he had more than earned it. Bang has recorded a .975+ OPS since arriving in Minnesota, and seems poised to play a central role in the future of the Twins. His defense is slightly below average for a RF but not terribly so, and his big bat forces itself into the lineup.

Sydney White
S5 - .300/.355/.508
Career - .284/.342/.463
Contract - $5,140,000, 1 year
Outlook - As previewed in the prior Trade Spotlight, the Twins are looking to move White in order to play Mendoza full-time at 3B and Bang full-time at RF. White pushed his way into the lineup last season, starting games at both 3B and RF and coming in as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement. While he can certainly produce, especially against right-handed pitching (rated 85), with Bang locked up long term White's future with the Twins seems limited.

Overall Rating: A-
Bang is an excellent RF option that most teams would love to have. Likewise, White would start for many teams and he is almost certainly the best backup 3B/RF guy in the World. If he isn't traded, he'll likely force his way into the lineup against right-handed pitchers again this season.

Designated Hitter
Curt Falk
S5 - .340/.401/.675
Career - .290/.382/.613
Contract - $4,600,000, 1 year
Outlook - As a S5 All-Star and MVP candidate, Falk really made the Twins offense go last season. His 1.076 OPS led the team (amongst players with 100+ AB). He has the potential to see some time at 1B/LF, but is more well-suited to DH, so the Twins plan on using him primarily in that role.

Overall Rating: A
Falk is on par with the very best of the World's designated hitters. He should play a big role in the center of the Twins lineup in S6.

There are a few other Twins competing for positions with the major league team. While it is unlikely that more than one or two of the following guys stick to begin the season, they are worth keeping an eye on should a trade go through or the injury bug strike the team.

Moe Larkin
S5 - (AAA) .346/.416/.685
Career - (minor league) .313/.403/.644
Contract - $343,000, 1 year
Outlook - Rookie Larkin is particularly effective against left-handed pitching (rated 73) and his Power/Eye combo (82/85) should make him worthy of at least a modified platoon. His defensive allows him to play part-time at RF/LF/1B/DH, so he has a good chance of sticking with the big league club.

Blade LaRue
S5 stats - (AAA) .271/.347/.606
Career - (minor league) .293/.391/.622
Contract - $343,000, 1 year
Outlook - Sub-par splits and the presence of Lieberthal have kept LaRue from capitalizing on his spectacular Power/Eye combo (93/92). After years of dominating the minor leagues, it's time to see whether LaRue can make the leap up in competition and contribute to the ML club.

Carson Parrish
S5 - .243/.302/.262
Career - .245/.318/.300
Contract - $378,000, 1 year
Outlook - Parrish is reasonably effective against right-handed pitching (54 rated) but isn't really much of a threat offensively. While his defense (86-83-97-89) is excellent, it may be tough for him to stick behind both Simpson and Haney.

Julian Ross
S5 - (AAA) .324/.395/.698
Career - (minor league) .311/.401/.695
Contract - $343,000, 1 year
Outlook - Ross is something of a duplicate of LaRue and it may be tough for both of them to make the team. While Ross does have the benefit of being a switch hitter with the excellent Power/Eye combo (95/88), his defense is weak even for 1B and management seems to have a preference for LaRue.

There are likely better offensive lineups than the Twins - indeed 4 teams scored more runs in S5 - but it is tough to find a better defensive team. While 3 teams had a better fielding percentage and 4 teams had more DP, the Twins tied for the league lead in plus (+) plays and had the fewest minus (-) plays in the World in S5. The combo of above average offense and great defense gives the Twins one of the best all-around group of position players in the World.

Atlanta Tribune: Braves Season 6 Preview

ATLANTA- After getting dominated by the Minnesota Twins in the World Series, the Braves come into season 6 with some difficult expectations- anything short a WS title will be a complete disappointment. With an aging pitching staff, this may also be the last chance Atlanta has before the pitchers file for social security and the team rebuilds with youth.

So far this offseason GM Shaka Zulu has already made some moves that could improve a team that has averaged over 104 wins per season since he took over, including a WS title in season 3. The first big move was to acquire slugging 3B Stew Hanson from the Royals.

