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.