Saturday, March 12, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Washington Nationals

Jim Bowden got the job as the interim G.M. of the Washington Nationals, and that makes me a sad panda. Not only because I did not get the job (like that was possible) but also because of what he did after getting it. If he was going to waste money on overrated players, they might as well have given me the job.

Carlos Baerga, IF: Baerga had his uses as a pinch hitter, but he really does not do anything much with the bat.

Vinny Castilla, 3B: Doesn't anyone remember what happened to Castilla last time he left Colorado? I happen to have the stats typed up somewhere already, and I'm pretty sure that is what is going to happen again. Waste of money.

Wil Cordero, 1B: Back with this organization again. Hard to believe Cordero is only 33 years old.

Cristian Guzman, SS: "Hi, I'm a shortstop who hits below league average, usually can't defend too much except for my completely out of place 2004, and I enjoy strolling down the streets of Washington D.C. while being significantly overpaid and expected to improve and provide production. Sadly, no one will give me a job...wait, no Jim, you'll hire me? And give me more than I'm worth? This is too good to be true!"

Jeffrey Hammonds, OF: Hammonds is made out of same thing as Pop Tarts I think. He is never healthy and always broken.

Esteban Loiza, SP: The big catch of the offseason for the Nats. If Loiza can find a happy medium between his 2003 and 2004 White Sox numbers then maybe they are on to something. A capable inning eater at worst.

Antonio Osuna, RP: Pitched very well out of the bullpen for San Diego last year, and should help the Nats out of the pen.

Jose Guillen for Juan Rivera made little sense to me. As a regular, Juan Rivera is capable of almost the same hitting stats as Jose Guillen; plus he is younger and much cheaper. Of course, keeping Rivera to play wouldn't make a "splash".

1) Jose Vidro
2) Endy Chavez
3) Nick Johnson
4) Brad Wilkerson
5) Jose Guillen
6) Vinny Castilla
7) Brian Schneider
8) Cristian Guzman

Chavez needs to learn some plate patience (.318 OBP in 2004...yuck). Nick Johnson needs to stop getting injured and play at least 140 games some time. Such a great player who can never seem to be on the field. Brad Wilkerson is very good, and hopefully for the sake of Washington will continue to improve. Jose Guillen
is good, but the same could be said about Juan Rivera, whose skills have been cornered into 4th outfielder roles in Los Angeles of Anaheim of Earth. Well atleast Rivera gets to represent a larger audience than Guillen, who is relegated to simply a city rather than a planet. Vinny Castilla is not what I like to call a hitter so much as an unexplainable void in time and space that continues to get other people's jobs. Don't get me started on Guzman.

1) Livan Hernandez
2) Esteban Loiza
3) Tony Armas
4) Tomo Ohka
5) Zach Day

Now if this rotation could stay healthy, it might be better than the Mets and the Phillies. Hernandez is another unexplainable force in the universe, but in a positive way. Loiza, if effective, will be key to the success of the rotation. Tony Armas always teases us with potential and then gets injured. Tomo Ohka is capable of being a very good #4 starter, and Zach Day was pitching well before getting hurt in 04'. Lets just say no one here is Cory Lidle, Kris Benson, or Victor Zambrano (thank God).

Chad Cordero and Luis Ayala anchor the pen, that with the addition of Osuna has some really good arms in it. Hopefully this offense can produce enough to give the pen a chance to win or save some games.

Overall, even if the Nats perform better than expected (everyone stays healthy being the key) and Termel Sledge (.269/.336/.462 in his rookie campaign) replaces Endy Chavez in the outfield I don't expect them to do anything but finish in last place. If they do play well though, the good thing about this last place finish is that it is not like a Royals or Pirates last place finish; the team is just in a really good division at the wrong time.


Friday, March 11, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: New York Mets

The Mets are very capable of finishing in second or third as well, but as previously mentioned this division is swamped. The Mets improved greatly in a few areas, but are very capable of becoming a more talented fourth place team. If they can build on the success of this offseason as old contracts end, then the Mets will be a dangerous team to deal with in the next few years.