"We wanted Stew last year, but we just couldn't get the right package together," Zulu said. "Fortunately this time we were able to work it out. He's a younger guy who's put up some real nice numbers in the past and we feel that in the middle of our lineup he's only gonna hit better."

Hanson will be one of two new additions to the lineup, joining free agent acquisition Paul Wang. Wang had a down year offensively in season 5, so the Braves are hoping that he can return to the form that made him a two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger. With Wang joining the outfield, Zack Rusch will move from RF to 2B- this transition has many worried that the defense will let down the NL's 3rd best pitching unit from season 5. Management is clearly counting on the offensive improvement to outweigh any deficiencies in the field. With last season's batting champ Garrett Woodson and season 4 MVP Miguel Martin preceding Hanson, Wang and Rusch in the lineup, they might just be right.

While the defense may suffer, the pitching staff was bolstered by the trade for 2-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year, Calvin Hyun. He'll have big shoes to fill, as he takes former Cy Young winner Vinny Andrews' spot in the rotation. After another great season, management decided Andrews would better serve the club coming out of the bullpen after seeing his IPs decrease each of the last two seasons. Andrews will be counted on to anchor a bullpen full of question marks after the loss of last season's workhorse, Yuniesky Romano, following Romano attacking rookie catcher Carlos Oropesa after getting lit up in Game 3 of the World Series.

But the man toeing the hill on opening day may be biggest question of them all. Acquired prior to season 3, Sam Betemit made a historic conversion from reliever to starter punctuated by a Cy Young Award and a WS title. Each season since then his innings pitched have gone down while his ERA and WHIP have gone up, and after a terrible season 5 postseason performance some think he may be headed back to the bullpen before long.

Returning the bulk of the roster from last season's 102-win team, it's tough to see this club failing to make a sixth consecutive trip to the postseason. But with the incredible strength of the NL South- Houston and StL joined Atlanta in the playoffs with 103 and 92 wins, respectively, while Florida won a very respectable 77- nothing can be taken for granted. On paper things seem to have improved slightly from a season ago, but the Braves are still an injury or two away from watching the playoffs at home. Shaka Zulu insists he isn't done improving the team yet, as he still covets a good right-handed reliever and another bat to come off the bench. With the Rule 5 draft approaching, and plenty of time to swing more trades, chances are this isn't the finished product.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Owner Interview: zbrent716

Welcome to the first installment of a new series, "Owner Interview". Up first, MInnesota Twins owner and two-time Major Leagues Champion, Zbrent716.

1. How did you get into whatifsports?

Sad to say this, but I don’t actually remember. To be fair, it has been almost 7 years since I joined in January 2002. I came in around the same time that Fox Sports had some sort of ad for WhatifSports, but I think I just stumbled across the site while surfing the web.

2. What is your favorite thing about HBD?

The extended time frame and the chance to see players complete a full career. Toward the end of my time playing simleague baseball, I played almost exclusively in progressive leagues because they share some of the same characteristics; HBD just takes that to the next level.

3. Least favorite thing about HBD?

I know it is controversial, but the lack of H2H play is probably my least favorite thing about HBD. I initially tried HBD when it first came out, but it didn’t hook me right away, in large part because I was so active in SimLeagueLive leagues. It wasn’t until quite a bit later than I gave HBD another try and got really into it (primarily through my involvement in Major Leagues), effectively cutting into my time playing SimLeagueLive leagues. Combining HBD with H2H play would be a combination of the two things I like most in WhatifSports, and while there are issues that would have to be resolved, I think the final result would be well worth the effort.

4. How did you find out about Major Leagues?

I think one of the things I wasn’t a huge fan of with HBD when I first tried it was that it used make believe players, with make believe franchises, in make believe (or at least minor league) parks. Coming from SimLeagues, I didn’t fully embrace the idea of getting rid of the familiar aspects of baseball in their entirety. I think I first saw Major Leagues being discussed in the forum (not sure if it was an official recruitment thread or just a discussion of setting up a “realistic” World) and I really liked the idea. When I was given the opportunity to join with my favorite MLB team, I jumped at the chance.

5. Who is zbrent716?

Zbrent716 is a generally good guy who has spent the better part of his life in school of one sort or another. He’s (relatively) recently finished with his education (at least for now) and is working as an attorney in New York State.

