Friday, March 04, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Oakland Athletics

Oddly enough, the Athletics have not signed a single free agent to a major league contract. They have made multiple trades and let some people go though, like Jermaine Dye and his albatross of a contract. Many people expect the Athletics to fall on their face this season, since the "Big Three" has been dismantled. Did anyone notice that Mulder fell apart the second half of last season, and that he and Tim Hudson's peripherals have been slowly getting worse? It may have something to do with Oakland losing Rick Peterson as their pitching coach, but it could also just be regression by those two pitchers. If the new acquisitions are capable of performing at the same level that Mulder and Hudson did last year than the A's should be fine.

Jason Kendall and cash acquired for Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes. Rhodes was a burden on the bullpen last season, and his trade opens up some room for some of the new kids to pitch out of the pen. Mark Redman looked tired much of last season, and that was probably from Jack McKeon riding him hard in Florida all of 2003. Both were overpaid, so the swapping out of talent that the A's already improved upon for Kendall, an upgrade over Damian Miller at catcher, was excellent.

Acquired Keith Ginter for Justin Lehr and Nelson Cruz. Nelson Cruz is a toolsy outfielder who was coming along nicely in the A's system. Justin Lehr did not perform too well for Oakland out of the pen last season, and his peripherals are are icky to say the least. 16:14 K/BB ratio, 4.41 K/9. Ginter will be an upgrade over Marco Scutaro at second base, unless Mark Ellis rehabs completely back to health. It will be interesting to see which one of these players gets to start at second.

Acquired Dan Meyer, Charles Thomas, and Juan Cruz for Tim Hudson. This is a great deal for the A's in my mind, as they add Thomas to play the fourth outfielder role in the outfield (even though his OBP and walks were inflated by HBP last season) and Juan Cruz as a hard thrower out of the bullpen. Dan Meyer is the centerpiece of this trade though, with some sexy minor league numbers, including a 4.38 K:BB ratio. He should do at least as well as 04' Mulder this year, with higher upside overall.

Acquired Danny Haren, Kiko Calero, and Daric Barton for Mark Mulder. Danny Haren slots into the rotation after success in the bullpen in 04' for the Cardinals, and Kiko Calero adds to the power arms in the much improved Oakland bullpen. Daric Barton is one of the best hitting prospects in baseball, and will not stay at the catcher position for long. His 2004 minor league numbers (.313/.445/.511) translate into (thank you Clay Davenport) .262/.369/.425 at the major league level. Pretty impressive for a 19 year old. When the time comes he'll be a name you remember.

For a team that didn't sign any free agents, they sure changed a lot.

1) Jason Kendall
2) Eric Byrnes
3) Eric Chavez
4) Erubiel Durazo
5) Mark Kotsay
6) Bobby Crosby
7) Scott Hatteberg
8) Nick Swisher
9) Mark Ellis/Keith Ginter

Jason Kendall gives them a real leadoff hitter and OBP threat out of the leadoff spot, even if Oakland's park will dampen his numbers a tad. Eric Byrnes might be Mike Cameron in a month or by the trading deadline, but Byrnes is good as well. Eric Chavez just might win an MVP soon since he can finally hit lefties (Hovering near the Mendoza line against them the past few seasons, he hit over .300 against southpaws in 04'...oddly enough he hit worse against righties, but that is probably a neglible fluke). Durazo is still quietly extremely productive, and Kotsay's offense blossomed as well as his defense. Bobby Crosby will be better than last year, and Hatteberg will probably be worse. The difference between Mark Ellis and Marco Scutaro last season at second base probably cost the A's the division; nevermind the second half disaster that was Mulder or the injury to Eric Chavez, simply having Ellis there with those other occurences may have brought them a playoff berth. Maybe Charles Thomas isn't the greatest starting outfielder in baseball, but he still isn't Terrence Long (I don't care if he's now two years removed, it still hurts to think about the Neifi Perez of corner outfielders). As for Nick Swisher, in his official rookie campaign, I expect him to put up performance that should make up for Jermaine Dye's absence this season...as a rookie that is good...for $11 million when you've been in the league awhile, not so good.

I think this looks like a pretty good offense, but just for kicks I am going to figure their run total for the 05' season, just to see if my head is up my ass or not. I figure they score somewhere in the vicinity of 782 runs this season., but that could go as high as 800 if Crosby really improves and Chavez brings his numbers against righties up a tad.

1) Barry Zito
2) Rich Harden
3) Joe Blanton
4) Danny Haren
5) Dan Meyer

Zito is the ace in name only; Harden will perform basically as well if not better this year, and when I say better I mean Top 10 pitcher in the AL and bonified ace. Or he could stop where he is, I hate pitching prospects sometimes. This is the way we can put this I guess. I was thinking of testing out one of James' new formulas here, but I'll do it another time, maybe midseason to compare the 04' and 05' rotations.

Zito 05' = Zito 04'
Harden 05' > Harden 04'
Blanton/Haren/Meyer 05' = Mulder/Redman/Hudson/Saarloos 05

I don't expect any of the kids to be as good as Hudson was in 04', but they should outperform Mulder, Redman and Saarloos. Redman was beat up pretty bad a good portion of the season, and Mulder should be able to bring hitters up on charges of assault for what they did to his pitching in the second half. If I had to single out one of them to be worse than the others then I would choose Blanton. For some reason I am skeptical about Blanton, but I can't put my finger on why. So Oakland might lose a little in the rotation this year, but nowhere near as much as assumed by many.

