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.

Toronto Blue Jays Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  66-96 (4th), missed playoffs
Offense:  734 runs (10th)
Pitching:  3.54 (1st)

Major Changes
FA Departures:  RP Edinson Palacios, C William Maeda, LR Eddie Foxx, OF Roosevelt Thomas,  OF Cap Turner

FA Signees:  OF Bruce Page, RP Joe Davis, C Pedro Caballero, RP Gary Dorsey, OF Jae Nakano

Promoted:  DH Santos Alicea (Sea 17 IFA), SP Tim Crosby (Sea 16 #11 overall), SP Lee McCarthy (Sea 18 #3 overall),

Season 21 Outlook
(courtesy of GM coltonrocks)

"I am honestly not sure what to expect with this team. We had a great pitching staff last year with the big three at the top in Hubbell, Uribe, and Culver but this season we decided to go young with the back end and promote Lee McCarthy and Tim Crosby to go along with Eddie Michaels.  I still haven't made up my mind as to who I want in those 4 and 5 spots in the rotation.

'We also called up young DH Santos Alicea to hopefully add a little more offense this season.  I guess what I am trying to say is that I think the team that won the division by 3 games last year got better, but I'm not really sure with all the youth and turnover that has happened over the off-season.  Plus this is always one of the toughest divisions in baseball so you never really know what will happen.

'Not one person picked Toronto to win the division last year, with most people thinking  the Twins and Sox would run away with things.  Hopefully we can fly under the radar a bit this season again and make a run."

World Major Leagues Blog comment:  No way they're under the radar anymore.  They have everything...strong pitching across the staff, improved offense with Caballero and Page, depth.  We'll wait until reviewing the rest of the AL North before making a prediction, but the Jays will certainly contend.  I think they could even survive a Bruce Page injury and contend.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pittsburgh Pirates Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  99-63 (2nd and wild card); won World Series
Offense:  817 runs (1st)
Pitching:  3.58 ERA (5th)

Major Changes
FA Departures:  OF Todd Brooks, RP Gus Rivera, RP David Espinosa, SP Denny Sullivan

FA Signees:  SP Alfredo Torrealba, SP Rafael Rijo, RP Jesus Olivares, OF Gerardo Martis

Season 21 Outlook
On offense, the Pirates don't hit a lot of homers (170, 11th), although having Mark Payton (acquired late last season) for the full year will help there.  And they don't run very well (15th in SB's).  But they do get on base really well, with a variety of platooning, switch-hitting, walk-taking, punch-and-judy hitters.  Not sexy, but effective.

Pittsburgh's pitching was pretty good, but faltered in places last year.  The front 3 of Caldwell, McBride and Garrido was excellent again, but the team struggled to find a 4th starter.  When swingman Brett Gordon stepped into that role, it put more pressure on the staggering bullpen (22-21 in 1-run games, vs. the Mets' 29-16, and the Mets won the division by 3 games).  So management went all-in on pitching this off-season, committing $150 million to Alfredo Torrealba, Rafael Rijo and Jesus Olivares.

I think they have a good chance to sneak by the Mets this year, but something tells me the offense won't be as good.  They'll top 100 wins but settle for a wild-card again.

Baltimore Orioles Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  
Offense:  735 runs (9th)
Pitching:  5.48 ERA (16th)

Major Changes
FA Departures:  OF Ken Kydd, 3B Davey Flores, SP Sammy Segui, RP Pete Isringhausen,  RP Ernie Porter, RP Tyrone Kelly, SP Nolan Foster

FA Signees:
  C Gorkys Romero, SP Stewart Winn, SP Duane Powell, SS Albert Moreno, RP Rico Manuel

Rule V:  RP Jim May (#3), RP Lefty Martin (#35),  LR Barney Lincoln (#67)

Promoted:  1B Benny Conway, 2B Glenn Burks, SP Alex Burks,

Obtained in trades:  3B Vicente Castro

Season 21 Outlook(courtesy of GM flyballs13)

"I have some decent young guys just called up. Angel Amezaga had awesome numbers in the minors and should be a 30 hr plus guy in this ballpark. Glenn Burks is not the long term answer at 2nd but should contribute at the ML level.  Another decent call up with good upside - Benny Conway.