6. What are your favorite sports and/or sports teams?

Baseball is my favorite sport without question. My favorite pro sports teams are the Minnesota Twins, the Boston Celtics, and the San Francisco 49ers. I despise the Yankees and it still makes me a little nauseated when I think about the fact an owner (I forget who) made reference to the Major Leagues Twins trying to become a dynasty like the Yankees.

7. All-time favorite sports moment?

While the Twins’ World Series wins in ’87 and ’91 rank up there (’91 more so just because I remember it better) and actually being in Yankee stadium to see the Yankees fall in Game 6 of the ’03 series to Josh Beckett was awesome, I think my favorite sports moment actually isn’t from baseball. I’m a graduate of UAlbany, and in March of 2006 I saw the Great Danes play in the first NCAA tournament game in the school’s history. For the first 30 minutes of the game, the #16 seed Great Danes were playing with the mighty #1 UConn Huskies. Later that year, UConn sent 5 players to the NBA – four first round picks (Rudy Gay, Hilton Armstrong, Marcus Williams, and Josh Boone) and one second round pick (Denham Brown). UAlbany went on a run in the second half to open up a double-digit lead with about 10 minutes to go, and it looked as though they were going to pull off the unthinkable – a #16 beating a #1 – and destroy 99.9% of the brackets in the country. Unfortunately, UConn rallied and pulled out the win, but for UAlbany to play toe-to-toe with the best the country had to offer for that long was truly fantastic.

8. What other baseball games have you previously played? (tabletop, fantasy, video, computer, i.e. anything from Strat-O-Matic to Baseball Mogul to RBI Baseball and everything in between)

I’ve played fantasy baseball of one form or another for about 15 years or so. The first league I did was a stock-market style game, but I do mostly roto-style leagues now. I also played in a lot of SimLeagues before HBD.

9. What player, in your minor league system, has the most potential to be a star and why?

For the most part, the future stars in my system have already broken into the major leagues. Of those left in the minors, I think the most potential would be found in one of two players: (1) Harold Creek, RP or (2) Harry Rivera, 1B. Creek has a really rare combination of control, splits, and pitches. According to my advanced scouting, his control should top out in the mid-90s, with his vLH in the mid-70s, his vRH in the low-90s, a first pitch of 99 and a second pitch of 87. With 53 durability and 27 stamina, he won’t be a workhorse, but he should be very effective for the IP he throws. Harry Rivera, on the other hand, reminds me a lot of the offensive rock of my major league club –Herbert Lieberthal. He projects to 85+ in contact, power, vRH, and eye, with his only (relative) weakness being a 70+ vLH. If he develops fully, he has a good shot to be the second Twin who becomes a member of the 500 HR club (Virgil Mendoza should get there first).

10. Who is your Franchise Player and/or team MVP?

Chris Y. Nen. While many players have contributed, the 5-time All Star and 5-time Cy Young award winner is in a class all of his own.

11. What are your team's prospects in the short, medium and long-term?

Short term, we’ve got a decent chance to make it back to the playoffs. Once there, anyone can win, so we may have a shot to take back-to-back-to-back World Series titles. Medium and long-term, the outlook is a little less rosy. It has been tough to land the true studs picking in the back end of the draft, so there will likely be a significant downturn and retooling at some point. Hopefully Twins fans will be patient and realize that we’ll be doing everything we can.

12. Who is your biggest Major Leagues rival?

I’ve got good rivalries with a few owners, and I have a ton of respect for my fellow AL North owners – toughest division in the World! That said, my biggest rival has to be the commish – pstrnutbag44. While I’ve had the upper hand in the major leagues so far, he’s always tough and he’s kicked my butt out of a few minor league playoffs. The wins, when they come, are just a little bit sweeter when they are against Oakland.

13. What do you look for in a Hitter?

In a Hitter, the Contact-Power combo. In a position player generally, the Defense first and then power. I’d had success with guys like Jesus Morales – no dominating offensive ratings, but decent (75) power and a great glove. I’ll take his 18-20 HR and Gold Glove defense and love it.

