Monday, December 10, 2012

Interview with overeasy

Who is overeasy in real life?
Overeasy is a husband, a father of three young boys, and an electrical engineer who lives in a western suburb of Portland, OR.

College football: keep the bowls or playoffs (and how many teams)?
I've never been much of a fan of college football, but the current system stinks and the 4 team playoff is not much better. Seems like they are going to pick 2 or 3 SEC teams each season. I think what they need is an 8 team playoff. Let each of the Big 6 BCS conferences send their conference champion and then have 2 more spots for the top 2 rated non BCS teams. Each of the 4 BCS bowl locations would get a first round game and then the semis and final would rotate location each season.

Do you have anything resembling a bucket list, and if so...what have you recently crossed off of it, and what's next?
I don't have any bucket list composed at this point. One thing I know I would like to do someday is play in the World Series of Poker's Main Event.

Favorite real life sports fan memory?
In Person: My final year in college 1997, the Pacific Tigers won the Big West Tourney and made it to the Big Dance for the first time since 1979.
On TV: As a Braves fan since my first year of little league in 1982 (fav all-time player: Dale Murphy), the 1995 World Series was a great moment to shed the Buffalo Bills comparisons.

Any hobbies or favorite pastimes besides HBD?
For the last nine years, I've been a recreational poker player playing No Limit Hold'Em tournaments. I think I have gotten pretty good for an occasional player with net winnings of ~$1k.

Favorite musician/rock band of all time?
Don't think I could choose just one. I listen to most any popular music. The first album I ever purchased was Bryan Adams' "Reckless." On a side note of the music topic, the band AFI came from my hometown and their drummer was my doubles partner on my high school tennis team. It was pretty cool to see them perform on SNL and win an MTV VMA. Additionally, Nick 13 who has been the singer for a punk band, Tiger Army, and has had recent success in country with a solo album was from my HS graduating class.

If you ever write a novel, what will it be about?
Honestly, I barely read novels, so I seriously doubt I will ever feel compelled to write one. If I did, I suppose it would most likely be either a science fiction or supernatural type of story.

Beer or liquor? "Both" is not an acceptable answer.
Before a year ago, my answer would have been beer, which is great for where I live considering the number of microbreweries in the Portland metro area. Based on the allergic type reactions in my children, we figured out last year that our whole family is gluten intolerant, eliminating consumption of wheat, barley, oats, and more.
So now my answer is kombucha, which is a fermented black tea. We get some good stuff made at a local farm.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Official Blog Predictions

AL North
Should be one of the top divisions in ML again.  It's hard to pick against Toronto with their big off-season moves, but I'm going with a small upset here:  CHICAGO WHITE SOX

AL  East
I expect this division to tighten up, with all 4 teams finishing within 8 or 10 games.  Baltimore, coming on, Cleveland's improving, but one of the old guard has enough to hang on:  BOSTON RED SOX

AL South
The Sounds are turning heads with their hot start, but Enrique Vazquez will not finish the season with a 0.36 ERA.  They might contend, but in the end it will be:  TAMPA BAY RAYS

AL West

AL Wild Cards
I think there are 7 contenders here - maybe we'll have an exciting finish.  At #5 - TORONTO BLUE JAYS.  At #6, Minnesota may well find a way, but I don't trust their lineup.  I'm going with the upset special here.  At #6 - NASHVILLE SOUNDS.

Going to the WS from the AL - SEATTLE MARINERS

NL North
3-way tie among Cubs, Expos, Reds?  Could be a fun race.  I don't trust the Cubs' pitching or the Reds' hitting.  Worst-to-first MONTREAL EXPOS

NL East
4 teams with 85+ wins?  Nats need to catch fire but they will.  I'm going to risk jinxing myself and say the Pirates have enough to get by the Mets this year: PITTSBURGH PIRATES

NL South
shakazulu, on the other hand, has been doing his best to reverse-jinx by bad-mouthing his team.  No dice.  Cards are not as good as last year, Marlins and Astros will be better but not quite there.  ATLANTA BRAVES

NL West
The Dodgers have become very good, especially if they can keep Redondo healthy.  But I think the Padres are a little better.  SAN DIEGO PADRES
NL Wild CardsConventional wisdom says whoever loses the Mets/Pirarts NL East fracs will be the #5, but conventional wisdom is often wrong.  I'm looking ofr a big year from the Dodgers.  At #5 - LOS ANGELES DODGERS.  At #6 - NEW YORK METS

Going to the WS from the NL - SAN DIEGO PADRES

Owners' WS Picks

The owners have spoken and established their picks to reach the World Series.

In the NL, they've become believers in the defending-champ Pirates, who got 7 of 23 votes.  It's far from consensus, though - the Padres took 6 votes and 5 owners thought the perennially-contending Mets would make it through to the Series.  The Nationals (3), Expos (1) and Dodgers (1) rounded out the NL voting.

The AL appears to be a more wide-open race, with 11 teams collecting votes.  The Jays and Mariners got 4 each; the Tigers, Yankees, Rays and Angels 2 apiece.   Last year's choice, Minnesota, took 1 vote along with the White Sox, Sounds, Rangers and Athletics.

Official log division-by-division picks coming later today.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Gutierrez, Torrealba Top Impact, Value Opionion Polls

Max Gutierrez was the clear choice of the owners for which big-name player move would have the most impact this season.  Gutierrez got 6 of the 14 votes cast, with Sterling Adams getting 3 votes.

Owners gave the nod to Alfredo Torrealba as the best value among the big-contract signees, with 7 votes to 2 each for Calvin Nielsen, Adams, and Rafael Rijo.

New York Yankees Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  81-81 (1st), lost WS to Pirates
Offense:  729 runs (11th)
Pitching:  3.95 ERA (6th)

Major Changes
FA Departures:
  CF Dan Bailey, RP Bill Hoffman, RP Carlos Blanco, OF Jae Nakano, RP Rudy Scott
FA Signees:  SP Bailey Borders, RP Efrain Yang
Rule V:  SS Alex Andujar (#18)

Season 21 OutlookLast but not least, the AL Champs.  Last year's edition of the Yanks was a case study in resilience.  First they lose their prize FA signee, Benito Andujar, for the entire season.  Then they're seemingly buried by Boston's hot start.  But they kept battling, won the division, and beat the White Sox, Rays, and Mariners in the playoffs.

Andujar is back, a bit worse for wear but still capable of igniting the offense.  Complimenting Andujar are DH Ismael Rios (.266/38/123), 3B Harry Mercado (.302/32/98), leadoff man Alejandro Cruz (.281/19/82), and 1B Alberto Gonzalez (.283/24/83).

New York's pitching is old but good.  Todd Leon is still an ace, although his stamina has dropped to the point that he's probably a 170-inning pitcher.  Bobby Ray Dixon is still going strong at 36, and Walt Walker is about as good a #3 starter as there is.  Felix Hendricksen and Todd Havens complete the deep rotation.

In the bullpen,  J.B. Remlinger and Pepper Webster are Grade A setups to closer Philip Herndon.  Herndon had a rough year in Season 20 (6.20 ERA, 9 blown saves), but should retain his closer job if he starts well.