Their bullpen is vastly improved. Dotel for a full season, no more Arthur Rhodes, the addition of Kiki Calero and Juan Cruz, Justin Duchscherer is a year older and more experienced, Chad Bradford is Chad Bradford, and Tim Harrikala, who followed up a good first half in Colorado with absolutely horrid performances in the second. I expect the bullpen to be much less of an issue than it was in 04'.

With a few extra wins from the lineup (improvement from Bobby Crosby, a full season of someone other than Scutaro at second (if only he could improve his plate discipline), and a full season of Chavez along with Nick Swisher) along with the extra production from the bullpen should make this A's team competitive and keep them in the race for the division. They do need a lucky break or two to win, and with the Angels injury history that is very likely. Of course, adding Mike Cameron would make this team even better defensively, which would make the young arms even better, and so on and so on. Rabble rabble, Billy Beane is as good as it gets as far as general managers go, opinions of those offended by his Red Sox plans aside. Who else trades 3/5 of one of the best rotations in baseball and ends up better all around for it? I'm pretty sure I'm going to get molested via comment for supporting Beane, so here I go bracing for impact...


Thursday, March 03, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Los Angeles Angels of Orange County/California/West Coast/USA/Western Hemisphere/Earth and Anaheim

Oh Angels, you are the team to beat out West unless Oakland develops extremely fast. Or trades for Mike Cameron and snags Calvin Pickering from the Royals, then you might be in for more of a battle. I think it will be close either way, but if Oakland struggles out of the gate is might seal their fate in the long run.

Paul Byrd, SP: Byrd is a good signing for the Angels, who need some pitching help no matter how often you hear Jarrod Washburn praised by Chris Berman and Joe Morgan. Of course, he might not only have post-Mazzone pitching syndrome but might also hurt from the NL to AL switch. Time will tell…of course with Kris Benson getting $7.5 million per season you could do a lot worse than $4.5 million to Paul Byrd.

Orlando Cabrera, SS: Better than Eckstein? Yes. Better than Renteria? No. Overpaid? Only by like most of his salary. Cabby's glove is deteriorating fast since his back injury a few years back, regardless of how many Sox fans tell you he's a huge part of the reason we won the World Series…his bat and plate patience do leave something to be desired as well. Anaheim has spent more money on worse things though *cough Colon cough*. Interesting note...the Red Sox team averages went up by almost 10 points after the Nomar trade, but Mientkiewiewicz and Cabby performed almost 20 points under that figure. Cabrera's defense was better than Nomar's, and Mientkiewicz saved a few runs at the end of a few games, but I also played better D than Nomar this year at SS.

Steve Finley, CF: Finley is hard to read. Rob Neyer says there is no one to compare him to at age 39. BP tells me his defensive range is nonexistent, but everyone who watches him says otherwise. He may be an upgrade in center over injured Garret Anderson (who it pained me to watch in the ALDS last year) or he could uh…not be. He’ll probably hit though, so that’s a plus. He could also fall apart completely in the next two years...it'll be fun to watch either way.

Bengie Molina, C: Sorry Mike Scioscia, he’s not Jason Varitek. Then again you guys used Varitek money on Paul Byrd and Finley, so no complaints from you.

Esteban Yan, RP: If Esteban Yan won the Cy Young, I’d still laugh at him. That’s what happens when you get desperate for a closer in Fantasy Baseball a few years back and he derails your attempts at you know, being good and all single-handedly. Yan is better than I give him credit for, I'm just bitter about losing in the semifinals in 2002.


Lou Merloni, IF: LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUU! He’s got his uses, no complaints.


Kendry Morales, IF/OF: Morales is young, and that is what he has in his favor right now. Good timing for me to write about Anaheim, since Clay Davenport wrote an article yesterday detailing his discovery that the highest level of Cuban baseball is equivalent to the New York-Penn League, a Low-A ball league. Morales will probably disapoint for a season or two before he gets the hang of it in the majors, since he basically is skipping over High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A to play in the majors. Where he is going to play is another story, as the Angels are stacked everywhere he could play.

Traded Ramon Ortiz to the Reds about 5 minutes before they were going to cut him. Good riddance I say!

1) Adam Kennedy/Chone Figgins
2) Orlando Cabrera
3) Vladimir Guerrero
4) Garret Anderson
5) Steve Finley
6) Darin Erstad
7) Dallas McPherson
8) Juan Rivera/Casey Kotchman
9) Bengie Molina

This lineup is really good. A ton of free swingers though, and when they face a patient pitching staff like the Red Sox (giggle) the results are not as good as against some other teams. A team of guys who can pound the strike zone will get through most of this team without a hitch. Of course, guys who can pound the strike zone aren't exactly lying on street corners waiting to be signed or anything, so the Angels are going to score a lot of runs. I'm guessing they end up with the fourth best offense behind the Red Sox, Yankees, and Indians.

1) Bartolo Colon
2) Kelvim Escobar
3) Jarrod Washburn
4) Paul Byrd
5) John Lackey

The strength of this rotation depends almost entirely on which Bartolo Colon shows up: the fat one that struggles to pitch effectively, or the fat one that pitches effectively...what? I couldn't help myself, he's huge.

Escobar was a surprise strength last year, since he had never shown that kind of consistency even though the talent is there. Jarrod Washburn should be the 5th starter here, but Chris Berman will tell you he is a serious lefty threat, especially out of the pen. Byrd is another wild card, but succeeded in his last AL stint with the Royals. Lackey doesn't have any outstanding qualities, but as far as a fifth starter goes he's good. The problem is their #3 starter is a #5 guy as well. That brings us to the bullpen.

