Saturday, February 26, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Tampa Bay is the weakest team fighting for third place in the AL East, and I say this because of their rotation. Their bullpen is decent enough, and their lineup figures to be the same as usual with improvement from the young kids (if only Delmon Young was ready, then the Tampa fans could have a new slugger to adore).

Roberto Alomar, 2B: Chuck LaMar, GM: "Wait, you mean there is an old middle infielder with severely declining skills who doesn't have a job yet?!? I'll take two!"

Danny Bautista, RF: Danny finally got through a season with no severe injuries and put up his least impressive stat line of his career. Bautista will have his uses with Rocco Baldelli's ACL injury keeping him sidelined for some time.

Alex S. Gonzalez, 3B: So when I made that joke above about middle infielders, this was the other one. He is normally a shortstop, but the D-Rays moved him to third where his value is even smaller. Of course using the word value on Gonzalez should get me arrested. .225/.263/.368...and getting worse by the year. The good news is that his signing at third base will keep the Rays from moving uber-prospect B.J. Upton from SS to 3B, devaluing him as well. I wish they had signed Joe Randa instead though, just so I could never talk about Alex Gonzalez. Luckily TB has decided that Upton will start at SS and Lugo will swap to 3B, leaving Gonzalez without a starting job until they trade Lugo to a contender in July.

Mark Guthrie, RP: I've always had a soft spot for Guthrie *blush*. He won't hurt Tampa I'm guessing. Their bullpen is filled with guys who can throw hard but can't pitch, so any veteran who can hold the fort until they learn pitching is of value to them.

Shane Halter, 3B: Well you know he's useful to have around if you want to make Alex S. Gonzalez look like a good signing.

Travis Lee, 1B: What is Travis Lee going to do for this team? Honestly. At his best he will probably hit .250/.335/and somewhere over .400. You need more from your first basemen damnit!

Denny Neagle, SP: At this point I'm not sure I remember what Neagle looks like I haven't seem him pitch in so long. But you know he'll do better than in Coors.

Hideo Nomo, SP: Nomo's career sort of imploded last season. He always seems to rebound though, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him do alright. Then again continuing suckitude is also possible.

Josh Phelps, 1B/DH: This is the main reason the Travis Lee signing pisses me off to no end. A team like Tampa should be signing guys like Josh Phelps and Russell Branyan to see if the talent everyone knows is there ever manifests itself. Instead of using guys like Travis Lee who everyone assumes has talent because they have a pulse. Phelps struggled last year in Toronto, but so did everyone not named Carlos Delgado. Maybe it was the same blight that hit hockey. Good thing the Expos moved out of there before the Black Death of Sports hit them harder.

Chris Singleton, OF: Well he didn't play in 04', and he wasn't impressive in 03', and now he is older...I expect more of the same, which is nothing.

Brian Sweeney, RP: He got hammered in San Diego last season. .328 BAA, 1.53 WHIP. BUT! He did post 10 k's and only 2 BB's (with 17/3 for his career, a nifty 5.6 K/BB ratio). Granted it is an extremely small sample size, but is something to watch if he can stop letting all his strikes become hits. Then again the lack of walks could just be because he lays everything out over the plate for everyone to cream...even I haven't taken the time to watch him pitch ok?

Via trade: Casey Fossum for Jose Cruz Jr. Cruz is a luxury the D-Rays don't need, as they have a ton of young, talented outfielders. And Joey Gathright. Notice the separation...Gathright has tools that haven't developed into skills, but he's still on the major league roster.

1) Carl Crawford
2) Julio Lugo
3) Rocco Baldelli (out for awhile with an ACL tear)
4) Aubrey Huff
5) Josh Phelps
6) Travis Lee
7) Toby Hall
8) B.J. Upton
9) Roberto Alomar

I like Crawford/Lugo/Baldelli/Huff/Phelps/and Upton. Phelps used to catch, so he is the backup catcher on this team to spot Hall, giving them more roster flexibility. Toby Hall, Alomar, and Lee are three blackholes in the lineup. Let Jorge Cantu start at second base for the love of all that is holy and good. In a struggling sophomore season he will post better numbers than Alomar. Last year he hit .301/.341/.462 in 173 AB. When will these guys learn.