Well, it's definitely an older team...the window won't be open a lot longer.  But it's definitely open now.  If the Yankees' Season 20 proved anything, it's that the playoffs are a crapshoot.  New York will be pressed by Boston, and maybe Cleveland, this year, but should have enough to get back to the tournament.

San Diego Padres Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 93-69 (1st), lost to Cardinals in Round 1
Offense:  779 (3rd)
Pitching:  3.60 (6th)

Major Changes
FA Departures:
2B Bob Diaz, SP Ozzie Culver, LR Midre Valdez, SP Jerry York, RP Cristobal Vizcaino, SP Rico Samuel, OF Pablo Castillo
FA Signees:  SS Luis Nunez, RP Carson Moreno, RP Dante Little, 3B Santiago Vazquez, SP Ross Lamb
  SP Bernard Wright (Sea 15 #2 overall)

Season 21 OutlookDo the Padres have the best offense in the NL when you adjust for park effects?  They were only 38 runs back of Pittsburgh last year.  It's pretty easy to get an idea...just look up how many runs both teams scored in their away games.

In their 87 away games last season, the Pirates tallied 438 runs.  Padres - 437.

Gives a little better picture of how good their offense really is.  What strikes me about it is the lack of gaping holes at C, SS, CF.  C Quevedo hits lefties and righties well, and add a bit of power (20HR).  SS Coronado hit .300 and knocked in 65 runs.  CF Guillen had 94 walks (OBP .376) and chipped in 16 bombs and 74 RBI.  That's some serious production from your 3 worst hitters.

LF Nate Hood, of course, is the big star of the lineup.  He missed a chunk of last year with a knee injury and still had 33 HRs, 93 RBI.  Look for a bigger year.  The other not-quite-yet star is toolsy 2B Melvin Charleston.  With his great contact and speed, he'll at some point have a .350 BA season.

Ross Lamb improves an already-good rotation.  Doyle Davis (17) and Joel Iorg (15) were the top winners last year, and along with Lamb, should be again.  ROY Brian Murata heads up a deep, tough bullpen.  Murata threw 125 innings last year and I don't think he broke a sweat - he could go 180 if necessary.  Newcomer Dante Little could go north of 150 IP as well - he closed for St. Louis last year and might push Tori Broome for that job here.  Louis Black, Jamie Thompson and Carson Moreno would be front-line relievers anywhere else - here they'll struggle to get innings.

There aren't any weaknesses here.  There's not a single bad pitcher on the 12-man staff.  There are no holes in the lineup.  Barring a catastrophic injury or 2, the Padres win the West and win big.

Minnesota Twins Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 90-72 (3rd & wild card), lost to Seattle in Round 1
Offense:  770 runs (8th)
Pitching:  4.01 ERA (7th)

Major Changes
FA Departures:
OF Sterling Adams, SP Manuel Rodriguez, SP Duane Powell, OF Gus Turner, DH Felipe Baez
FA Signees:  RP Rudy Scott, RP Claude SmithAcquired via trade:  DH Cutter Nieman
Rule V:  CF Lou Dydalewicz (#24), LR Delino Lecuona (#56), RP Apollo Verlander (#88)
Promoted:  C Guy Simontacchi (Sea 15 #69 overall),

Season 21 Outlook
builds teams strictly for the playoffs.  Spend as much as you can for stars, and for the 8 guys who won't see daylight in the playoffs, who cares where you find 'em?  And heaven forbid, don't bother with those pesky 4th and 5th starting pitchers (that you don't need for playoffs).

Actually, I think the Twinkies dug up the best bargain of the Rule V - CF Preston Dydalewicz.  He could very well win the CF Gold Glove and steal 40-50 bases.  He won't hit at all, but when you get a player for nothing who can win games with his glove, you've done something.

This will be the breakout year for LF Asdrubal Azocar.  He missed 60 games with injuries last year, but hit pretty well when active.  He's got one of the best power strokes in the AL - 45+ bombs this year.  I also love the Cutter Nieman trade.  Great eye, chews up "batting title" written all over him.  1B Harry Rivera isn't a big power threat anymore, but he can still hit.  And between their 3-headed catcher platoon, they have a 4th good hitter.  RF Sean Goldstein's power is not worth the .276 OBP they have to tolerate to get it.  Louis Turner (or someone else) will be in RF before long.  As for the offensive potential at the other positions, well...

Can you win with 4 good hitters and  those other guys?  I don't know.

Minnesota's use of pitchers is...innovative.  We all know about SP's Santiago, Smalley and Martin.  It looks like they're gonna try Rule V pickup Lecuona as Starter 4 - that won't last long.  The question is whether they have enough quality relief innings to effectively replace 2 starters (say, 400 innings).  Chong can probably give 'em 170 innings if pressed.  Brennaman 110.  Perez, let's say 140.  Mind you , these are all very high-quality pitchers.  Rudy Scott, 100 if he had to.  Pettitte has pitched 120 before.  Claude Smith could start if needed (and he will be) - 150 innings.  Throw in 600 for the 3 starters and you've got 1390 innings from quality pitchers.

The Twins are as good a bet as anyone to win the tournament...IF they make it.  And they're battling the much more regular season-friendly Jays and White Sox for a ticket to it.  I think they're going to be perilously close to missing the playoffs without another bat or 2.

(From zbrent716):
"Innings? 1-2-3 of Santiago, Smalley, and Martin are decent (decent?), but who can pitch in the #4/5 slots?  Big question mark, even for the Twins' owner. Pen should be good. On offense, how far can Asdrubal Azocar take us, and how much can Harry Rivera rebound from last year's **** season? Without Adams, they will have to produce more."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Washington D.C. Nationals Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 85-77 (3rd), missed playoffs
Offense: 749 runs (6th)
Pitching:  3.74 ERA (7th)

Major Changes
FA Departures:
  C Cory Lindblom, RP Jesus Olivares, SP Eduardo Solano, SP Chico Nunez, 2B Clay Lee, OF Jacque Cornelius
FA Signees: 3B Max (like my contract) Gutierrez (re-signed), SS Cozy Mashore, LR Luis Cruz, C Ronn Mahomes, C Carlton Reitz, OF Bo Hines
Acquired via trade:  SP Matthew Casey
Promoted:  IF Trent Jenkins (Sea 17 #52 overall)

Season 21 OutlookYou gotta give GM chase39 credit for being willing to make the big move.  He pulled off the biggest trade of the off-season, netting ace SP Matthew Casey, then opened the wallet to sign Max Gutierrez with the richest FA contract in a year full of rich ones.  Is it enough in the NL East, where all 3 of his competitors made aggressive moves?

Gutierrez is the big dog of the Nats' offense...looks like he'll man 2B full-time this year.  He's ably complimented in the power department by 1B Sandy Quinn (.275/35/138), 3B Joaquin Guzman (.264/33/94), CF Wallace Savage (.262/26/86) and RF Bo Hines (.313/26/104 with Atlanta).  200+ HR's is a distinct possibility.

The leadoff spot likely belongs to Tomas Pascual, who seemingly started his career in the Carter administration.  The ratings are starting to fall pretty fast, but he might have enough left for 1 more .300 season.

Casey joins Albert Velazquez to form one of the most formidable 1-2 punches at the front of any rotation.  Ernie Pittinger, Quinton Sadler and Louie Valdez are quietly effective at the back end. 