 'I just traded for Vicente Castro and he could be a 40-50 a yr HR guy in this park.

'Mikey York is overpaid and on the books for a few more years.

'I have a solid rotation with 2 terrific front-of-the-rotation guys in Rico Tejera and Benji Picasso.

'We got 2 FA signings that are decent inning-eaters in Duane Powell and Stewart Winn with good contracts. I like the young talent fighting for that 5th spot in Alex Burks and Terry Helton.

'If my 3 rule 5 draftees achieve their ratings, I could develop a bullpen (Barney Lincoln, Jim May and Lefty Martin).  The rest of the bullpen is awful especially at closer. Jumbo Machado does not have much future there beyond his contract or maybe even this year."

World Major Leagues Blog comment:  I don't know what this team will do this year, but when you turn over half the roster you gotta get credit for being willing to make some moves.

San Francisco Giants Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  74-88 (3rd), missed playoffs
Offense:  718 runs (8th)
Pitching:  4.74 ERA (13th)

Major Changes
FA Departures:  CF AL Julio

FA Signees:  RP Eduardo Rosario, CF Kendry Eusebio

Promoted:  SP Phil Takada (Sea 17 #24 overall), SP Willie Ontiveros (Sea 18 #13 overall)

Lurking in AAA: OF Yeico Cora, OF Yeico Cervelli, IF Pascual Lecuona

Season 21 OutlookThe Giants get a lot for a little on offense, ranking in the middle of the NL in runs without much power (tied for 14th in HR's), and without getting on base terribly well (.322,  10th).  They will steal a base on you - 129 SB"s last year.

OF Warren Gumbert is San Francisco's one star position player - his strength is reaching base (.404 OBP last year).  When he gets on there are moderate power threats behind him, most notably 1B Robin Jones (.253/26/97) and SS Edgardo Arrojo (.270/20/90).  Their most interesting offensive players may be the 3 prospects sitting at AAA - all 3 potentially offer better power than anyone on the current ML roster.

The bigger concern is the staff, which ranked pretty far down the ERA list despite the friendly home park.  Ichiro Hara is the #1, and he's coming off his best year (18-10, 3.50).  D'Angelo Villa has been a decent #2 for them, but after that it's anyone's guess on the rest of the rotation.

Rookie Pepe Vazquez was a semi bright spot in the pen last year (3.76 ERA, but only converted 4 of 11 save opportunities).  B.C. Arroyo was his mirror image - seemingly ineffective (4.43 ERA), but converted 24 of 26.  Newcomer Rosario might win the closer role.  Regardless of roles, those 3 potentially form a pretty good late-inning trio.  Long and mid-relief will be a minefield - potentially navigable, but ready to explode any moment.

The Gigantes took a big step up last season, and seemed poised for more of the same this year.  I'm particularly interested to see what happens when they promote Pascual Lecuona and the 2 Yeico's.

Detroit Tigers Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  62-100, missed playoffs
Offense:  643 runs (16th)
Pitching:  4.60 ERA (11th)

Major Changes
FA Departures:  LR Luis Perez; pro hitter Terry Hefner, who appears to have ended his HOF career; ditto Derrin Davenport; LR Dennis Forest

FA Signees:  OF Valerio Izquierdo

Season 21 Outlook
Since we have a rookie owner (welcome, sprouthit) here, taking over a team that has been heading downhill for awhile, in a division that produced 3 playoff teams last year, we'll take it very easy on the criticism...maybe even proffer a couple helpful tips.

Obviously it's a pretty thin ML roster.  Some ML players there, but not enough and no stars.