1) Dewon Brazelton
2) Mark Hendrickson
3) Rob Bell
4) Scott Kazmir
5) Casey Fossum

All of Brazelton's peripherals improved last year, but he still doesn't strike enough guys out for my liking. Also his peripherals aren't good yet, I just said improved. Hendrickson isn't what I would call a #2 starter. If he was in the 5th slot I might let this slide. Rob Bell is another D-Rays pitcher who can't strike anyone out. Seriously all of their K/9 are in the 4's and 5's, this is depressing. FINALLY, Scott Kazmir. Kazmir has more upside than anyone in this rotation. I hope he can put it together as a starter so he doesn't have to try and become a closer. Given time he will be successful...and then move on to another team when his contract expires and Tampa can't afford him. Casey Fossum was the posterchild for getting your ass whooped last season. If he can somehow find his 2002 form this will be a good pickup for the D-Rays.

I can't see Tampa finishing in third without the Orioles and Toronto seriously sputtering out of control. Fourth is possible if one of them falters though...remember last year's record was improved by that large win streak they had at one point that they never came close to again, so some decline is probably inevitable. Not to mention Baldelli is going to miss some time. Poor Tampa.

Friday, February 25, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

This is who I hope finishes in third place, but that might be because of my love for sabermetric general managers, and J.P. Ricciardi of Toronto is one of them. Well in reality I'd love for them to finish second and the Yankees not make the playoffs, but I'm solely daydreaming, not out of my mind.

Billy Koch, RP: Koch was more succesful after his trade to the Marlins midway through last season, but his peripherals were worse. But Toronto signed him for under a million so you can't fault the move too much.

Corey Koskie, 3B: I'm not sure I understand this move. Here you got a guy who is pretty productive, nothing really special, and you give him 3 years for $17 million. He is past his prime and will produce but will block prospects that the Blue Jays have (Aaron Hill being one of them.) I don't agree with this signing at all.

Greg Myers, C: Myers is the backup catcher for Toronto for Gregg Zaun. Nothing special to write here besides he's pretty old. He's 38, so he isn't Pat Borders old yet.

Scott Schoewenweis, SP?: Soooo.....if you had $5.2 million, would you waste it on someone with an ERA of 5.59? With a terrible strikeout rate? and a 69/49 K/BB ratio? Me either. I guess we can't work in baseball guys.

Gregg Zaun, C: If Toronto could do better, then they should. Free agent catching options were sort of limited (even though Henry Blanco, deserving of a Gold Glove, was available) so the Jays did well to sign Zaun to a one-year deal and see what they can do later with some of their new stadium money.

Acquired via trade: Chad Gaudin for Kevin Cash
Shea Hillenbrand for Adam Peterson

Gaudin had a good 2003 and an awful 2004. His peripherals included a K/9 of 6.33 and a K/BB of only 1.88. Yuck. Never know what might happen later though. Looks ugly for now though.

Shea Hillenbrand is an interesting pickup and I say that because he is the antithesis of everything stat heads look for in a player. He and Hinske will probably split time at first base and DH.

The lineup is missing a giant spanish force named Delgado. Luckily, he was replaced with Corey Koskie and Shea Hillenbrand (yay...hey wait...)

1) Reed Johnson (.698 OPS from the leadoff spot! WOO! Wouldn't want to get on base too often or anything.)
2) Alexis Rios
3) Vernon Wells
4) Eric Hinske (shudder)
5) Shea Hillenbrand
6) Corey Koskie
7) Gregg Zaun
8) Orlando Hudson
9) Russ Adams

I hope eventually Rios shows some more plate patience or hits some more and is put in the leadoff spot. Then Hudson can be moved to the #2 spot, and the lineup would be more productive. Russ Adams is probably going to be a better hitter this year then Gregg Zaun (and maybe even Erik Hinske if he doesn't shape up) but is in the #9 hole for comforts sake as a youngun. .306/.359/.528 in 22 major league games is a small sample size, but when your Toronto and no one wants to sign you need to cling to prospect hope, and their farm system is rich. It could even be a blessing in disguise if Koskie were to get hurt and Aaron Hill brought up to replace him. Well maybe not this year. But definitely in 06'.