Herman Mahler saved 33 of 37 opportunities last year, but also presided over 10 losses.  He may start the season as the closer, but don't expect a lot of patience if he falters.  Lariel Blanco established himself as the iron-horse successor to Olivares after coming over in trade.  He posted a sterling 2.34 ERA in 132 innings of work.  Geoff Bonds and Irv Daniels didn't see a lot of action - they might be tested more severely this year.

Overall, this team looks really good.  The staff is likely to be a little tougher, and the offense is already pretty good.  The bad news is the Mets, Pirates and Phillies are all probably better, too.   Good chance we'll see 3 playoff teams from the East.

St. Louis Cardinals Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 90-72 (2nd and wild card), lost in Round 2 to Braves
Offense: 662 (12th)
Pitching:  3.41 (3rd)

Major Changes
FA Departures:
  SP Andre Monahan, RP Dante Little, C Carlton Reitz, SP/LR Calvin Langston
FA Signees:  OF Harvey Mercedes, C Derrick Redding, SP Vince Borbon, RP Tyrone Kelly
Gone via trade:  SP Matthew Casey, 1B Elijah Perkins
Acquired via trade:  SP Harold Bynum
Rule V:  SS Tony Calderon (#23)
Promoted:  OF Greg Bird (Sea 15 #23 overall), LR Sean Yarnall (Sea 14 #49 overall)

Season 21 OutlookThe Cardinals' trade of Matthew Casey puzzles me a bit.  90-win team moves an ace (for prospects only) who would probably sign a favorable contract with them at age 34.  With the Houston and Florida prospect juggernauts still building, NOW looks like the time to play for in the NL South.  But certainly, the team's long-term prospects are improved by the trade.

Without Casey, the rotation is Cambridge, Infante, Lima, Bynum and Borbon. Not bad...but seems more like a 3.80 ERA rotation than a 3.41 (entire staff ERA last year).

The bullpen replaces Little with Tyrone Kelly, a decent enough swap.  Curt Allen had a dynamite rookie year - a repeat is unlikely.  Matt Reagan, Chien-Ming Lui and Dave Seay are all very good - one or all 3 may replace Little as the team's main closer.

St. Louis was the worst on-base team in Major Leagues last year (.303), and they don't make up for it with power (167 HR's).  LF Dioner Pettit was the team's best hitter last season at .283/21/81.  3B Thomas Pizarro is a decent infield bat - usually good for 20 HR's and 80 RBI - and a good defender.  2B Tom Kennedy (37/5), Pettit (33/3) and CF Mo Lindsey (21/4) are good base-stealers.

So we have a bad offense, a less-potent rotation and a good bullpen.  Anything's possible, but going into the season I'd bet against the Cards winning 90 again.

Tampa Bay Rays Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 98-64 (1st), lost in Round 2 to Yankees
Offense: 825 runs (2nd)
Pitching: 3.92 (5th)

Major Changes
FA Departures:
  RP Juan Ayala, C Aurelio Hernandez
FA Signees: 
SP Ozzie Culver, C Donne Mercedes
Rule V:  C/DH Alex Reyes (#29)

Season 21 OutlookThe Rays had the best record in the AL last year.  They were a bit under-the-radar then, an they're under the microscope now.

Tampa Bay is the complete package on offense.  They hit for power (218 HR's, 3B Roosevelt Tollberg tops with 36), they get on base (.332 team, 1B Bill Crawford tops with .364), and they run (164 SB's, 2B/CF Pedro Mercado tops with 39).

Tollberg was the key FA signing last year.  Another big move was the trade for 2B Babe Brett - he responded with a huge .276/30/108 season at the plate and played acceptable D at 2B.  Another big cog in the offense is SS Russell Robertson.  The Rays give up some defense (34) errors to get his bat into the lineup - the move paid off big last year with 30 HR's and 111 RBI.

Last year's 5 starters (who started 159 games) return, although Joseph Won (15-6, 3.63) will miss the first 45 games or so with tendinitis.  Grover Austin, Bingo Gibson, Ken Federowicz and Sherman Lidge aren't flashy, but they're effective.  Ozzie Culver appears to be the #5 starter in Won's absence.

Haywood Truman struggled (5.03 ERA) as the closer last year, but the job's still his.  No reason to expect anything other than his career form - around a 3.75 ERA.  Virgil Morales is 36 but still hasn't lost anything - he could be better this year, too.  Rico Ferrer and Steven Eaton should be capable short men.

This crew won 98 last year and had very few off-season changes.  I expect they'll be around 98 again.

(From GM jthornton75):
"My team outlook should be easy. I returned my entire team intact other than catchers Aurelio Hernandez and Vernon Thurman being replaced by Donne Mercedes and Alex Reyes.

'So expectations are for a similar season to last year. A spring training injury to Joseph Won has weakened the rotation though and Ken Federowicz will have to step up in his place."

Chicago White Sox Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 93-69 (2nd and wild card), lost to Yankees in Round 1
Offense: 819 runs (3rd)
Pitching: 3.80 ERA (3rd)

Major Changes
FA Departures:
RP Kimera Ellsbury, RP Efrain Yang
FA Signees: RP Francisco Tavarez
Rule V:  SP Rollie Evans (#27)
Promoted:  SP Eswalin Vargas (Sea 17 #56 overall)

Season 21 OutlookChicago has a well-distributed (3 100+ RBI guys, 4 more with 60+) offense that does the big stuff well (.345 OBP - 2nd, .436 Slugging - 2nd).  They're not a big running team, but they also don't throw away many outs trying to steal bases (67/19 stolen bases).

RF Louie Young (.295/31/107), 1B Bernard Evert (.286/41/121), and DH Manuel Johnson (.287/36/114) do the power work.  Evert and Johnson had better-than-normal years, but not by much.  Best guess for this group is just a slight dropoff.

Jim Chamberlain is the Grade A catcher you don't know about.  Good power, contact, eye, pitch-calling and arm all in one package.  He's under-the-radar because he's a little short on DUR (doesn't roll up big counting stats), and he's had a series of knee injuries that have cut into parts of 3 seasons.
He's a big key to this team - if he's healthy for the playoffs, the Sox are much more dangerous team (he was available but invisible in last year's Round 1 loss).

There are a couple of viable options to lead off.  Willy Mo Hennessey has the best batting eye in the game.  His 113 walks last year may not have lead the league, but it had to be near the top.  But he's also a potent power source (36 HR's), so management may want that facet in the middle of the order.  CF Albert Espinosa is the team's best base-stealer (39/1), but isn't the on-base threat (.329).

Chicago's pitching got a big boost from budget FA signee Samuel Hyzdu.  He battled wildness but posted a 17-9, 3.85 ERA in an impressive 220 innings.  Any team would like to have him at $4.4MM, but he's a wild card. Gary Brinkley has maintained ace-level performance even as his ratings have declined; he's reached the point where he's really a #2 starter who's ratings will probably fall pretty hard over the season.  Matt Clemens is a solid #2, and Jesse Rivera is a 4.22 ERA guy who can give you the occasional breakout year (Season 15: 20-8, 3.41).  Vargas, Evans and Kirby Nolasco (16 starts last year).