14. What do you look for in a Pitcher?

Control is the only must-have for me in a pitcher. This goes hand-in-hand with my focus on Defense. If I have guys like Jesus out there, I want the ball put in play so he can help the pitcher out. The pitcher who puts men on via the walk doesn’t make proper use of the talent I put behind him.

15. What is the best move you’ve ever made in Major Leagues?

My best move was probably either drafting Virgil Mendoza with the 12th pick in the S1 draft or dealing Kent Davey and Donaldo Benitez for Gabby Martin. That trade was towards the end of S1 and Kent Davey had been having a fine season for me – ended up going .297/.364/.563 with 26HR in 394 AB. Donaldo projected to a marginal inning-eater SP, and that’s basically what he has become (4.68 career ML era). In return, I got Martin – a great SP who is only lacking in the workhorse categories. He may only throw 150 – 175 IP in a season, but he’ll be among the best for those innings. He made his debut in S4 and contributed to a World Series win and then took a step forward and became a great #2 behind Nen in S5, helping lead to another title. In S5 he finished top 5 in the Cy Young voting, going 15-3 in 157.2 IP with a 1.08 WHIP and a 3.08 ERA. Speaking of Nen, meeting his demands after S3 and signing him to an extension was a pretty good move too. An honorable mention goes to locking up the unsung hero of the staff – John Jang – to a 4-year contract after S1 for only $3.0M per year.

16. What is the worst move you’ve ever made in Major Leagues?

The Vin Navarre fiasco. Reviewing it now, it could have been much worse, but it was just a complete mess on my part. I dealt for Navarre from Baltimore, giving up Bryan Blue, Ted Chapman, and Jeromy Hudson. Hudson never made the majors and Chapman has never had more than a cup of coffee with a ML club, but Blue has had a solid, if not spectacular, ML career. He enters S6 with a 54-37 record, 690.1 IP, and a 4.26 ERA. That said, it wasn’t so much the players involved as the fact I gave up on Blue too quickly – he had a 6.67 ERA in 6 starts for me and I wanted to trade him too much. Things went from bad to worse when, less than a month later, I turned around and dealt Navarre to Boston for Benjamin Surtain, Harry Williamson, and Yamil Rosado. Williamson was dealt away in a later small deal and never reached the majors. Rosado was taken from the Twins in the Rule 5 draft. Surtain never played in the majors for the Twins, but was at least part of the package that landed Buddy Bryne. The deal was really bad though, because, just like I had been impatient with Blue, I was similar with Navarre. With Baltimore before the Twins, Navarre had a 3.15 ERA and a 3-1 record. With Boston after the Twins, Navarre had a 3.28 ERA and a 7-3 record. With the Twins, Navarre went 3-8 with a 6.21 ERA. For his career, Navarre has tallied 1099.2 IP and posted a 69-46 record, a 1.27 WHIP, and a 3.90 ERA. I would probably have been better off riding it out with Navarre or at least getting more back in a trade.

17. What is your most memorable HBD moment, any world?

Winning S4 ML World Series in 5 games. (Dis)honorable mention – missing out on the Rookie, Low A, and AA playoffs in S4. Prior to that the Twins franchise had made the postseason at every level for the first 3 seasons.

18. What is your team’s #1 strength?

Pitching. Nen obviously is a great anchor, but the rest of the staff has been exceptional as well. In S4, the Twins set a World record for fewest runs allowed, giving up only 579 runs the whole season (539 earned) – the only time a team has broken the 600 run level. We gave up the fewest runs again in S5 (641) but a number of teams closed the gap significantly. Despite being in a park that (slightly) favors hitters, the fact that the Twins had given up the fewest runs during both World Series runs shows that the true strength of the team is its Pitching. Honorable mention to the Defense, which certainly contributes to allowing so few runs.

19. What is your team’s #1 weakness?

More of a franchise/ownership weakness, but I’m going to go with the inability to land everyday studs via the amateur draft. With the exception of Virgil at pick 12, S1 and (maybe) Harry Rivera, I haven’t drafted much more than role position players. Part of it is my focus on pitching, part of it is not having very high picks, but part of it is just not doing the best possible job with my rankings as well, and now it is beginning to become evident looking at my minor league system.