1) Roy Halladay
2) Ted Lilly
3) Miguel Batista
4) David Bush
5) Josh Towers

If Halladay is healthy you can expect him to act the part of ace. Ted Lilly should work well as the #2 starter and remain underrated, while Miguel Batista can be succesful if he can get used to American League hitters. I like David Bush and expect good production from him out of the four spot. I will tell you that it makes me sad Josh Towers is in the rotation. Maybe he will be ineffective enough that they replace him with Brandon League and then everyone in Toronto can smile at having 5 good pitchers. I expect this to be an underrated and effective rotation, especially if Bush continues to succeed and Brandon League can enter the fray and pitch well. The Jays best chance to finish in third place is to hold everyone else's score down; the complete opposite of the Orioles who might have to score 14 runs a night on occasion. Of course the Orioles probably can score 14 runs a night if they are healthy. Point is, I have a feeling the Blue Jays can rebound enough to finish third...if not there should definitely be improvement over last year, even with the loss of Carlos Delgado.


Thursday, February 24, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Today I will delve into the 2005 Baltimore Orioles. Joy...


James Baldwin, SP: Oh man, this is what happens when you only focus on Plan A. (Pavano/Delgado/all the other free agents who spurned you)

Chris Gomez, SS: Gomez signed a minor league deal and was sold to a Japanese team afterwards. Thanks guys!

Steve Kline, RP: Unhappy lefty searching for place where he is respected and wanted. He’ll do fine, adding to a Baltimore bullpen that tends to be pretty good.

Steve Reed, RP: Wouldn’t it be ironic if Reed sucked outside of Colorado? Luckily he was great in San Diego a few seasons back, so we don’t have to worry about that. One of the best at what he does with little fanfare.

BJ Surhoff, OF: Surhoff and Julio Franco should eventually fight to the death to decide who is cooler. Surhoff is only 40 at this point, but he used to catch. I say let em’ fight. Not to mention if Surhoff played against the Red Sox by himself he just might win 75% of the games. I am not going to back that up statistically, I am just going to say I love him whenever he is not playing us.

Enrique Wilson, SS/2B/General Nuisance: If the Sox still had Pedro I might be concerned. But they don’t…the Orioles do seem to like to keep players who are pains in the Sox asses though.

Acquired via trade: Not So Slammin’ Sammy Sosa! For spare parts the rest of the league was interested in for some unknown reason by the name of Jerry ‘Hi, I’m injured more often than I’m not but my dad played baseball too’ Hairston. Good move for Baltimore, since Chicago is picking up part of the tab, but its not much in the ways of earth shattering.


As far as the lineup and rotation goes...

1) Brian Roberts
2) Melvin Mora
3) Miguel Tejada
4) Sammy Sosa
5) Javier Lopez
6) Rafael Palmeiro
7) Jay Gibbons
8) Luis Matos
9) Larry Bigbie

I'm not so sure about the actual order of their lineup this year, because I am not sure if Sosa's feelings will be hurt depending on his place in it. It is a pretty good lineup though, even though Brian Roberts is not the best leadoff hitter in the world. Matos is a weak link, as is Bigbie to an extent (batting 9th, his OPS last year was .869...odd since it was .659 from the #8 spot.)

The Orioles rotation. It pains me to write about it to be honest.

1) Sidney Ponson
2) Rodrigo Lopez
3) Erik Bedard
4) Daniel Cabrera
5) Matt Riley

Baseball Prospectus projection system PECOTA has Ponson pegged for a good year, excellent when compared to last years disaster. Rodrigo Lopez should be good once again, but his strikeout rates seem very low at 6.38 (career 6.29) which makes me think he could do very well or awful. John Sickels was optimistic about Bedard and Riley last season, so I expect improvement from them. Daniel Cabrera on the other hand...

Daniel Cabrera had some awful peripheral numbers last year. His K/9 was just 4.63 and he had more Walks than K's (89 to 76). Rob Neyer said Cabrera needed some fine tuning last season and he could become a better pitcher with time, so that could happen. But those peripherals aren't promising since he was rushed to the majors (5 Double-A starts last year.)

B.J. Ryan is the better reliever between himself and Jorge Julio, and probably won the closer's job when Julio was sidelined with a forearm injury. Blessing in disguise? Not if they use Ryan, their best reliever, solely in the traditional closer's role.