The bullpen is getting up in years but is still very good.  Roberto Jacquez (3.31 ERA, 8 wins, 18 saves) has excelled in his sometimes-closer, sometimes middleman role.  At 35, Hugh Taylor is still one of the top short relievers in the game (2.56 career ERA).  Scott Sonnanstine and B.J. Lowell were both excellent in minimal innings - I'm not sure they can hold up to more exposure.  Finally, Francisco Tavarez becomes the feel-good story of the Spring by getting his shot after 14 minor-league seasons.

Chicago's offense is solid and should perform close to last year's levels.  The staff has some vulnerability, both in the rotation and the bullpen.  Barring further moves, expect a little falloff in the intensely competitive AL North.

Friday, November 30, 2012

CIncinnati Reds Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 72-90 (3rd) missed playoffs
Offense: 736 runs (7th)
Pitching:  4.22 ERA (11th)

Major Changes
FA Departures:
  SP Peter Zhou, OF Gerardo Martis, RP Jorge Marichal, C Ronn Mahomes, LR Jean Lanning, RP Naoki Higashioka
FA Signees:  SP Andre Monahan, C Harold Blume, OF Kevin Cooper
Rule V: 
SP Mark Kwon (#7)

Season 21 Outlook
I correctly thought the division would be wide-open last year, but incorrectly picked the Reds to step up and take advantage.  One would think if a team "underperformed" given the seasons Miguel Rojas (1.79 ERA in 225 IP) and Harold Creek (36/37 saves, 1.63 ERA) had, you'd look to the offense to find the problem.

The opposite is true.  While the lineup performed at least adequately, the rest of the staff outside of Rojas, Creek and RP Desi Ortiz (3.43 ERA in 110 innings) had problems.  Cincy can expect a much better year from Tony Ordaz, who would be the undisputed #1 on most teams.  Pepe Villafuerte, as we saw in Season 19, is capable of putting up very good numbers.  He's a fireballer and very tough on righties, but his wildness makes him unpredictable.  I think Andre Monahan will end up being one of the high-impact FA signings of Season 21.  He's compiled a very nice 3.47 ERA over his 6 seasons, and thus far his performance hasn't varied much from year to year.  So, there's a good probabilty that the Reds will get 3 excellent SP performances this year, with at least a chance for a 4th.

Even if Creek slips some from last year (likely), he'll still be good as a closer.  Ortiz is his primary setup...the bullpen gets a bit thin from there.

The Reds' offense probably goes much as Vin Sanchez goes.  Last year was a bit of an off year for him, although he still hit 34 homers and drove in 102.  Kevin Cooper replaces Martis in LF - basically a trade of on-base skills to get a bit more power.  CF Sammy Quevedo provides some speed (20 SB's) and power (20 HR's), but needs to up that OBP (.294).  Miguel Julio remains a better-than-average hitter for a C. 

Cincinnati's still-average offense should still be good enough if the expected pitching improvements materialize.  I don't think they'll beat the Cubs, but I think they'll make it a lot closer race this year.

Boston Red Sox Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 80-82 (2nd), missed playoffs
Offense: 799 runs (6th)
Pitching:  4.68 (13th)

Major Changes
FA Departures:
  OF Oswaldo Martin, SS Albert Moreno
FA Signees:
Acquired via Trade:
SP Ivan Chace
1B Jared Campana (Sea 18 #21 overall), 3B Thomas Conner (Sea 17 #39 overall), DH Diego James (Sea 18 #89 overall),  RP Fritz Miles (Sea 16 #53 overall)

Season 21 Outlook(courtesy of GM jclarkbaker)
"My team hit like crazy last year.  I expect the same, but more power/runs with James and Campana up. I would like Henderson not to get hurt this season, and my pitching underperformed last year, so if they are at least where they should be, the Sox should be in the playoffs.

World Major League Blog comment:  Boston has a free-swinging (15th in BB's) lineup, but when they swing they hit it - the Sox had nearly 100 more hits than any other AL team, and led the entire Major Leagues with a .286 average.  They're not a big power team - just 150 homers last year.  James and a full year of Henderson should help with that.  They have an excellent running game led by 2B Carter Briggs (63 for 68 in SB's) and CF Aurelio Benavente (47 for 59).  Rookie 1B Campana has an excellent batting eye - he'll help the team OBP hitting somewhere near the top of the order.

Boston's pitching staff
needs a big-time rebound.  Of their 5 primary starters last year, only Sam Griffin (16-9, 3.80) had an ERA under 4.60.  Charley Washington and Dewey Marion were both way above their career ERA's, so there's reason to believe a turnaround is imminent.  Ivan Chace has had career stretches when he was effective, but it's been a few seasons...he's a wild card.

The bullpen is more reliable.  Closer Dan Graham has been lights-out, converting 133 of 148 save opportunities in his 7 seasons.  Fritz Miles, Albie Padilla and Bryan Gray provide quality setup innings.

I like Boston's chances.  The pitching really could be improved, and Campana and James bring 2 more quality bats to an already-good offense.

Florida Marlins Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 70-92 (3rd), missed playoffs
Offense: 621 runs (15th)
Pitching:  3.89 ERA (8th)

Major Changes
FA Departures:
  C Donne Mercedes
Left via Trade:  OF Dave Diaz
Rule V: 
RP P.T. SaenzPromoted:  1B Rey Tamura (Sea 18 IFA), 2B Howie McLaughlin (Sea 18 #1 overall), SS Ricardo Ayala (Sea 17 IFA), SS Wilbur Kirby (Sea 17 #12 overall), SP Desmond Wengert (Sea 18 #14 overall)
Lurking in AAA:  OF Louie Chiasson (Sea 18 #23 overall)

Season 21 OutlookThe Marlins continue to accumulate young talent.   A good bit of it has found its way to the majors, especially on the pitching staff, and there's a healthy minor league pipeline in place.

The rotation has 2 young stud aces, Taylor Cashman (6th pick of the Sea 15 draft) and Vic Villalona (Sea 17's #1).  Both a big, hard-throwing righties with good pitches and particular toughness on righty batters.  Both are potential 20-game winners - they'll be anchoring this staff for a long time.

Behind those 2 are Grover Thames, a workhorse with a solid 4.01 ERA in 4 seasons; Desmond Wengert, who was the prime compensation in the Mark Payton trade last year; and Andy Brantley - 3.86 ERA in 163 IP as a rookie.

That's a damn nice rotation top to bottom.  The bullpen might not be up to those standards, but it's pretty good.  Jarred Cunningham posted a 2.99 ERA in 72 innings, and Julio Aviles notched a 1.59 in his 22 late-season innings.

The lineup has not caught up to the staff's talent yet, and at this point is incomplete.  C Jim Fasano is the top power source; rookies McLaughlin and Kirby look like they'll be at least decent hitters for infielders.  Florida has no OF's currently on the ML roster; I'm guessing Louie Chiasson in AAA will get the call shortly.  He'll strike out a lot, but has good power and should be a pretty good all-round hitter.

With their pitching, the Marlins might actually contend if they go out and get a couple of hitters.  Short of that, they'll still improve and maybe put a scare into the Cards and Braves if they slide any.

First 2 Polls

Seems like we had a lot of big-name talent movement this off-season, so I thought it would be interesting to see what we all thought of the moves.  2 polls:

Which big-name player move will have the most impact this season?  By "most impact" I mean things like being key to a division title, improving 20 games...positive addition to win totals.