Carlos Beltran, CF: The prize of the free agent class (prior to his breakout in the playoffs for the Astros in 04'), Beltran gives the Mets everything that they need in a player; power, speed, plate patience, and great defense. Oddly enough, the Mets signed Beltran to play center when they already have a great defensive centerfielder in Mike Cameron. Cameron did struggle some in Shea Stadium last year though, so maybe this switch will be for the best (except Cameron relegated to a corner outfield spot hurts his value greatly, especially after a wrist injury). Beltran is one of the five best players in baseball, and I am interested to see if he somehow follows the Bonds career path (not the insane Bonds of today, more like the mid-90's Bonds, starting in 1993). It probably won't happen, but they are the same kind of power/speed combo, so you never know. Shea Stadium will dampen his offensive numbers, so the production might be better than advertised.

Kris Benson, SP: Part of the reason I don't give the Mets heaps and heaps of credit is because they made great signings that they countered with dumb ones. Like this one. Benson is a league average pitcher at best. His best year was probably last year, and it was average. Just that. That's it. No more. Yes, Rick Peterson helped him in his time with NY. Helped him to become an average pitcher. One making $7.5 million per season for the next three years, singlehandedly raising the price tag of average pitchers everywhere. You think Eric Milton would have got that much money from the Reds if Benson had not signed for so much? How about Jaret Wright? Jon Lieber's $8 million option was turned down because it was deemed pricey before the Benson signing. Cashman regrets not picking up the option now. Omar Minaya made some real great signings in snaring Beltran and Pedro, the two jewels of the free agent market, but definitely left a bad taste in a lot of mouths with this one.

Andres Galarraga, 1B: He's listed as the backup for Doug Mientkiewicz, but I am not sure how much playing time he will actually get. Galarraga's status is always up in the air nowadays. I wish him well though.

Roberto Hernandez, RP: Signed to a minor league deal, if he can impress in spring training maybe he will make the squad.

Pedro Martinez, SP: The best pitcher on the free agent market, the Mets took him from the Red Sox with a guaranteed fourth year and a boatload of cash. Regardless of all the talk that Pedro's best days are behind him, he is still one of the best pitchers in baseball. Pedro's best days are so far above what everyone else is capable of that when he is brought down to Earth he is still among the elite. He will have to be watched at 100 pitches though, as that is the obvious place to stop him. If healthy the Mets won't regret a single penny spent. For everyone who says that Pedro is done, realize that his 3.90 ERA was the worst of his career. Kris Benson gets raves and a raise for being league average, and we complain about a 3.90 ERA! Ugh...

Scott Stewart, RP: Another pitcher who has been successful a few times making his way into the Mets pen. May chew up some of the innings Mike Stanton left behind.

Miguel Cairo, 2B: He's better than Tony Womack, yet the other New Yorkers set him free. Luckily, their neighbors realized he has his uses.

Felix Heredia, RP: Acquired for Mike Stanton, I don't like this move at all. Why would you give up Stanton, even if at this point he is Stanton Lite, for Heredia? I wouldn't trade a box of cookies for Heredia. Then again, I really like cookies.

1) Jose Reyes
2) Kazuo Matsui
3) Carlos Beltran
4) Mike Piazza
5) Cliff Floyd
6) Mike Cameron
7) David Wright
8) Doug Mientkiewicz

Reyes needs more time in the minors to figure out his plate patience and hitting again. Kazuo Matsui should improve on last year (he was starting to hit before he injured himself in the second half) and deliver on his contract, which now seems like a bargain considering Orlando Cabrera's contract. Carlos Beltran is a presence in the lineup, and Piazza should return to hitting now that the first base experiment is over. Cliff Floyd hits well when healthy, but it seems like that word is starting to disapear from his vocabulary. Mike Cameron might have lost some power due to his injured wrist, and if that is the case, along with his move to a corner outfield spot, his value may be waaaaaay less than before. David Wright should continue to improve (the Mets hope) and Mientkiewicz is better than Jason Phillips in basically all ways, even in last year's offensive black hole of a season. A real good lineup, but it doesn't stack up with the Marlins or Phillies. Probably better than the Braves until Andy Marte comes up (I'm sure everyone's tired of hearing that, but it'll happen).

1) Pedro Martinez
2) Tom Glavine
3) Steve Trachsel
4) Kris Benson
5) Victor Zambrano

You know how much more I would like a rotation that said Martinez-Glavine-Trachel-Kazmir-Zambrano?