I don't really need to talk about Anaheims bullpen too much. If they have a lead in the 7th or 8th inning, your going to work really hard to beat them. If they have a slim lead in the 6th you'll probably see starters coming out early since their bullpen is so much more effective. This could hurt the Angels though (and already has) when they face some of the more high-powered offenses. This is a dangerous team, but they are not unbeatable. I still think if the A's really pull it together and something happens to Anaheim they can lose the division. Theirs to win, but they have to win it.

 

Steroids: A new golden age or the fall of an empire?

Since everyone else who at one point or another had an opinion about baseball has weighed in on the steroids debate, I think it's time I weigh in on the controversy surrounding the game that I love.

In the age of super size, the information super high way, and super computers, everything is bigger, better, stronger, faster, smarter; it's a defining generation of superlatives for America, and for baseball.

After the strike in 1994, baseball needed ways to attract the fans again. I know I felt betrayed by the players, the greed, and all the politics. Baseball is something pure to me, transcending any form of description I could possibly think to give, and for the first time in my lifetime, it's purity was tainted. When baseball came back, I was cautiously optimistic. My trust had been betrayed, but I was so willing, so eager to give it back. Baseball reached out to all of us with a bang, with the huge numbers, the stats, the thrill of records of yonder, thought to be untouchable, produced by a pantheon of men greater than that we'd ever been fortunate enough to see, being closed in on. We all got lured back, slowly but surely, and then it happened. 2 men touched one of the most heralded records in baseball, and once again all our blood collectively flowed with that purity of yonder.

In 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa began treading on the land that only some of the greatest names in baseball had ever walked on. Can any of you remember that summer, the excitement, the intensity? I can remember waking up every morning to read the paper, to watch sportscenter, to hear the numbers, to see the balls leaving the bark. I was so taken in by the magnitude of what they were doing, how could I possibly think there may have been darker intentions behind it? The asterisked record of Maris, the 60 home runs of Babe Ruth, not Joe Schmo, one of the greatest names in the greatest sport ever played, was broken. The 2 men were so likable, so perfect for the game; we all watched, we all waited, we all celebrated. It was baseball at it's height, and we were all back, the strike was forgiven, and we'd fallen in love all over again with the nation's pasttime.

Then 2001 came, and Barry Bonds. The excitement was there again, reliving the days of McGwire, watching a living legend tap on greatness once more. Who thought about that Bonds had only hit more than 45 homers in his career once before 2000? This was someone threatening to break a record we thought would never be broken once before, and now here it was, 3 years removed, broken again. Baseball was in a new golden age. Fans everywhere were tuning in to see the balls fly out of the park, and none of us thought to ask the question. We didn't want to ask, we didn't want to know.

I'd always been suspicious, but I never wanted to admit it, to myself or to other, that the game I loved could be corrupted. I revered these men, respected them with the kind of fervor and dedication cult leaders wish they're kool-aid drinking shells would give them.

When BALCO finally hit, when Giambi's testimony leaked, when Caminitti came out, when Canseco came out, when Bonds's testimony got leaked, and now everyday when I turn on SportsCenter, I'm confronted by steroids, and it pains me more than I can describe. I feel ignorant for not seeing the obvious, for not asking the question. I feel even worse for not caring, for so mindlessly taking in the lies being spoonfed to me.

The outcry now is that records should be asterisked, that the players should be punished for what they've done, and I ask why? We the public went right along with it. Where was your outcry when Sosa hit 66, when McGwire hit 70, when Bonds hit 73. Why didn't you complain then? It's so convenient to hop on the train now, to say you'd always suspected, and you'd always known. I suspected, and maybe deep down I always knew, but until the day I see a picture of Barry Bonds taken live, rubbing a big bottle of the clear on his chest, that has a label that says ANABOLIC STEROID on it, I'm not going to believe.

A great era tainted, or a bad era forgotten, there 1000 ways to remember the Age of what will most assuredly be called Steroids. I'll always remember the feeling I had watching Mark McGwire hit his 70th home run in his last at bat, trotting around the bases, bashing forearms and hugging Sammy Sosa at the end of it all. I felt like I was witnessing history, for better or for worse. I live and die for that feeling, steroids or not, and that, I can never apologize for.

Maybe I can't believe, maybe I don't want to, and maybe I never will, but the damage has been done. They can keep their records, their trophies, and their asterisks too. Those didn't damage the game, our ignorance and the desire for which we clamored for these records, and gave these men every reason to risk their lives, their dignity, and the very love they had for this game did. I forgive them, for what they may or may not have done, but I cannot forgive myself.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Kansas City Royals

*sigh* I had such big hopes for the 2004 squad, but then God chose to smote them. I know the 03' Royals weren't as good as their record had shown, but was it as bad as the 04' team suggests? I hope not, since I have a soft spot for this team.

Kevin Appier, SP: Minor league contract. If he’s healthy it won’t hurt them and Kansas City needs to do SOMETHING to attract some more fans after their 2004 campaign.

Jose Lima, SP: Lima Time! Did well enough in 2003 and 2004, so maybe he can get away with pitching decently enough in 2005. If the Royals luck is anything like 2004’s then Lima is going to have a career high ERA, and that is saying something considering some of his past seasons.

Chris Truby, 3B: .256 MjEQA…I know Rob & Rany didn’t sound too pleased.

Via trade: Acquired Eli Marrero. Royals RF and LF had league worst AVG/OBP/SLG…Marrerro isn't the best hitter in the world, but is sure to be an upgrade over the worst in the league.


Also traded Benito Santiago for Leo Nunez. Rany Jazayerli says that he is a B- prospect, but B- prospect beats Santiago at this stage in his career. John Sickels says he is a C+ prospect, but he also says he is hard on grading most of the time.