Which big-name free agent is the best bang for the buck?  I don't know if "bargain" can be applied to any; "best value" might be another description.

Here are the players under consideration.   All (3 traded players + 7 FA's) are in the first poll; just the 7 FA's in the second one.

SP Matthew Casey (trade to Nationals)
DH Cutter Nieman (trade to Twins)
OF Dave Diaz (trade to Sounds)
3B Max Gutierrez (FA to Nationals - 5yr, $110MM)
SP Calvin Nielsen (FA to Mariners - 5yr, $68.8MM)
C Pedro Caballero (FA to Blue Jays - 4yr, $65MM)
SP AlfredoTorrealba (FA to Pirates - 5yr, $52.5MM)
OF Sterling Adams (FA to Mets - 5yr, $75MM)
OF Bruce Page (FA to Blue Jays - 5yr, $56MM)
OF Rafael Rijo (FA to Pirates - 5yr, $60.8MM)

Texas Rangers Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  77-85 (4th), missed playoffs
Offense:  706 runs (14th)
Pitching:  4.66 ERA (12th)

Major ChangesFA Departures:  IF Wilfredo Vazquez, SP Alfredo Torrealba, RP Vic Olmeda

FA Signees:  RP Chris Coppinger,  C Don Towers, CF Andy Wagner

Lurking in AAA: 3B Reagan Cuddyer (Sea 18 #34 overall), OF Lucas Ford (Sea 18 #9 overall), OF Pascual Astacio (Sea 18 IFA)

Season 21 Outlook
The Texas offense is a bit of an oddity - it's a non-slugging (last in HR's), speedburner (2nd in SB's) lineup in a hitter's ballpark.  2B Howie Simmons (48-3) and 1B Rafael Sosa (36-6) are the 2 most prolific thieves, although Simmons starts the season on the 15-day DL.  He could be Wally-Pipped when he returns - with Wagner taking over CF, Del Chang is now set at 2B, leaving no clear spot for Simmons.  3B currently has no clear successor to Vazquez - prospect Cuddyer may be there in 20 games.  Chang (26 HR's & 96 RBI, but he'll need to improve that .294 OBP), Sosa (.252/18/72) and DH Bryce White (.269/17/74) are the prime run-producers.

The staff may experience some post-Torrrealba adjustments.  Benito Acosta is undoubtedly an ace-level talent, but seems to be limited to about 150 innings.  He'll be the most-of-the-time #1 starter.  Les Price had his best ML season last year, and the Rangers desperately need something similar from him.  The other SP candidates - Marrero, Stark, Beam and Rowand - very honestly, are barely ML-quality.

The short-relief crew - Adam Friend, Hector Franco and Coppinger - is pretty solid.  I don't know how many leads they're going to inherit, but they should do OK with the ones they get.

Looks like kind of a tough season coming for the Rangers (and I've certainly been wrong about predictions a lot).  That starting staff is more than likely going to put them in a lot of early game 5-0 holes - not exactly ideal for an offense centered around stealing bases.  It might be time for Texas to try to remake this thing into more of a get-on-base, hit-for-power squad.  With that in mind, I bet we'll see both AAA OF prospects (Ford and Astacio) early on.

zbrent is RIGHT...Damon is IN

Thanks to zbrent's A+ analysis below, the logic is inescapable:  Escobar and Damon were virtually identical pitchers, performance-wise.  If one's in, they both should be in.  I can't not vote for Escobar with 4 CY's, so I'm changing my call on DamonDAMON SHOULD BE IN.

To me, zbrent's post is really about the wins stat.  If Damon had picked up even another 40 wins over his career, I don't think we'd be calling him a bubble candidate - even though most middle-relief wins are incredibly undeserving of any particular recognition.

I took over a good team in Dirt a few seasons back.  Good team, fairly high payroll.  When FA had settled I was short on SP but had picked up 3-4 really good relievers.  And I had one guy - Christopher Ledesma - who was one of those 40 STA 90 DUR guys you can roll out there for an inning or 2 nearly every day, and a really good pitcher to boot.  He had been used as a closer his whole career (had 2 FOY's) and I think at the time had rolled up close to 400 saves.

Anyway, because I had a couple of dynamite short relievers, and a couple more that were good, and a very average group of starters, I went with a 4 or even sometimes 3-man rotation, set 'em to short pitch counts, and brought in Ledesma for a couple of innings around the 4th or 5th inning.  This was a good offense, so I often had the lead when I brought Ledesma in.  The first year, he had 26 wins and won the CY.  The 2nd year, he had 35 wins and won the CY again.  61wins, all in 2-inning stints.  With 2 FOY's and 2 CY's, he's probably a LOCK to go into the HOF over there.  And he wasn't as good a pitcher as Damon is.

A HOF Case Comparison

Here are the stats for two players, as independent as we can easily get them. 

No Wins, no Losses - too dependent on team.

No Saves, GS, or GP - too dependent on coach usage.

These are the stats that I think best represent the effectiveness of the pitcher. Ideally, we could control for the defense behind the pitcher and the home park, among other things, but the quick-and-dirty is perhaps the best we can easily do given the stats provided by WhatIf.

Color Code
Red = Average or Worse
Orange = Good/Very Good, but not Great and/or under 145IP.
Green = Great Season with 145IP+

Player A had 7 "Great" seasons.
Player B had 6 "Great" seasons.

Player A had 5 "Good/Very Good" seasons of significant (100+) IP, plus 1 "Good/Very Good" lower-IP season.
Player B had 8 "Good/Very Good" seasons of significant (100+) IP, plus 1 "Good/Very Good" lower-IP season.

Player A had 1 "Average or Worse" season of significant (100+) IP, plus 2 "Average or Worse" lower-IP seasons.
Player B had 0 "Average or Worse" seasons of significant (100+) IP, plus 2 "Average or Worse" lower-IP seasons.

Let's focus on those "Great" seasons, but not on the W/L from them. Instead, we're going to judge effectiveness on the mound by ranking ERA, WHIP, OAV, OBP, and SLG against. A top 3 finish is in bold.

In the 13 "Great" seasons, here are the ERA rankings:
Player A - #3, #4, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10
Player B - #1, #2, #5, #11, #12, #13

In the 13 "Great" seasons, here are the WHIP rankings:
Player A - #1, #2, #4, T-#5, #8, T-#9, T-#9
Player B - #3, T-#5, T-#5, T-#9, T-#9, #13

In the 13 "Great" seasons, here are the OAV rankings:
Player A - #3, #6, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13
Player B - #1, #2, #4, #5, #7, #8

In the 13 "Great" seasons, here are the OBP rankings:
Player A - #1, #2, #6, #7, #9, #10, #13
Player B - #3, #4, #5, #8, #11, #12

In the 13 "Great" seasons, here are the SLG against rankings:
Player A - #4, #6, #7, #9, #10, #11, #12
Player B - #1, #2, #3, #5, #8, #13

In case you were unsure, Player A is a 4-time Cy Young winner and perhaps a lock for the HOF - Bartolo Escobar.
Player B is a 1-time Cy Young winner and probably not going to make it - Zack Damon. This is not because he was any less effective as a pitcher over his career, or any less dominant at his peak, but instead because he had the misfortune of being a middle reliever rather than a starter and so did not accumulate enough wins or awards. I feel some responsibility for this as his owner for 3 seasons.