I do not expect much from the Orioles this season. In time they could be good with some promising young arms in the rotation, but chances of competing with the Sox and Yanks atop the division are very very low. Tampa Bay's farm system continues to churn out talent, and the Blue Jays (even minus Delgado) have improved simply by giving their younger players playing time and aging time. If only you played in the AL Central Baltimore, you could finish in a closer to the top expensive third place.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Boston Red Sox

The plan for the next group of posts that I do is that they are all 2005 team previews. I plan on doing them either in alphabetical order, or by division even, but since this is Red Sox nation that is where I will begin.

I'll start with the new additions to the Sox lineup:

Dave Berg, IF: Brilliant strategy by Theo Epstein…keep Dave Berg from hitting against you! .297/.352/.500 against the Sox over the past 3 seasons…coming from a guy with a sub-.300 OBP. He’s hit 11 homeruns the past three seasons, and 3 against the Sox. I’m not bitter ok?

Matt Clement, SP: I like this signing. I think Clement is undervalued somewhat (not $$ wise, just ability wise) and I hope to see him perform well in Boston. Boston needed to get him after missing out on Pavano and Pedro too. I would rather have Clement than Pavano to be honest. Hopefully I look smart for saying that in a few years.

Lenny Dinardo, RP: I like Lenny Dinardo, I wish he hadn’t mysteriously got an arm injury because he was a Rule 5 draft pick…not that this sort of thing happens in baseball. I hope he succeeds. For those of you who don't know, Rule 5 picks have to stay on the major league roster or else they have to be given back to the original team. If the team wants to keep him but not have him on the roster, additional compensation must be handed out to the original team. So Rule 5 picks often get "injured" midway through the season.

John Halama, SP: Halama will be playing the role of Curt Schilling this April. Hopefully he is half as good. Good signing; means more now that Schilling might not be recovered in time for the start of the season.

Matt Mantei, RP: I like this signing because it was for $750,000. If he gets hurt, hey guys it was only $750,000. If he isn’t hurt, then hey look Matt Mantei for only $750,000!

Doug Mirabelli, C: Resigning Belli is obviously a good thing for the Red Sox, even if he does come in as expensive for a backup catcher. Then again, he hits better than most starting catchers and is capable of handling Wakefield.

Edgar Renteria, SS: When the Red Sox and Cardinals were trying to outdo each other on ESPN.com's Insider Rumor Page, I was overjoyed when the Cardinals topped the Sox offer of 4 years $32 million with a 4 year $36 million offer. Then the Red Sox had to go and offer 4 years for $40 million. I'm thinking Renteria looks more like the very first part of his career and 2004 than he does 2002-2003. Extremely overrated defensively (never trust Gold Gloves!) and not much of a slugger outside of 2003. I'm kind of leery of this deal, but I guess the Sox have the money to spend...hopefully it doesn't hurt them. Renteria is most likely an upgrade over Cabby though.


Jason Varitek, C: Why was it ok to give Varitek this much money? Because when you’re the Red Sox you are able to overpay for one or two players and find deals with everyone else (Miller, Mueller, Mantei, Wells, etc.). So as long as Theo can overpay for Varitek and hand over 3 rotation spots for the cost of one Pedro Martinez, then the Sox fans can breathe easy about the amount of money given to their aging catcher.

David Wells, SP: 41 years old, bad back, incentive contract. If he gets hurt, we aren’t paying him. Well unless he gets hurt at the end of the year, than I will just curse often. If Wells is going to get hurt hopefully its midseason so we can replace him on July 31st. Considering Kris Benson got his $7.5 per season, Wells is a complete steal.

Wade Miller, SP: Miller has had some injury history and was let go by the Astros, who did not want to deal with paying him through arbitration. A one year, $1.5 million contract with $3 million in incentives. If Wade Miller is healthy for the Sox there is no reason why he would not be successful.

Jeremi Gonzalez, SP: Gonzalez has been decent (at his best) in the past for Tampa Bay, and with nobody really sure about Schilling's condition it does not hurt to have someone else on the roster. Of course, I would rather that John Lester and Jon Papelbon were ready for 2005 rather than possibly 2006, but thats just me.