Martinez is the man if healthy, so if that is the case they are definitely set in the ace department. Glavine continues his decline, but should be good for another season or two. Steve Trachsel is no longer as useful as he used to be, but is still a capable innings eater as of now. Kris Benson is my best friend as you may know, and Victor Zambrano is cool to laugh at. Seriously. He tied for the American League lead in walks even though he was traded before the July 31 deadline. He somehow had 96 walks allowed in a little over half a season. That is truly just...wow...if Peterson can fix him I'll make a shrine to him in my closet and burn the Mazzone posters I don't have.

Braden Looper anchors the bullpen, and let me just say I am really pissed I didn't get him in my fantasy league. My closer sleeper! Mike DeJean, Aaron Heilman, and Felix Heredia are a few other bullpen names. Heredia isn't a guy you want on your team really, just ask the Yankees. Of course they dumped him on the Mets for Stanton basically to say, "We're sorry we doubted your abilities Michael, will you please accept out apology for letting you go and subsequently losing all of our abilities to get out left handed hitters at important times?" Maybe someday that will cost them something important...oh wait...

A good team. Much, much better than last year in a lot of ways, but when your so far done originally its hard to get back up all at once. The Mets should finish fourth, third if someone in front of them falls apart or they play better than expected. Another year of tweaking and young talent added and maybe we'll have something to talk about.




Thursday, March 10, 2005

 

Incase anyone is interested

I want to host a chat of some sort at some point. Obviously I'll need questions to answer for this, so if anyone has any baseball related questions (or whatever, who cares) then either post it via comment on this post or e-mail me the question. If I get enough I'll do a Q&A sort of thing, and if there are a lot of responses maybe I'll do it every now and then. I plan on getting Kizner involved too, so if you have any questions for him e-mail them to him or me as well. Some ideas for questions: Something about your favorite team, info on players, new player questions, fantasy baseball questions, do I like chicken or steak better, any ideas anyone might have as far as baseball goes, why we should all make fun of Neifi Perez, and whether I use margarine or butter on toast.

Thanks a lot,

-Marc


 

2005 Season Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

The Philles firing of Larry Bowa will probably only add a win or two on to their total, but that is usually what they need at the end anyways. I have an issue picking the places of the five teams in the NL East, because with a few lucky bounces here and there four of them are capable of securing a playoff spot.

Terry Adams, RP: Adams did nothing but make me worried in his time with the Red Sox in 04', so I am not too keen on this signing.

Jon Lieber, SP: I think the Phillies got a great deal on Lieber, considering the contracts of guys like Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano, Kris Benson, and Eric Milton. Mostly because Lieber is better than all of them, and cheaper too. Well he has the same contract as Wright. Lieber pounds the strike zone very well, and rarely walks anyone. A great addition to a pitching staff sorely needing some kind of positive consistency.

Placido Polanco, Util: A funny thing happened when the Phillies offered Polanco arbitration; he accepted it. He wasn't supposed to. The Phillies did it because they thought a bunch of teams would offer contracts to Polanco and they could receive compensatory draft picks for him. Well no one offered him a contract and Polanco felt like playing, so he's with Philly now, and starting while David Bell rehabs from a back injury. He could get traded when Bell comes back, or be used at the deadline to enhance a deal.

This doesn't seem like much for moves, but replacing the injured and often ineffective Millwood with the likes of Jon Lieber is a step in the right direction for a team that only needs a few little steps. If Maneul really can keep the team going in September, the Phillies might be able to sneak a wild card out of this year.

1) Kenny Lofton
2) Jimmy Rollins
3) Bobby Abreu
4) Jim Thome
5) Pat Burrell
6) Mike Lieberthal
7) David Bell
8) Chase Utley

Rollins was almost completely unnoticed last season, even though he rebounded from a poor sophomore slump. Abreu and Thome were in the top tier of talent as always, and Burrell rebounded from a disastrous 2003 with an O.K. 2004. Chase Utley takes over at second full time rather than Polanco, and Marlon Byrd hopes to rebound from a terrible 2004. Byrd's peripherals actually weren't bad last year; his Isolated Power and walk rate were in line with his 03' campaign, but his average dropped. He could play the same and hit for higher average and everyone will be astounded with his miraculous recovery. Byrd's main problem now is that Kenny Lofton is in the lineup, and is expected to play. A real good lineup, but not as good as Florida's. Better than the Braves though (unless Marte comes up and hits immediately.) It would be a better lineup if Byrd rights his ship and plays.