During those 3 years he was 46-14, but it was the third season - which was not the best of the 3 (his Cy Young and best season was the first of the 3) - where I used him in such a fashion as to allow his W/L to reflect his abilities at the expense of saves. He went 26-4 that season and it was his only ML season without a save or save opportunity. It was decried as a gimmick, and the Cy Young instead went to Escobar. Granted, Escobar was more effective that season, but the voting was close as I recall, and Damon had the better W/L record.

A difference of 2-3 votes for Escobar in Season 9 going to Damon's 26-4 record, and suddenly Escobar has only 3 Cy Youngs and Damon has 2 Cy Youngs.

Had I successfully traded for Damon a few years earlier (and still used him in such a way to let him accumulate wins) or not let him walk in FA where he went back to part-time closer costing him wins, and Damon is easily (by his effectiveness) a 200-90 W/L pitcher, at least.

This whole thing is evidence of a very simple (to me) point - these two pitchers were basically the same player in World Major Leagues when they were on the mound.

That one was a SP and the other was used/misused as a MR/sometimes closer is a silly reason to draw distinctions between them for purposes of HOF voting, just like it was for purposes of Cy Young voting.

I'm not sure if I am voting for either of them yet, but I am pretty sure I won't be picking just one and leaving the other out.

For me, they may as well be joined at the hip in HOF voting - just as they are in statistical effectiveness.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Los Angeles Dodgers Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 87-75 (2nd), missed playoffs
Offense: 627 runs (14th)
Pitching:  3.53 ERA (4th)

Major ChangesFA Departures:  RP Carson Moreno, OF Napoleon Davis

FA Signees: 
OF Fred Leary

Promoted: OF Willie Pinzon (Sea 15 IFA), RP Colvin Hume (Sea 17 #30 overall), RP Trenidad James (Sea 16 IFA), RP Kirt Murphy (Sea 16 #52 overall), RP Keith Phelps (Sea 17 #51 overall),

Season 21 OutlookGiven their home park, you might expect that the Dodgers would struggle to score runs, and that is indeed the case.  They only reached base at a .307 clip last year - 1B Pascual Moreno is the most reliable base-reacher (.366 last year, above his career norm).  They hit 162 HR's (2B Carlos Melendez tops with 33).  They will definitely try to take the extra base on you and have a stable of base-stealers (CF Jim Davenport the best with 50-for-59 last year).  I don't see their m/o - or their output - changing much this year, although OF Pinzon adds some pop.

Pitching is where LA wins it's games, and they've added another big crop of young arms this off-season.  Del Redondo is one of the top young SP's in the NL, when he can stay healthy.  There's nothing about him that suggests any great injury risk, but he missed big chunks of Seasons 17 and 19 with elbow injuries.  The 2-5 starters - Pascual Rosario, Enos Campbell,  P.J. Hamilton and Preston Collins - were all terrific last year; the Dodgers need repeats of those performances.

Javier Calderone and Roy Tipton will likely get the save chances...they'll be joined by 4 rookies in the Kiddie Corps that is the Dodger 'pen.

LA improved by 20 wins last year; it's hard to see that happening again, but contention is within reach.  Add a bat, get a bust-out, CY year from Redondo and you never know.

Montreal Expos Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 79-92 (4th), missed playoffs
Offense: 709 runs (9th)
Pitching:  4.70 ERA (12th)

Major ChangesFA Departures:  SP Harpo Patterson, CF Felix Satou, RP Matty Padilla

FA Signees:
SP Reggie Hardy, SP Eduardo Solano, RP Jim May (signed, then lost in Rule V)

Season 21 Outlook
The Expos might have the best-hitting 2B/3B/SS trio in Major Leagues (I didn't check around, but given the relative weakness here at 2B and 3B, it's hard to imagine a better group).  2B Wesley Hunt has been averaging 31 HR's/year, Benji Wood could be the best 3B in this world not named Gutierrez, and SS Dustan Beimel has 100_ RBI the last 2 seasons.

They join COF's Sean Westbrook (.303/20/81) and Dennys Simon (.281/22/89) to form the core of an almost-very good offense.  If Montreal could round up a decent-hitting 1B (Pasqual Flores - .277-10-41 - got the most AB's there last year), it might be enough to make that almost-good offense really good.

Montreal's starting pitching was terrible last year - only 1 SP had an ERA under 4.70 (Virgil Banks' 4.24) - so the Hardy and Solano additions could be huge.  The bullpen is in flux, as last year's closer (and an effective one at that), Juan Rijo, left in a late-season trade.  Ron McConnell was pretty effective as a rookie last year and appears to have inherited the closer's job.

In this wide-open division, could the Expos go worst-to-first?  It's only 8 games.  They probably need a good bat at 1B and a couple more arms to make a run.

Cleveland Indians Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  73-89 (3rd), missed playoffs
Offense:  722 runs (12th)
Pitching:  4.39 ERA (8th)

Major ChangesFA Departures:  none

FA Signees: 

Promoted: 2B Santiago Batista (Sea 17 IFA), DH Emilio Gonzalez (Sea 15 IFA), RP Billy Griffin (Sea 13 #34 overall)

Lurking in AAA:  C Ralph Dunn (Sea 16 #44 overall), LF Rod McNeil (Sea 17 #2 overall), Rodney Stuart (Sea 17 #2 overall)

Season 21 OutlookThe Indians feature a power attack (217 HR's), with 1B Eric Swift (47), C Jerry Monroe (32), and rookies Batista and Gonzalez leading the homer parade.  They don't get on base terribly well (.324), and don't have anything resembling a classic leadoff hitter (OF Pat Whang did steal 59 bases and may be the best bet to lead off).  The outfield alignment looks a little unsettled at the moment - that could create an opportunity for AAA prospect McNeil to claim the LF spot early on.

Cleveland's putting together a pretty interesting lineup...might be a little "home runs or nothing," but there will be a lot of home runs.

Denny Stairs now has a couple of solid seasons behind him and is the #1 starter.  Armando Mendoza (#2) has been mostly good but up and down the last 4 seasons (last year was up, so...).  Looks like Oscar Pimentel has the #3 spot for now.  Stevie Ross, Bert Boyd, and the hilariously-named Harry Johnson will battle for the final 2 rotation spots.

The bullpen has some pretty good talent in Kieschnick, Jacobs, Larkin and Timmons.  It falls off pretty far after that but those 4 should be able to hold things together pretty well.  The staff will probably get a nice boost when Rodney Stuart gets promoted - he could start but is probably best as a long/middle RP.

I like the direction the Tribe's headed.  .500 won the division and they were only 8 back.  With 4 rookies and prospects who could really contribute, they'll be a factor.

Hall Of Fame Time

Full disclosure - I've just about completely reversed course in my views on HBD Halls of Fame.

When they first got started, many worlds had a built-up surplus of deserving candidates, but it was hard to get enough owners to vote to get all those candidates in.  I was a proponent of using all 5 of your votes no matter what.

Now I look around my worlds' Halls and I see...mediocrity.

Closers with 4.40 ERA's in Halls of Fame.  DH's masquerading as 1B's with 150 "-" plays in Halls of Fame.  1-trick ponies from here to the horizon.