Terrence Long and Dennis Tankersley for Darrell May. Tankersley adds another interesting arm to the mix of 7,200 potential 4th and 5th starters the Royals have assembled, and Long was apparently the price for this. Then again, as bad as Long as, he is somehow better than their corner OF's from last season.
  1. David DeJesus
  2. Angel Berroa/Andres Blanco
  3. Mike Sweeney
  4. Calvin Pickering (if the Royals have any sense left whatsoever)
  5. Matt Stairs/Abraham Nunez
  6. Eli Marrerro/Terrence Long
  7. John Buck
  8. Mark Teahan/Chris Truby
  9. Ruben Gotay/Tony Graffanino

There are some potential good bats in this lineup. I expect better production from David DeJesus, and Teahan and Buck will be allowed full years to play hopefully. Pickering needs to start at DH, not Ken Harvey. Never Ken Harvey. Well maybe occasionally against a lefty or something, but not as a starter. Pickering's PECOTA projection basically says he will be the best hitter on the Royals this season, with a .272/.400/.543 line. Harvey has a .306/.347/.489 line against lefties, so this should be a platoon between the two. It would give the Royals a serious threat in the order and some protection for Mike Sweeney. What will happen though? Harvey will start and make way more outs than he should be given chances to get. Pickering needs to be given a chance in KC this year, or traded elsewhere to be appreciated for what he has. The Sox already took a chance on him, but they got what they wanted out of a massive lefty first basemen who can't play defense out of David Ortiz.

  1. Zach Greinke
  2. Jose Lima
  3. Brian Anderson

Three spots are set in the rotation, and if Anderson is not as bad as last year (a hard thing to duplicate I might add) and Lima is Lima Time rather than just Lima, those are good enough for a last place team. As for spots 4 and 5...

Kevin Appier, Runelvys Hernandez, Dennis Tankersley, Jimmy Gobble, Mike Wood, Denny Bautista, and possibly Kyle Snyder, who missed 04' with a torn labrum.

Appier is there for emotional reasons, but the rest have the potential to be good pitchers. Runelvys Hernandez was doing excellent in 03' before he revealed he had a torn ligament in his elbow. He had a 3.05 ERA in 62 IP before his injury, so if he can produce anywhere near that the Royals will be more than overjoyed. Then Ken Harvey will ground out to end a rally. Tankersley is supposed to be better than he has been to this point, and Gobble, Wood, and Bautista are all in the B/B- range of pitching prospects. Snyder had a torn labrum, so only time will tell in his case.

The bullpen is a collection of everyone who doesn't make the rotation and is sent to Omaha and others like Jeremy Affeldt, Mike MacDougal, Scott Sullivan, and Andy Sisco, picked in the Rule 5 draft from the Cubs. It is tough to pay for a very effective bullpen when your goal is to finish above last, so the fact that the Royals have assembled even those few arms is a good thing. Of course the rotation and lineup are going to have to get them some leads on occasion, so we'll see how things go. I'm just not feeling this year for the Royals. Now watch as they magically play 30+ games over their heads, just miss the playoffs, leave the roster the same for 06', and fail even more miserably than in 04'.


 

2005 Season Preview: Chicago White Sox

I feel the White Sox are going to finish in fourth place this season, and they have no one to blame but themselves...and maybe Scott Boras, but that'd be too easy. Then again Kenny Williams also thinks his entire offseason plan was ruined by having Omar Vizquel sign with the Giants, so maybe blame should be shifted upstairs, in the place it has gone everytime he has "zigged and zagged" according to Baseball Prospectus. This season they have decided to abandon being a powerful pitching team or a powerful hitting team, and instead have tried to become a speed and defense team. Williams did a good job of using the money he saved from the Carlos Lee trade to plug other holes the White Sox had, but the issue is that he weakened a team that didn't hit or pitch well enough to win in the first place.

Ben Davis, C: I do not think too much of Ben Davis, and for a team that complains about not being able to afford players (and just cleared up money by trading Carlos Lee) I do not understand the logic of giving Davis $1,000,000. In 2003 he was a league average catcher according to BP. In 2002 he was 3 runs above average, but overall it may not be worth the money when you factor in the VORP of 0.2.


Jermaine Dye, OF: Uh…23.3 VORP. Quite the “comeback” for Dye, who will never be the same as he was before his freak broken leg. So Kenny Williams gives him a 2-year $10 million deal to reward his .265/.329/.464. The deal does not look as bad now considering the way the market has overvalued players, but still there was no need to pay that much. Richard Hidalgo and others were available as well.

Dustin Hermanson, RP: Hermanson is a tough call, as he went from successful to season ruining closer in a matter of weeks. They are paying him a couple million per season too, and again I wonder what Kenny Williams is thinking. Lets add Hermanson, Davis and Dye together and wonder why either a better starter or a better hitter wasn’t added and then cheap talent used to fill the gaps.

A.J. Pierzynski, C: Good pickup for a team whose best option was Ben Davis. But apparently he’s nuts (or just likes to kick the trainer’s anyways).

Orlando Hernandez, SP: Well El Duque is effective and worth the money he was signed for…if he’s healthy. Probably one of the biggest if’s in the baseball world though. So if he’s healthy then kudos to Kenny and Crew…if he’s unhealthy then there is $8 million more down the tubes (that could have been spent on something more reliable).

Tadahito Iguchi, 2B: .333 and 24 homers last season with the Daiei Hawks. Three time Gold Glove winner and two time stolen base champ. Power (and the intentional walk reputation that comes with it) is most likely to slip in the transition from Japanese baseball to the Major Leagues according to Clay Davenport's Translations. So Iguchi will most likely be a big upgrade at second base over Willie Harris.