1) Jon Lieber
2) Randy Wolf
3) Vicente Padilla
4) Cory Lidle
5) Gavin Floyd

Two improvements: One is Lieber over Millwood, and second is anyone over Brett Myers. Gavin Floyd has the potential to be a really good pitcher in the majors, so getting him work out of the 5th spot rather than wasting chances on Brett Myers is a good move. Cory Lidle and Eric Milton are the same person in my mind, except Lidle is cheaper, so there isn't much of a change there. But as for Floyd and Lieber, it could be enough to make this pitching staff just good enough, considering the Braves and Marlins question marks.

The success of the bullpen rests entirely in the hands of Billy Wagner and his health. One of the most dominant closers in baseball when healthy, he can tie this whole bullpen together if he's around. Rheal Cormier and Tim Worrell, along with new addition Terry Adams will try to keep the Phillies late leads for Wagner. If the path to Wagner remains clear then the Phillies have no issues with their pen.

Overall this team is capable of taking first place with a few lucky breaks. A complete rebound from Burrell would change everything, but I'm pretty sure that isn't going to happen. You never know though. I just really feel like they will finish in third (possibly second) and Philadelphia will be disapointed yet again. I don't think it will be because they choked or caved in or whatever has occured the past few years, I just think the Marlins might have passed them in terms of depth all around. Except for the bullpen that is (Oh Todd Jones and your slim chance of closing being much too big for my taste).


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Florida Marlins

I am saying that Florida will come in second, only because I have to choose someone. I am actually not really sure yet if Florida or Philly will take second place, but based on the past few choke jobs of the Phillies I'll go with Florida.

Antonio Alfonseca, RP: Gives the Marlins another competitor for the closer position along with Guillermo Mota and Todd Jones. That is all I have to say really, because he is a decent pitcher who the Braves will probably miss more than the Marlins will need him.

Carlos Delgado, 1B: The winner of the Delgado sweepstakes turned out to be Florida, and I commend them for signing him (probably helped in securing that new stadium deal soon after). I do want to comment on something though, and that is the fact that in the 2004 offseason they couldn’t afford Derrek Lee (4 years younger than Delgado and better defensively, not to mention much cheaper) and had to trade him to the Cubs. But then miraculously after a disappointing 2004 season where they missed the playoffs they have the cash to sign Delgado. I just wish owners would be truthful ya know, especially in a place like Florida where championship teams have been disbanded out of spite.

Damion Easley, 2B: Honestly I don’t know. Hit .238 but walked some. Hit 20 doubles in limited duty. Meh. I am not sure if he is a useful part or a roster fill in, but at least he is not under that horrendous Detroit contract any longer.

Lenny Harris, Pinch Hitter: That is all he does. He used to do it well, very well actually, which made him worth the spot on the 25 man roster. Now he isn’t worth the spot on the 40 man roster, yet he retains it. Oh Marlins.

Todd Jones, RP: OK with Cincy, not as good with Philly, gets a nice raise in 05’ from the Marlins. Ugh.

Al Leiter, SP: 4 bad moves deserves one good one, right? Al Leiter of 05’ won’t be Pavano of 04’, but at least he isn’t Russ Ortiz and it is only a one-year deal. Pretty good year in 04’ (except for the strikeout rate), and considering that he is in line for $8 million the Marlins did excellent. Oh Kris Benson, how I mock your contract so. Then again his strikeout rates are dropping, so he could be a ticking time bomb as far as walking the thin line of luck goes. I guess we’ll see.

Mike Lowell, 3B: Wouldn’t you want Mike Lowell? Considering I believe he is making Orlando Cabrera’s salary to hit .293/.365/.505 I’ll take it.

Jim Mecir, RP: Does well against lefties, go screwball.

Matt Perisho, RP: Had his best season last year, but that isn’t really saying much. He probably isn’t going to get much better, but he probably won’t hurt as much as in the past (unless last year was a fluke of course).

John Riedling, RP: I don’t understand this signing, but I don’t really know his minor league track record or anything. This is the kind of reliever bad teams keep, not ones trying to become division favorites.

Ismael Valdez, SP: Kudos to the Marlins for not overpaying for his 14 wins. Rounds out the rotation, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing.


1) Juan Pierre
2) Luis Castillo
3) Carlos Delgado
4) Miguel Cabrera
5) Mike Lowell
6) Paul Lo Duca
7) Alex Gonzalez
8) Juan Encarnacion (.......)