But here, in World Major Leagues, we have a rarity: a Hall of Fame that has not yet been polluted by the scourge of mediocrity.  Actually, I don't really believe that.  Glenn Norton simply was not a very good player, and he did hit a lot of HR's.  The ultimate 1-trick pony.  But that's water under the bridge, and at least his 1 trick was a trick that mattered).

Anyway, the way I've reversed course: I now actively campaign AGAINST certain candidates and encourage owners to use only 2 or 3 of their votes every year.

With that BIAS (and reasons for it) clearly stated, here's my take on the serious candidates for this year's Hall:

In Like Flint
SP's Cesar Carrasquel and Bartolo Escobar.  These 2 join Chris Nen to be the dominant trio (Actually, it's fair to include Luis Contreras in that era, too, but we aren't talking about him for the HOF yet) of the "pre-Rojas" era.  Those 3 won 14 of the first 26 Cy Young's.  Both had it all - the stamina and durability to go deep into games and roll up lots of innings (Carrasquel moreso than Escobar) along with the talent to make those innings count.  Both won WS rings and had many All-Star trips.  This is the kind of dominance we want in the Hall!

On The Bubble
CF/1B/LF Alex Solano;  SP's Cesar Gil, Calvin Hyun, and Steve Kennedy; and MR Zack Damon.  The purist in me wants to dismiss Solano as just a guy who took a wrong turn on his way to the track meet (his 1529 career SB's make him far and away our career leader), and remind us that SB's really don't matter much (which is to say, a lot more than saves).  But I can't.  He was a pretty good on-base guy (.374), won 3 Gold Gloves, and played CF at least competently.  So for being super-dominant in one aspect, and contributing in others, SOLANO GETS THUMBS UP.

Gil, Hyun and Kennedy were all really good pitchers who suffer by comparison to real life.  Scoring in HBD is higher than in real baseball (I don't know by how much...maybe I'll do that for a future post), so sluggers end up with better numbers than the rl counterparts, and pitchers look worse.  Just guessing, I'd say Gil's numbers translate to RL stats of close to 300 wins and maybe a 3.20 ERA.  Hyun - probably a sub-3.00 ERA and around 240-250 wins.  Kennedy maybe close to 300 wins, too.
In my view, this makes these 3 the next most-worthy candidates.  But because I'm looking for something that says "predominant", I'm saying NO ON GIL, HYUN and KENNEDY (even though Gil and Hyun won a CY each).

Damon is a bit different case. zbrent correctly points out that he and Escobar were almost identically effective (indeed, examination of career OPS confirms).  Why not at least consider Damon if Escobar's a lock?  We should consider Damon - not only was he really effective, he pitched as many innings in some seasons as starters do.  But I'm not arguing that every pitcher with a 3.17 ERA in 2500+ innings should be in the Hall.  Escobar's 4 CY's signify dominance - the best - not just once, but 4 times.  In my more denying HOF mood, Damon represents the reason NOT to induct all but the very best closers.  Only tossed 1200 innings?  Forget it.  500 saves (400 of which were 1-inning outings with nobody on, nobody out with a 2-run lead...situations any reliever on the staff coud save most of the time) and a 4.19 career ERA?  Not nearly as good a pitcher as Damon - forget it!

I looked hard at Damon but decided NO.

Honestly, it wouldn't bother me if Solano didn't get in and all 4 of the P's did - they're all that close.  I just tilt a bit toward Solano on the "predominance" criteria.

Not Just NO...HELL, NO
Abdullah Daniels, Mike Fasano, and anyone else.  OK, evidence and interpretation.  Evidence:  3 All-Star teams apiece..three?  Daniels played 15 seasons, Fasano 17...does 3 All-Star trips each say "predominant" in any way?  But I gave thumbs up to Solano with only 3.

Fasano didn't contribute anything in the power department, so let's consider his on-base ability.  .357 lifetime.  Just OK, nothing great for a leadoff man.  In his best (OPS-wise) full season (Season 3 with Boston...hitter's park in the steroid era), he got on base at a roaring .316 clip against lefties.  Interpretation:  in his best season, in a hitter's park in the steroid era, against 35-40% of all the pitchers he faced, he actually sucked as a leadoff hitter.  In probably his next-best full (which he didn't have many of) season, Season 6 with Boston, he on-based .313.against lefties.

He was a legit CF and a very good one.  Never won a Gold Glove, though.  Very good player, anyone would want him.  But for HOF consideration, the ultimate 1-trick pony.  NO ON FASANO.

Daniels wasn't a 1-trick pony, he just wasn't GREATNESS in any fashion.  He was a pretty good 1B who also stole some bases.  His lifetime OBP was .348...c'mon, in real life that's like .318 or something.  Dave Kingman and Gorman Thomas territory (those I did look up - Kingman had a career OBP of .302, Thomas .324).  And for a 1B/COF under Hall consideration, sorry, the 430 HR's are utterly unimpressive as a 15-year total.  I wish there was a way to look up players by career RC/27 or some of the other sabermetric-ish stats.  I bet guys (among this year's Hall class) like Rolando Diaz, A.J. Hemmingway, and Nigel Shibata would compare favorably to Daniels and Fasano.

Let's try something like that.

Here are the RC/27's for Fasano, Daniels, Diaz, Hemmingway and Shibata for their best seasons (MVP season if they had 1, best OPS season over 140 games played if they didn't):

Diaz - 9.96
Daniels - 8.44
Fasano - 6.72
Hemmingway - 9.97
Shibata - 9.24

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nashville Sounds Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 86-76 (2nd), missed playoffs
Offense:  807 runs (5th)
Pitching:  4.57 ERA (10th)

Major ChangesFA Departures:  LR Reagan Knoblauch, SS Tony Cornejo, RP Chris Coppinger, RP Jarrett Belitz

FA Signees:
RP Cristobal Vizcaino, 2B Greg Frye

Departed via Trade:
3B Vicente Castro

Acquired via Trade:
  OF Dave Diaz, SS Alex Lopez

RP Jeffrey Tatum

Season 21 Outlook(From GM coach34)
"4 subpar seasons following our WS win doesnt cut it. FA signees Greg Frye and Cristobal Vizcaino were brought in to bolster the roster. We also traded for Dave Diaz to give him a fresh start in the middle of our order.

'We also traded for Alex Lopez to give us a quality glove at SS. I just hope he can hit his weight this season. Now that he has a season under his belt, Farmer Betancourt (AL ROY Last season) should also lead the way at the plate.

'This team is banking on it's offense and defense to carry the load since we don't have any top tier type pitching. Hopefully we will get enough to make the playoffs this season."

World Major League Blog comment: I love the Diaz trade - he's exactly the kind of player who seems to have a bust-out year when moving to a more hitter-friendly park.  I think you'll see more like .320/35/110 out of Diaz from now on.  Add in Frye, and you might have an offense that puts up more runs than they did last year.  I agree the staff will probably scuffle a times, but it's certainly good enough to pick up 5 or even 10 wins with a couple good performances and a slightly better offense.