Random thoughts:

*  Darrell Gates is a decent player, but I would not re-sign him.  When you're rebuilding you want to get younger and cheaper.  He'll probably be a Type B free agent - gets you a supplemental draft pick next year.

*  I think signing Izquierdo was a mistake - for $4.2MM you could've picked up a much better player late in FA.  Small mistake, though...just signed for 1 year.

*  You need to fill out your minors with more players.

*  Julio Johnson is a pretty solid SS - I'd wait until the trade deadline and then see if I could get something for him.

*  Couple of guys in AAA who might help this year - LF Cheng and SS Montanez.  To get a 4th min-salary year out of them, wait until 20 minor league days have passed and then promote them.

*  I know you missed budgeting this year, but in the future, up your prospect budget to $20MM so you can bid on an international free agent or 2 to start supplementing your amateur draft.

*  Ask for help when you're not sure about something!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Seattle Mariners Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  92-70 (1st); won 2 rounds and lost ALCS to Yankees
Offense:  700 runs (15th)
Pitching:  3.77 ERA (2nd)

Major Changes: 
FA losses: RP Andy Hahn, OF Bruce Page, SP Mike DeJean, RP Joe Davis, OF Fernando Sosa

FA Signings:  OF Roosevelt Thomas, SP Calvin Nielsen, DH Todd Hines, RP Ernie Porter, C Aurelio Hernandez

Season 21 OutlookWhat is the deal with Albert Santayana?  Ballpark effects cannot explain how this guy is a .235/25 HR player (comparably-talented Nate Hood averages 39 HR's in even more pitcher-friendly Petco).  Look for Albert to finally break out with a .300/45/120 campaign.

That would surely help the scoring-challenged offense.  So will the FA additions of a good OB guy (Thomas) and power bats Hines and Hernandez.   Brian Coleman is not the answer in LF (.569 OPS...really?) or in any role, but Season 17 IFA Cristobal Almanzar is ready to take over at LF or 1B shortly.

Staff ace Eswalin Comacho leads a tough rotation; Nielsen will make Mariners fans forget DeJean.  The bullpen isn't always pretty, but it did convert 44 of 53 save opportunities last year (Chip Bowles heads the committee).

If Seattle can get their offense on track and produce even league-average runs (say, 750), watch out.  They've certainly made some good moves and right now are the odds-on choice to win the division.

Kansas City Royals Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  79-83 (3rd), missed playoffs
Offense:  833 runs (1st)
Pitching:  5.11 ERA (14th)

Major Changes
FA Departures:  SP Calvin Nielsen, OF Julian Guerrero, SP Sherman Moore,  RP Juan Amaro,  SP Rafael Rijo

FA Signees: 
OF Todd Brooks, SP Mike DeJean, SP Braden Holt, RP Carlos Blanco, SP Jim Thompson, RP Edinson Palacios

Promoted:  DH Joshua Raburn, SP Al Buehrle,  RP Ebeneezer Cashman

Season 21 OutlookGuess which team lead Major Leagues in scoring last year?  Yep, the Royals, with 833.  How do they do it?   A little of everything:  2nd in HR's (226), 3rd in OBP, contributions from a lot of players (6 with 20+ HR's).  Throw in a co-MVP season from Albert Johnson and a second straight career year from 3B Tony Cohen.  Mix well and hope it happens again.

Usually when a team has a 5.11 ERA and loses 4 pitchers to free agency, it's a good thing.  In this case, though, 2 of the departing pitchers (Nielsen and Rijo) were responsible for the team ERA not being 5.75.  KC has retooled aggressively, though.  Stephen Pressley  holds down the #1 starter job (and very well at that).  Mike DeJean moves in at #2 - he's in an all-out war against ratings decline but should be good for one last roundup.  Braden Holt has a 4.02 ERA over a long career, but he's also battling ratings drops.  Jim Thompson and rookie Al Buerhle round out the rotation.

The bullpen is a problem.  Coleman and Blanco have talent but can't throw enough innings to matter.  The rest...well, hope the offense builds up a lot big leads by middle innings.