Acquired via trade: Scott Podsednik and Luis Vizcaino for Carlos Lee.

Why Kenny? “Oh now we have a top of the order threat (giggle) that can steal bases and score runs for us!” Who is going to drive him in? Konerko is your entire lineup now. You let Magglio walk, you let Valentin walk, and you traded Carlos Lee. Thomas might not be back for awhile. Aaron Rowand isn’t really that good. Oh wait, you have Joe Crede…phew. Don’t worry White Sox fans! The Carlos Lee/Konerko/Thomas/Magglio/Valentin/Rowand lineup couldn’t get you into the playoffs, so here comes Podsednik/Dye/Konerko/Rowand/Everett to the rescue! No offense to Paul of course. Imagine what is going to happen if Konerko has another 2003-like season (.234/.305/.399)?

  1. Scott Podsednik
  2. Tadahito Iguchi
  3. Paul Konerko
  4. Aaron Rowand
  5. Jermaine Dye
  6. Carl Everett
  7. A.J. Pierzynski
  8. Joe Crede
  9. Juan Uribe

The lineup sounds better than it really is I think. Dye is likely for somewhere around last years performance, Everett looks like he regressed back to his 1997 level of play, Rowand is good, but probably not that good, Pierzynski is an upgrade over any catching combo they had previously, Podsednik is a black hole of a player who happens to move very fast, and for some reason I just don't feel comfortable depending on Konerko as my best hitter. And Joe Crede is still Joe Crede. Iguchi could do well and add an extra dimension to the lineup (the one Podsednik is supposed to bring) with a little more pop.

  1. Freddy Garcia
  2. Mark Buerhle
  3. El Duque
  4. Jon Garland
  5. Jose Contreras

I don't trust Garcia to perform start to start, nevermind year to year. Buerhle I like, and he is the ace of this staff in all but name, even though I wish he struck some more people out considering the innings he pitches. For those of you who may see Garcia's numbers as better than Buerhle's in 04', Garcia's ERA with the White Sox was 4.46, while his Seattle one was 3.20. El Duque will be valuable if healthy, as always is the case with him. Garland is a good enough innings eater for a 4th starter, even though I don't really like his K:BB ratio of 113:76, or his K/9 of 4.69. Contreras had better peripherals with NY in 04', but got slapped around royally on occasion. He could finally put it together like his stuff says he can, or he may just continue to disapoint. BP 2005 says Contreras's issue is that he can't find the strike zone, and there is nothing else to attribute his failure to.

The bullpen is probably the biggest strength this team has, with Shingo Takatsu, Luis Vizcaino, Damaso Marte, etc., holding down the leads this team probably won't have. Maybe I'm being too harsh on the White Sox, but reactionary signings and trades with refusal to stick to a plan catch up to you in more ways than finishing behind the Twins. Sometimes you finish behind the Twins, Indians, and Tigers, with the lowly Royals the only thing making you keep your job and 4th place finish. But don't worry, you got Scott Podsednik instead of Carlos Lee.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Detroit Tigers

I don't feel too much like school today, since its still snowing out, so I'll post another teams preview just for kicks. On to the Detroit Tigers, who I feel have a shot at third place due to the upgrades on their roster plus the decline of the White Sox.

Troy Percival, RP: Percival’s strikeouts have dropped the past few seasons. 77-77-52-37 the past 4 seasons. For a guy who is/was considered a power pitcher, that is alarming. Not to the Tigers though. Then again their alternative is Ugueth Urbina, so I am not sure if I should fault them or not. Either way, $6 million per season is a lot to pay a closer who could explode.

Ugueth Urbina, RP: Exercised the option on him for 2005. Confusing only because then they signed Percival. Percival left Anaheim because he wanted to close by himself. Urbina probably will want to close as well, considering he has been doing so for a long time now. Will they deal Urbina? Or just make someone unhappy? I don't expect Percival to pitch many more than 50 innings anyways.

Ramon Martinez, Utility: Well he played a bunch of positions last year. He hit 15 doubles in limited duty. OK his OPS was .659 I’ll stop trying to defend him.

Magglio Ordonez, RF: 5 years, $75 million. Why did this happen. It didn’t have to happen. No one was offering him those years or those dollars. You guys realize if you had played hardball like everyone else instead of trying to make a *splash* then you’d be a little better off right? Seriously, you caved on the years and the dollars. Luckily you got a clause thrown in there to void the contract if the insane knee condition acts up. But now what if it doesn’t? You are paying him $15 million a year for the damage he did against you as an opponent during his peak. You know what he is going to do? Continue to hurt you. Sure he’ll be productive if he is healthy, and that is what you want. But seriously, $15 million per season for a guy who is 31 years old with a knee injury that is going to make a below average defender with a good but not great bat. Oh and don’t forget that the contract can go to 7 years with incentives, WHOO! He’ll be 38 and run like my grandmother by then. But he’ll be a lot richer than grandma.


Acquired via trade: Kyle Farnsworth for pitcher Roberto Novoa, infielder Scott Moore and outfielder Clarence Flowers.

Farnsworth is an issue. Maybe he will be helpful to a Tigers team whose pen could use some more bodies, but he was an issue in the Chicago bullpen. His peripherals are good enough, but for some reason he just cannot pitch effectively consistently day-to-day. Maybe a change of scenery and less pressure in Detroit will help, but probably not.