Atlanta Braves Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  100-62 (1st), lost the NLCS in 7 to Pittsburgh
Offense:  798 runs (2nd)
Pitching:  3.29 ERA (2nd)

Major ChangesFA Departures:  SS Pete Simpkins, RP Claude Smith, SP Reggie Hardy, SP Hades McDermott, OF Bo Hines, IF Damaso Baez, OF Brian Blair

FA Signees:  OF Dan Bailey, OF Julian Guerrero, OF Fernando Sosa,  IF Wilson Burns, RP Arthur Howell, SP Dennis Forest, SP Calvin Langston, SP Denny Sullivan

Rule V: C Alex Seelbach (#31)

Promoted:  2B Alex Sugawara (Sea 16 IFA)

Season 21 OutlookOK, the Braves lost a lot of offensive production in free agency:  Hines (.313/26/104), Baez (.300/32/106) and Blair (.293/14/42) gave them some great numbers at RF, 3B and CF.  Who's stepping into those shoes this year?

Looks like Jumbo Bravo will slide over to 3B this year, with rookie Alex Sugawara taking over 2nd.  Sugawara's a capable player, but he won't approach the power output Baez provided.  CF looks like maybe a Bailey/Sosa platoon...some pop there, probably a push from last year.  Guerrero replaces Hines - he could certainly have a big year even at 36, but I doubt he's got 26 homers and 104 RBI in that aging bat.

Looks to me like the offense is likely to be down at least a little, even if they get a repeat of Erick Green's career year (103 RBI...previous best 68).

The staff lost about 365 mostly quality innings with the departures of Smith, Hardy and McDermott.  Can Howell, Forest, Langston and Sullivan replace that?  Maybe, but I think the bigger question is whether the entire staff can even come close to last year's remarkable performance.  They had only 1 pitcher with an ERA above 4.25 (Al Jose) - and he only pitched 34 innings.  That's incredible, you just don't see that.  The better Mets' staff had 3 guys over 4.25 who pitched significant innings.

This is still a solid staff, especially the front 3 of Plata, Ruffin, Roque.  They'll do their parts.  But you have to expect that some guys are going to revert to career norms and you'll have 3-5 guys in hte upper 4's and 5's in ERA.

Expect some backsliding from the 100-win mark this year, but Atlanta could still win what will almost certainly be a more competitive division

And this from Atlanta's GM, shakazulu5:
"Atlanta's Outlook: **** poor. I really have nothing good to say about my off-season moves (or lack thereof).  Tore up my knee playing flag football, had to have surgery, excuses, etc, but the Braves' GM basically **** the bed this off-season... that's all I got, hopefully you give my team a good chirping, we deserve it. And awesome work on the blog bro, thanks!

Hope the knee's feeling better...had an ACL myself some years back.  No fun.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Colorado Springs Rockies Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 74-88 (tie 3rd), missed playoffs
Offense:  685 runs (11th)
Pitching:  4.12 ERA (9th)

Major Changes
FA Departures:
  OF R.J. Henry, OF Alex Santiago, RP Jim Thompson, C Don Towers, RP Bill Hayes, SP Braden Holt

FA Signees:
  CF Felix Satou, CF Javy Martinez, SP Kyle Nicholson

Rule V:  IF Donovan Sears (#11), IF Al Teheran (#43), RP Miguel Barajas (#75)

Season 21 OutlookThe Rockies concentrated their off-season efforts on improving its defense, bringing in defensive-minded CF's Satou and Martinez, and then taking slick-fielding IF Al Teheran in the Rule V.

The offense could be better if star LF Alvin Crawford returns to career-average form - his dreadful (for him, at least) .779 OPS last year was a whopping 103 points below his career average.  They do get a nice distribution of power up and down the lineup - they had 9 players with double-figure HR's last year (RF Pedro Villano led the team with 30).

The Rocks could stand to work on their on-base skills...again, it will help there if the real Alvin Crawford shows up.  2B Theodore Haney was their best on-base guy last year, but he was well above his career average.  They might surprise a few teams on the basepaths this year - Satou, Martinez and Teheran are all burners with good base-running skills and will undoubtedly boost Colorado Springs' league-low 38 SB's.

Bob Cook (9-12, 3.20) and Cristian Wellemeyer (8-11, 3.71) anchor what could be a 6-man rotation.  Last year's best starter, Henry Morgan (15-10, 3.03), looks like he may be slated more closer duty, which would be a major shakeup.  Of the other short relievers, Gerald Hall looks to be the most competent.

Management has made some interesting changes here, tilting the team decidedly toward a stingier defense and more aggressive baserunning.  Love it...they'll compete in the tough NL West.

Milwaukee Brewers Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 77-85 (2nd), missed playoffs
Offense:  650 runs (13th)
Pitching:  4.15 ERA (10th)

Major ChangesFA Departures:  C Harold Blume, RP Larry Colin

FA Signees:  DH Damaso Rosales, RP Andy Hahn

Rule V:  2B Walter Weaver (#12), 2B Les Rowan (#44)

Promoted: SS Victor Armas (Sea 17 IFA), OF Rex Hernandez (Season 16 #43 overall), OF Wolf Porter (Season 16 #26 overall)

Lurking in AAA:  RP Esmerling Velazquez (Season 19 #3 overall)

Season 21 OutlookAnother team counting on a lot of rookies.  Victor Armas certainly looks like a good one (he was a highly-touted, $21MM-bonus IFA by the Phillies in Season 17).  He'll join (I'm guessing ) C Jimmy Coco and OF Douglas Dixon in the middle of the lineup. 

With a few exceptions, the members of Milwaukee's pitching staff are run-of-the-mill.  Minnie Greenwood has been solid in the pen, and Andy Hahn had a nice season last year for both Tampa and Seattle (first one on awhile for him , though).  SP Chico Albaladejo walks more guys than Nuke LaLoosh, but seems to get away with it (1.49 career WHIP, 4.07 career ERA) - he and Jung-Lee Lee are pretty reliable starters.  The rest of the rotation will be an adventure.

The Brew Crew's best pitcher might be the AAA reliever Velazquez.  He only has 2 years in the minors, but looks like he could help the big club right now.  We'll see if he gets the call in 20 games.

Houston Astros Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  48-114 (4th), missed playoffs
Offense:  610 runs (16th)
Pitching:  5.06 ERA (16th)

Major ChangesFA Departures:  SP Felipe Borbon, SP Alfredo Guerrero, LR Red Bolton,

FA Signees:  IF Damaso Baez, SP Santiago Vizcaino
Rule 5:  SP Bucky Ojeda (#1),  RP Raymond Cobb (#33)

Promoted:  C Nate Getz, 3B Rodney Scott, CF Homer Bellhorn, SP Carlos Benavente, SP Don Shibata, SP Charles Mays, 2B Luis Hernandez, RP Mike Powell,

Lurking in AAA:  IF Jin-Chi Donald, SP Tony Moya, SP Robin Buford

Season 21 Outlook
Things are looking up in Houston.  After all those years of, rebuilding, the prospects are arriving.  Get this...20 players on the major-league roster are 1st, 2nd or 3rd-year players.

Are any of them any good?  Some.  New C Nick Getz is a defensive whiz and will hit with some power.  2B Luis Hernandez will be a competent lead-off man.  3B Rodney Scott chips in more power, although he may prove to be a defensive liability.  SP Carlos Benavente could be a ROY Contender this year and a CY contender eventually.  And the 2 gems of the system, SP Tony Moya and IF Jin-Chi Donald, are ML_ready and should get the call early in the season.

Will they challenge this year?  Doubtful but who knows?  There's serious talent here.