Pitching is definitely going to be an adventure...if you like 12-10 games, tune in to Royals' broadcasts this year.

New York Mets Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  102-60 (1st); lost in 2nd round to Pittsburgh
Offense:  700 runs (10th)
Pitching:  3.14 ERA (1st)

Major Changes
FA Departures:  SP Jumbo Mateo, SP Stewart Winn, 3B Santiago Vazquez

FA Signees:  RP David Espinosa, LR Eddie Foxx,  3B Davey Flores, OF Sterling Adams, 1B Pete Weaver, C Collin Womack

Season 21 OutlookThe Mets went out and got their guy.  Even with Russell Swann's MVP year, New York's attack was sub-par last season.  3-time MVP Adams is just what they need.  They also need (and can expect) a return to form by Fernando Johnson, whose OPS fell 150 points from Season 19 and was 50 off his career average.

They also had to replace the back 2/5ths of the rotation, and did so capably with Felix Tyner and Douglas Ritz.  The front 3 of Contreras, Watson and Jordan is 2nd to none.

The bullpen is the best in the game.  5-time FOY Ramiro Goya closesFrank Martin and Richie Lloyd are good enough to close.  David Espinosa, the Pirates' bullpen savior last year, is going to have trouble getting work here.

Are the Mets old? 


They will get old when Luis Contreras gets old.  His makeup rating is 92, New York maxes its training budget and their pitching coach has an 89 pitching IQ.  Contreras will still be going strong at 38.

I think the division tightens up more this year, and the Mets still win it in a close race with the Pirates and Nats.

Oakland A's Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 66-96 (4th), missed playoffs
Offense: 710 runs (13th)
Pitching: 4.46 ERA (9th)

Major Changes
C Al Bournigal and SP Roger Hudson departed for free agency.

Signed free agents Pete Simpkins (SS), Wendell Coveleski (SP), Rico Samuel (SP), Clay Lee (2B), Luis Perez (LR), Reagan Knoblauch (LR), Felipe Baez (DH), Albie Espinoza (LR)

Season 21 OutlookThe A's will likely have modest expectations this year.  They have a long winning tradition from the early years, fell on hard times, then emerged from the abyss the last few seasons.  They won 66 last year with a motley assortment of AAAA castoffs and a few solid players...they've added a more professional cast through free agency and could well bump up that win total this year.

Long-term, though, the team has to develop a strategy to add some big-time young talent.  Their minors are bringing no help anytime soon, and they'll be hard-pressed to compete with the rest of the West unless that's addressed.

Chicago Cubs Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  78-84 (1st), lost in first round to Pittsburgh
Offense:  778 runs (4th)
Pitching:  4.76 ERA (14th)

Major Changes
FA departures:  2B Greg Frye,  1B/OF Donn Stafford, SP Vince Borbon, SP Al Amezaga,  1B Dean Darensbourg, LR Wendell Coveleski

Promoted:  IF Mel Frascatore (Sea 17 #11 overall), SP Jesus Francisco (Sea 17 IFA), LR Ross Stewart (Sea 16 #12 overall), RP Tony Blanco (Sea 18 IFA)

Season 21 Outlook
Rico Uribe (270 HR's in his 1st 6 seasons) has been one of the top hitters in the NL since he came into the league.  He and top-of-the-order CF Julio Osoria form the core of this offense.  The Cubs would benefit greatly if Luke Gleason would start fulfilling his immense promise...he looked like he was off to a brilliant career in Season 19, but regressed in only 359 AB's last year.

Adrian Tipton is solid at C, and Mel Frascatore will step into an infield spot and could well show up on the ROY ballot at yearend.  The rest of the lineup is a work in progress, and could really use one more solid bat at 3B or LF.

Midre Johnson is the rotation #1 - he's been good in his first 3 seasons, but I think his best years are still ahead.  Horacio Hernandez has been a solid #2, and rookie Jesus Francisco gets a shot at #3 (watch out for that short pitch selection, though).  Morrie Easton, Ross Stewart and Rafael Olmeda are battling for the last 2 spots.