1) Omar Infante
2) Carlos Guillen
3) Ivan Rodriguez
4) Magglio Ordonez
5) Dmitri Young
6) Rondell White
7) Carlos Pena
8) Brandon Inge
9) Craig Monroe (please not Alex Sanchez, please)

This is a good lineup. Infante should improve, Carlos Guillen (if recovered) will either duplicate his success or regress like other SS's with career surges like him (namely Rich Aurilia) and slide down in their lineup. If Magglio is going to have a real productive season this will probably be the one, as he is getting older fast. The less the Tigers depend on Carlos Pena to be a real masher, the better off he and they are. I expect some regression from Inge for some reason.

1) Nate Robertson
2) Jeremy Bonderman
3) Mike Maroth
4) Jason Johnson
5) Gary Knotts

Much more promising than last year, when Jason Johnson was their "ace". Bonderman is ready to explode I think, and Nate Robertson was effective last season in his first full year. 2.35 K/BB, and a 7.09 K/9. I've heard tidbits that people believe Maroth has finally turned a corner as well (Go former Lowell Spinners, Go!). I hope this corner included more strikeouts per game. Jason Johnson pitched much better in the first half last year, so hopefully he reverts to that. Gary Knotts peripherals don't impress me at all, and they shouldn't. But he is a fifth starter on a third place team so I can't really complain.

Their bullpen is good enough for third, with Percival Lite and Urbina holding down the closer's job, as well as help from Farnsworth and Jamie Walker.

Overall I really think the Tigers are capable of finishing in third place, but I am not too sure of their record. It really depends on how bad the White Sox end up being (or not being, but that doesn't seem right given their roster).

 

2005 Season Preview: Minnesota Twins

On to the Twins, who I feel will finish in second this year to the Indians. I think the Twins are a better team than they were last year, but the issue for me is that the rest of the division (exclusing Kansas City) is stronger as well, and that will make the race tighter. Or so I hope.

Juan Castro, Futility Infielder: I hope this is just an April Fool’s joke. Like the Twins tell him he’s starting at shortstop and then bust out laughing and tell him to get out of their stadium. What a waste of money and roster space. And time. And ink. Seriously I apologize for wasting your time with this guy as well. Why am I still writing about him?

Terry Mulholland, RP/SP: At least it’s a minor league deal. They should’ve had him pitching to Pat Borders at the end of that Division Series so I could’ve hit my head harder at its conclusion.

Eric Munson, 3B: All I can think of is Roy Munson from Kingpin. Maybe Eric will finally come around. Hopefully he doesn’t have to lose a hand first. .212/.289/.445…please just hit a little higher average and a few more walks Eric, and we can let it all slide like Jose Valentin.

C.J. Nitkoswki, RP: Apparently the Twins didn’t think their bullpen was weak enough, so they added Nitkowski to help screw them up in the playoffs in 2005. Why would you hurt your strength like that damnit. Not like they knew how to use it to their advantage in the first place. I don’t care that the Sox won the World Series and got to beat the Yankees, I’m still bitter that Gardenhire lost to the Yankees 3 games to 1. Non-biased Nitkowski opinion time: He’s a LOOGY (Left-Handed-One-Out-Guy) I <3 John Sickels’ acronyms.

Brad Radke, SP: Radke = excellent pitcher. Benson = he could be good I guess.
Radke = $9 million per season…Benson = $7.5.
Terry Ryan = good negotiator at least this one time.

Mike Redmond, C: Funny thing about Redmond is that the team he is coming from (Marlins) needs him more than the Twins did. Lo Duca’s value is tied up in his average until he gets to August, where he hits a wall and dies…BUT HE DIES LIKE A GREAT LEADER SHOULD! Anyways back to the Twins…Redmond is a good backup and will spell Mauer’s knees, which probably hurt more than he lets on. He's no Henry Blanco behind the plate, but he's better with the bat.


Nick Punto is taking over at SS for Cristian Guzman, so hopefully half of the black hole that is there middle infield will disapear eventually. The other half, Luis Rivas, is still allowed to breathe the same air as guys like Johan Santana, Radke, and Morneau. Sad.

Jason Kubel was supposed to take over for Jacque Jones in RF, giving the Twins a capable bat rather than a guy who swings at every single pitch he sees, but he tore the ACL and a little extra according to reports. So another year of Jones for Twins fans...*sigh*

Joe Mays comes back to take the last rotation spot, which should simulaneously thrill and depress all Twins fans. Thrill because Mullholland is no longer starting...depress because its Joe Mays.

Finally, Joe Mauer comes back supposedly healthy to catcher for the Twins. This will be a huge boost to their offense if he can stick around.

1) Shannon Stewart
2) Joe Mauer
3) Lew Ford
4) Justin Morneau
5) Torii Hunter
6) Jacque Jones
7) Michael Cuddyer
8) Luis Rivas
9) Nick Punto

If Mauer's bat really takes off I can see him switching with Ford in the lineup, but then again this is the manager who let Mientkiewizc bat third for 161 PA with a stunning .246/.340/.350 line last year. Mauer and Morneau are the keys to the lineup. If everyone else does what they did last year and those two do what they are capable of at this stage this lineup won't be full of mashers, but it will sure beat its middle of the road offense of 2004. Maybe Radke can actually have a good record this year.

1) Johan Santana
2) Brad Radke
3) Carlos Silva
4) Kyle Lohse
5) Joe Mays

Santana is the best pitcher in baseball to some, and one of the top 3 or top 5 to others. Whichever way you look at it, he's the ace and the most important piece of this puzzle. Radke is a great compliment out of the #2 spot, even though I expect some decline from last season's masterpiece. Carlos Silva is at worst a capable innings eater, which out of the #3 spot with those two guys in front of you is a good thing to have. Very strong 1-2-3...as for Kyle Lohse, he needs a switch to the bullpen and to never return to the rotation. Lohse was one of the 4 or 5 worst pitchers in the league last year, and his peripherals show the performance was genuine. Not something you want to see out of any starter, nevermind your #4 guy. I was never a big fan of Joe Mays at any point, since his K/9 and K/BB are below average and the league hits roughly .295/.345/.475+ against him, which is basically like having Garrett Anderson beating you senseless every at-bat. Not the best asset to have.