20. In what ways, if any, do you think Major Leagues could improve?

Blog activity may be the only way I can think of. We have an good league where owners are consistently trying to improve their teams, so there is plenty of activity within the World. Keeping turnover relatively low has allowed some good-natured rivalries to develop too. If the Blog, which is sort of our voice to the outside HBD community, reflects the true nature of the World, I think we’d be all set.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Pre-Season Look At: The Oakland Athletics

After another heartbreaking playoff loss in Season 5, the Oakland Athletics are looking to make some major moves in an effort to help them avoid yet another early exit from the playoffs.

Oakland has been plagued with the problem of being an excellent 162-game season team. However, they have proven several years in a row that they simply are not cut out for the short series. The reason is simple: Lack of a true Ace.

The pitching is solid, that's for sure. Anchored by
Steve Kennedy & Fernando Rosado, followed in a pen captained by workhorse Lance Woolf & up and comer Fonzie Wayne (1.56 ERA in his Sept. callup), the pitching in Oakland is certainly top-notch...except there is no Chris Nen/Cesar Carrasquel out front. It's no coincidence that those two teams made it as far as they did in the postseason.

The offense, on the other hand, is absolutely stacked. Leading the charge in Season 6 will be the young, outstanding trio of
Roosevelt Thomas, Jeff Zambrano & Mo Springer. Former Season 4 AL MVP Turk Weaver is also still on board, although his numbers certainly fell off a bit last season (.332/.392/.607 in S4 & .293/.373/.500 in S5). Terry Heffner is also still around to patrol Right Field and abuse opposing pitchers with that career OPS around .965. Noteable is that last season, 8 players had over 20 HR's with Bryant Browne posting 19. Bear in mind that Thomas (20 HR's in 342 AB's), Zambrano (23 HR's in 396 AB's) & Springer (51 HR's in 432 AB's!) all started the season in AAA. Imagine what a full season of just those three can do for a team's offense.

So, what to expect out of Oakland in the offseason? I think they'd look to move a bunch of their young, solid players like 1B Bryant Browne, SP Willie Segui, RP Lance Turner, etc in an effort to upgrade to a true Ace. I also think you'll see them do something similar to what they did with Woolf last season and sign Kennedy and Weaver to long-term deals as they both have offered to take "less than market" deals. Also, expect to see a lot of the same coaches as most will be retianed, with perhaps as few as 4 being overheard as wanting to "test the market". Only time will really tell but one thing is certain, they will spend as much as they can on Training, Medical and their Advanced Scouts as these three keys have always helped lead to a succsful team in Oakland.

Trade Spotlight (Sydney White, Minnesota Twins)

Name: Sydney White
OVR: 81
Age: 29
B/T: L/R
Position: 3B/RF

Last season: .300/.355/.508/.863, 25 HR in 453 AB.
ML Career: .284/.342/.463/.805, 233 XBH in 2410 AB.
Contract: Arbitration-Eligible, seeking $7.3M.

Comments: Sydney is being pushed out of Minnesota by the emergence of 3B Virgil Mendoza and RF Hiram Bang. Though Sydney has been a .300+ hitter in 3 of his 5 ML seasons, Virgil is a superstar-in-the-making who cannot be denied and Bang has proven to excel as a Twin. One of the most interesting things about Sydney is that he is continuing to improve, despite being over 27. From the start of Season 5 to the start of Season 6, he picked up 1 point in health (now 83), one point in makeup (now 94), and one point in vRH (now 85), while not having a single rating drop!

Looking For: Youth. The main reason Sydney is being shopped is the money he is asking for. While he is a very good player, Minnesota does not want to spend $7.3M on a utility guy/backup 3B. The contract demands do, however, drive down his value somewhat, and so the Twins are only hoping to land a future ML setup guy or future ML utility player (top glove and power preferred, splits not expected but a bonus).

Best Suited For: (1) A Top Contender who wants that one more bat to help make the push over the top, especially vs. RH pitchers or (2) A rebuilding team that has cap room to spare. Sydney can either be shopped again at the trade deadline, when a Top Contender needs that one extra piece and may be willing to overpay or, with a 81 OVR, he would almost certainly be a Type A when he goes FA, and he'd bring in good draft picks as compensation to help with the rebuilding process.

Trade chat or offer up if interested, but move quickly because the Twins would like to work something out prior to the arbitration hearings.