Bailey Mercedes still has a tenuous hold on the closer's job(10 blown saves last year).  Watch for rookie Tony Blanco to take over that role shortly.  Overall the bullpen is better than many but far from Mets-like.

Can these guys make a big move and get to 90 wins?  Absolutely - they won 95 (and the WS) in Season 18 and 97 in Season 19 with some of the same roster.  But they still have some work to do to make that happen.

Arizona Diamondbacks Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  77-85 (3rd), missed playoffs
Offense:  810 runs (4th)
Pitching:  5.18 ERA (15th)

Major Changes
1B Freddy Forster, IF Thomas Zorilla, SP Bailey Borders departed via free agency.

Signed FA OF Brian Blair.

Traded SP Harold Bynum to St. Louis for 1B Elijah Perkins.

Promoted from minors:  2B Mariano Lima, OF Willie Flaherty, SP Mark Twitchell

Season 21 Outlook
There's a very nice core of young players here - C Nick Ball, 2B Luis Fernandez, CF Yusmeiro Ortiz (who pulled the rare GG/Silver Slugger in CF last year) - as evidenced by their 810 runs scored in Season 20.  Their newcomers might even help add to that total.

But the 'Backs need pitching desperately.  Closer Don Brooks is top-notch, and then, well...  And there's no more hep from the minors for awhile.  Could do worse than give Bailey Borders a call.

I think the young core keeps this crew ahead of Oakland in the West, but they'll need a big pitching upgrade to compete for the title.

Philadephia Phillies Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs:  73-89 (4th), missed playoffs
Offense:  770 runs (5th)
Pitching:  4.81 ERA (15th)

Major ChangesFA Departures:  SP Luis Cruz, C Pedro Caballero, SP Ross Lamb, RP Arthur Howell, RP Eduardo Rosario

FA Signees:  OF R.J. Henry, 2B Bob Diaz, RP Pete Isringhausen, C Cory Lindblom, SP Chico Nunez, SP Jumbo Mateo
Season 21 Outlook
:  The Phils feature 3 of the best at their positions in Major Leagues: 1B Tsuyoshi Tabaka (All-Star and Silver Slugger last 2 seasons, MVP Season 19), 2B Donovan O'Rourke (averaged 35 HR's, 102 RBI last 5 seasons), and SS Hector Bennett (Silver Slugger all 3 seasons).  Add in returning FA's David Serra and Miguel Javier plus newcomer Cory Lindblom, and the offense is assured of putting up runs.

Pitching was the problem last year, and it remains a question mark.  Cristobal Duran is a legit ace, but the rest of the rotation is a tossup.  Norm Long just isn't what he was a couple of years ago, but could snap back with one more good season.  Jumbo Mateo can be very good or very bad in a given year...Chico Nunez had a brilliant 3-season stretch (Seasons 14-16), but has been mostly bad since.  Ruben DeLeon has been more predictable and is adequate as a back-of-the-rotation guy.

The 'pen was a total mystery last year.  Al Sierra (career ERA 3.64) ballooned to 5.08 last year.  Einar Duran didn't work out...Gregory May was well above his career ERA.  Pete Isringhausen will help, and I expect an overall bounce-back season from this group.

Nice job retooling by Philly.  This is the kind of team that can compete IF a few things happen:
    1.  They get the usual All-Star (or better) seasons from Tabaka, O'Rourke and Bennett (Likely);
    2.  They squeeze 1 more big season out of 2 of Serra, Javier and Lindblom (Could Happen);
    3.  The rotation's "unpredictables" (Mateo and Nunez) both break below 4.00 ERA (???);
    4.  They get sub-4.00 ERA seasons from 2 of their 4 primary short relievers (Likely)

OK, that's a lot of IF's in a tough division, but it sure would be entertaining if they could get to 95 wins, no?