The bullpen is quite possibly the strongest in the AL, with Joe Nathan, Juan Rincon, Jesse Crain, and J.C. Romero all capable of dominating lineups. Regression from Nathan is possible, but the addition of a full season of Jesse Crain should make up for it. Maybe if the Twins make the playoffs Gardenhire will use Crain this time around, since he was lights out in 22 regular season games.

Second place is a distint possibility for this team, because I don't feel that Terry Ryan will make a good enough move to bolster the rotation come trade deadline time. He will probably continue to sit on prospects that are blocked by players such as Jones and Rivas rather than try to win now...it is always next year for Terry Ryan, not matter how close they are. I have more faith in Mark Shapiro of Cleveland fixing whatever issue Cleveland may have come deadline time, and they have the depth in the minor leagues to get just about anything they need. If Jason Davis and Kyle Lohse can't come around, I see Lohse continuing to raise the level of suckitude in Minnesota while Davis gets relegated to the pen in Cleveland for the new starter in town.

Monday, February 28, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Cleveland Indians

Time to move on to the AL Central, a division up for grabs by anyone not playing in Kansas City. I don't think much of the White Sox'c chances either, but I'll get to that in time. I think from now on I'll review the teams in the order I think they will finish in. This will also be easier to do with the other divisions, since there are not 3 third place teams all at once.

The Indians are young and have depth on their roster and minor leagues that would make Bill Belichick proud. They are loaded at numerous positions with top prospects that all can hit or pitch. This is going to be a team to watch out for soon, maybe even this season. Which is why I have chosen them to finally topple the Twins. After watching last season's Twins team that added Pat Borders when they had a Gold Glove candidate catcher in Henry Blanco and someone who could not have possibly been as bad as Borders in Matt LeCroy, then reuppinng on Gardenhire's contract after his bullpen disasters in the playoffs, I've decided they've lost their minds completely (Sorry John).


Alex Cora, 2B: I see why the Indians got Cora (as a backup incase the prospects don’t cut it this year) but it seems like a waste of a spot on the 40 man roster if they do pan out. Better safe than sorry I guess. Luckily his dollar figures were not even released, so he isn’t taking up considerable resources.

Juan Gonzalez, OF: Why not? Minor league deal doesn’t cost you much, and if he actually stays healthy (giggle) then maybe the Indians get some decent inspired (giggle) play out of him. He will fill in for Jody Gerut until his ACL injury finishes healing.

Jose Hernandez, 2B: Had a pretty good year considering the amount of playing time he was given, putting up a .289/.370/.540 line. I am confused by the move solely because of the Indians having both Brandon Phillips and Jhonny Peralta to play SS in 2005. Maybe Hernandez is going to play until May or maybe he is going to spell for the kids at SS.

Billy Traber, SP/RP: Had been claimed off of waivers by the Red Sox, but is now back. Tommy John surgery a few years back.

Kevin Millwood, SP: I am disappointed at this deal considering Wade Miller and the Red Sox set the market for injured starters at roughly $2 million plus incentives. $8 million for a guy who might be hurting…ouch. No that wasn’t a pun. I'm only disapointed with the dollar figures though, as Millwood helps add even more talent to this staff. I'd rather have injured Millwood than healthy Scott Elarton at this point.

Bob Wickman, RP: I don’t like this signing, only because Wickman is a health risk with bad peripherals. He is making close to $3 million for this one season. Hopefully he earns it for the Indians, who had an awful bullpen for the majority of 2004. His contract is down from the $6 million he made in 2004 though.

Ronnie Belliard, 2B: Re-signed to man second base, avoiding arbitration. The payment he would receive in arbitration was the only reason the Indians thought of doing away with him, so a good move if he can come close to duplicating his 2004 numbers (.288/.348/.426…not bad for a second basemen…and he hit 48 doubles.) Could be an indicator of power to come, or maybe he’ll just pound doubles consistently.

Denny Stark, SP: Signed Stark to a minor league contract. He has had one season you could call impressive, and that is because his ERA was 4.00 as a starter for the Rockies. Besides that he is either injured or ineffective. Meh. Waste of money.

Via trade: Acquired Arthur Rhodes for Matt Lawton. The Indians had some bullpen issues (28 blown saves I think) and Rhodes should be better than last season. If not than the only good that is coming out of this trade is that another young Indians corner outfielder can emerge from the minor league system, and they are absolutely stocked with those.


1) Ronnie Belliard
2) Coco Crisp
3) Travis Hafner
4) Victor Martinez
5) Casey Blake
6) Ben Broussard
7) Jody Gerut (after injury)
8) Grady Sizemore
9) Jhonny Peralta

Everyone in this lineup is already a good hitter (and some getting even better) with the exception of Sizemore and Peralta, but they are both supposed to be able to hit with time.

A note on Peralta though...Brandon Phillips is another Indians middle infielder who may be ready to come up and play from the minors, so if Peralta falls flat he may get his shot.

That lineup reminds me of the Sox lineup in the idea that its built on a pair of really great hitters with no lack of complementary pieces. Of course if they all grow up to be big superstars it'll remind me more of NY's lineup.

Not as good as either the Red Sox or Yankees lineup, but entirely capable of finishing in third in that race.