Roberto Petagine, 1B: Petagine has played since 1999 in Japan, and his last two seasons were affected by injuries. Petagine is a stat head favorite, and I am kind of excited about signing him if only because he is a good hitter. Will he be as good as his prime in Japan? Of course not, he's past his prime. But he was signed dirt cheap and is still capable of producing effectively when healthy. His stat line from Japan:

YEAR G AVG OBP SLG 2B HR BB SO
1999 134 .325 .469 .677 23 44 116 91
2000 136 .316 .432 .601 30 36 97 116
2001 138 .322 .466 .633 27 39 120 89
2002 131 .322 .438 .649 23 41 85 106
2003 100 .323 .457 .683 17 34 77 72
2004 117 .290 .409 .560 17 29 75 76

The walks are making me druel. According to Clay Davenport's translated statistics, players coming from Japan seem to lose out on their power while other stats such as average and on-base seem to stay pretty consistent. So if Petagine is healthy, he is capable of producing greatly for the Sox. I also saw a comparison of Petagine's numbers to Hideiki Matsui's in Japan and they were very similar. Granted Petagine is older so he will not have the same success as Matsui in America, but it just shows what he is/was capable of.
A shame no one gave him a real chance beforehand.

Via trade: Acquired Jay Payton, Ramon Vazquez and prospect David Pauley and $2.65 million for Dave Roberts.

Payton is better than his 2004 allows you to see…he went from Colorado to one of the worst hitter’s parks in the NL, so he was obviously affected somewhat. Good fourth outfielder considering he could start on a few teams.

Ramon Vazquez takes over Pokey Reese’s job as utility infielder. Difference being Vazquez’s worse case hitting scenario is Pokey’s best, but Pokey has the defensive edge. Also, Vazquez is capable of playing 3B, short and second. Our bench is somehow better than last year's after this.

David Pauley is a good pitching prospect; not one who is going to be ready for 2005 but one who should be good enough when his time comes.

Acquired through Rule 5 draft: John Sickels says:
Boston selects Adam Stern (OF, Atlanta). A University of Nebraska product, Adam Stern hit .322 with 27 steals for Double-A Greenville this year. A line-drive hitter, Stern doesn't have tremendous power but will hit some doubles. He is a very good defensive outfielder and could slot in nicely in a reserve role. A severe 2003 hamstring injury slowed his development, but he has fully recovered.
There is the fifth outfielder option and defensive replacement. Beauty of free talent.

The Sox rotation actually looks better this year than last year. Instead of two aces and complementary pieces the Sox now have one ace with 4 guys capable of being strong #2's or #3's. I think that the Sox rotation, in order of effectiveness and success this year, will go as follows:

Schilling - Clement - Arroyo - Miller - Wakefield - Wells. I expect Wakefield to be moved out of the rotation when Wade Miller is ready, simply because he has been in the bullpen before, and I cannot picture Wells relegating himself to that role. Miller's place on the list assumes that his injury has been rehabilitated and he is capable of pitching effectively; obviously if he is hurt this will not be the case.

The lineup is better than last years:

1) Damon
2) Renteria
3) Ramirez
4) Ortiz
5) Millar
6) Nixon
7) Varitek
8) Bellhorn
9) Mueller

I expect decline from Johnny Damon, who while finally earning his paycheck probably played over his head (damn you and your expensive signings Dan Duquette!). Renteria should improve from last year, but not reach his 2003 MVP caliber performance. More of the same from the rest of the group, with possibly decline from Nixon based solely on his injuries.

The Sox have a great chance, better than last year even (yes even with the Yankees adding Randy Johnson) to win the division. With the division win comes a chance at defending the World Series title. Of course predicting who can win in the playoffs is almost as improbable as winning 8 consecutive playoff games...oh wait.




 

Baseball is back! So I come out of my hiding spot

I've been among the missing as far as this site goes since the World Series victory of the Red Sox. I stopped posting during the playoffs about the Red Sox because as a paranoid Boston fan I could not jinx anything. Once I fell out of the habit it became tough to get back on board. But now that baseball is back I cannot help myself, and it is more fun than the paper I should be writing for class right now. So I will have updates probably daily, with one as soon as today maybe, if I can bring myself to it.

I think I will go through spring training with team by team previews based on last year's performance and the offseason's additions (or subtractions). This should help everyone get familiar with the new look of the teams for 2005, and also get me back in the writing groove.

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