1) C.C. Sabathia
2) Jake Westbrook
3) Kevin Millwood
4) Cliff Lee
5) Jason Davis

I love Sabathia and Westbrook as the 1-2 punch. Very talented young pitchers who should continue to improve. If Millwood is healthy out of the #3 hole he will have more value than as the #1 (which he is not) in Philly. If Cliff Lee can pitch like he did in the first half of 2004 (3.77 ERA) rather than in the second half (7.91 ERA) they will have themselves a real good #4 guy. Lee's second half troubles seem odd as I study his numbers, because it just looks like he became more hittable. Second half K/BB ratio was 2.43, while his first half one was only 1.71. H/IP went up drastically though: 0.93 in the first half, 1.23 in the second. A mechanical flaw or possibly a tipped pitch or the league catching up to him was responsible for this, because all of his peripherals stayed roughly the same (or improved) except for the hits allowed. It may have even been a defensive issue, much like the one Derek Lowe would suffer. Cliff Lee is much better than his 5.43 ERA shows. Maybe not 3.77 good, but better than 5.43. Jason Davis on the other hand might suck as much as his numbers show. I'd love to see Fernando Cabrera get a shot eventually at the 5th spot.

The Indians bullpen is good (except out of the closer spot) with Bob Howry, Scott Sauerbeck, Rafael Betancourt and others holding down the fort, with Fernanda Cabrera helping out as well.

Overall, I think this team has the offense and the rotation (especially if a young arm emerges to seize the #5 spot and Lee finds a happy medium) to steal the division from the Twins. The bullpen will have to be much better than last year, but it is capable of doing just that. The Indians have the prospect depth to make any move they may need at the deadline as well, so I think that this may be the year for them to finish the rebuilding process they started after their last divisional title.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: New York Yankees

I'll sum this up quickly...it was an eventful New York winter, but was it productive and the best they could have done?

John Flaherty, C: Small contract for a backup catcher with no real hitting skills or plate patience. NY isn't really lacking offensively though so its not a big deal.

Doug Glanville, OF: I'm not really sure why they signed him to be honest.

Buddy Groom, RP: Free agent lefty, signed by NY. Theme of the offseason to counter David Ortiz basically.

Tino Martinez, 1B: Incase Giambi can't bounce back, here is Tino Martinez to the rescue. Tino was brought back to give these Yankees some of the character of yore...meaning 1998.

Ramiro Mendoza, RP: I kinda felt like he was pitching for NY most of 2003 while he was in Boston.

Carl Pavano, SP: Overpaid for one real good year that may not be repeated. I wanted Clement more than Pavano in Boston, so hopefully Theo made the right decision as well.

Damian Rolls, 3B: The Yankees love ineffective infielders almost as much as Tampa Bay. I really just don't understand some of the signings this team makes. Shell out millions upon millions on some front line talent but never really fill in the gaps with anything close to useful. Tanyon Sturtze in the role of savior from the bullpen is a great example of this.

Rey Sanchez, IF: Slick defensive reputation but a bat equally bad.

Ruben Sierra, DH: I'm not sure why he is still around in NY but they really seem to enjoy having him there. He does scare the shit out of me sometimes when he pinch hits though, so that is probably it. Of course Torre never uses his bench anymore, but whatever.

Tony Womack, 2B: Why not just keep Miguel Cairo? First of all he would have cost less than Tony Womack and performed better. Womack played way over his head last year and it still wasn't impressive.

Jaret Wright, SP: ..........Seriously.......I don't know who allowed this signing to happen. For any amount of money. Instead of signing Wright and wasting money on Womack and throwing a couple of million at Tino Martinez, why didn't NY attempt to get Beltran? Seriously, those three signings had money that should have gone elsewhere. I kind of can't wait for Wright to hit a mechanical wall and scream Leo Mazzone's name out for help.

Acquired via trade: Randy Johnson for Javier Vazquez, Dioner Navarro, and lots of $$$

Johnson is an improvement over Vazquez (but older and more expensive) and his contribution may be taken away in part with Jaret Wright's possibly struggles. But don't worry, Tanyon Sturtze is there to save them. Obviously Johnson helps them, but I feel they would have been better off pursuing Beltran. There are deceased baseball players who cover more ground in center than Bernie Williams at this point.

1) Derek Jeter
2) Bernie Williams
3) Gary Sheffield
4) Alex Rodriguez
5) Hideiki Matsui
6) Jorge Posada
7) Jason Giambi
8) Tino Martinez
9) Tony Womack

Good lineup, but it has its holes. Martinez isn't a serious threat anymore, Williams isn't as good as he used to be, and Tony Womack is Tony Womack. Probably the second best in the league, behind the Red Sox.

1) Randy Johnson
2) Mike Mussina
3) Carl Pavano
4) Jaret Wright
5) Kevin Brown

Honestly, a rotation of Vazquez-Mussina-Pavano-Lieber-Brown would have scared me more than this. Johnson is going to be great, but I would have rather had Lieber (bet they wish they hadn't declined his $8 million option so they could use that money on Wright, who already failed a physical). Plus, if they had not signed Johnson they could have either signed Beltran or got a better 6th option than Tanyon Sturtze. *shudder*

I am not sure how good the bullpen will really be, mostly because if Torre learned his lesson his three best pitchers won't be abused like they were last year, making them less effective during the season but more effective in the postseason. Well thats the idea anyways.

I see New York finishing in first or second (geez Marc, way to go out on a limb there). It really depends on how much their negatives effect them: Jaret Wright, which Kevin Brown shows up, what Giambi is like, and if Bernie Williams defense costs them even more games. Can Pavano adjust to a league switch? Will he re-enter his injury prone ways? Will Rocky and Bullwinkle ever escape Borris and Natasha? We'll just have to see.


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