The 1-5 spots in this lineup are actually pretty scary when you write them all down and look at them. Lo Duca will hit for average until August too, so 1-6 will be dangerous until then. Besides having Juan Encarnacion in the lineup, there is really nothing wrong with it. In fact, it is really good. Jeff Conine might be a lot older than Encarnacion, but I think I'd prefer his declining skills to the black hole in right field known as Juan (JE: .236/.299/.405...JC: .280/.340/.432)

1) Josh Beckett
2) A.J. Burnett
3) Dontrelle Willis
4) Al Leiter
5) Ismael Valdez

Beckett's constant blisters may actually be a blessing in disguise for Florida, as they have kept his workload down during the young arm injury years. A.J. Burnett, if healthy, should be great for this team, especially since I think he is better than Beckett. Willis is probably not as good as his first half of his rookie year, but better than last year. Expect better things from him in the future. Al Leiter, if his arm doesn't fall off, will definitely be capable at least as a #4 starter. Ismael Valdez is like the Juan Encarnacion of this pitching staff for me. Why couldn't they just sign someone else? Isn't there a young pitcher in the farm system or something? Overall this rotation has the potential to be one of the best in the majors, but like the Cubs rotation it all comes down to injuries.

Guillermo Mota, Antonio Alfonseca, Todd Jones, Jim Mecir and a few others will anchor the bullpen, with Mota taking the closing role until he fails. I don't really expect him to fail, but the Marlins got Alfonseca and Jones just incase that happens. Of course if it gets to a point where Todd Jones is a better option, your probably already in third place with the Mets breathing down your neck.

Overall I think this team can take second place easily, and if everything comes together (meaning the rotation and the bullpen) than they can more than challenge the Braves title streak. Of course if any one of the young pitchers is injured than it is an entirely different story. Notice Ismael Valdez in the 5th spot; do you think if they could do better than him than they would? Imagine if Beckett gets a blister and Burnett's elbow acts up again? Or Leiter's shoulder finally gives out? The Marlins are capable of winning a ton of games, or quietly fading into nothingness come August. It should be a great NL East race this season.

 

Quick hits from Kizner

Since I had a lot of small thoughts today, I decided to blatantly rip off Peter Gammons and do some quick hits, Kizner style.

--A great point about the asterisk being brought into question for stats of the steroid era. When you think inflated stats in baseball, you think the 60's and the 90's. In the 60's the mound was higher, and pitchers dominated. In the 90's there may or may not have been rampant steroid use, and hitters dominated. There's no asterisk on Bob Gibson because he had a higher mound, why asterisk Mark McGwire?

--Why all of a sudden is everyone jumping on the Marlins bandwagon because they added Delgado? He's adjusting to a new league, he's got health issues, and he's hardly the spry young man who was once a catcher for the blue jays. He makes them better, but Yoda in Atlanta will turn Tim Hudson back into a Cy Young winner, and the Braves will win the East. (Not that it matters, since they won't reach the World Series anyway).

--Speaking of Delgado, it was aired on ESPN today that Delgado called Omar Minaya's negotiating tactics racist. Delgado said Minaya put more emphasis on their common language and customs, than he did the appeal of the Mets and why he would want to play in New York. Coincidentally, being pampered and spoken to in Spanish is exactly why Pedro went to New York. (Donde esta la payday? La pay day esta New York. You are still muy great Pedro!)

--Am I the only one who hopes the first time A-Rod is running out a groundball in Fenway, after Millar catches the ball and tags the bag, that he slaps A-Rod's arm to try and knock his wristguard off?

--How is it the White Sox had some of the worst pitching in the league last year, and over the off season, they did nothing to remedy the problem. In fact, they got rid of one of their biggest rbi men(Lee), lost another to free agency(Ordonez), and traded for someone who gets on base about as often as I do(Podsednik). Why is Kenny Willams allowed to exist?

--Last hit. Was anyone else perturbed by Barry Bonds telling us his testicles haven't shrunk? I don't care if you did or didn't do steroids. Honestly, I think you're a great player, and you've done great things, but please, never again mention your testicles in a press conference, if not for yourself, then for me?

Monday, March 07, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Atlanta Braves

I don't think the Braves are the most talented team in their division. At all. But I figure everything is going to magically fall into place for them like it does every year, and until they don't win the division I'm picking them to win it. I would rather be wrong in saying they will win then ignoring them and having them make me look silly...so my guess is now they will blow it since I'm taking this course of action...bastards.

I actually have a lot of faith in the Braves to win, since they have done some great things like lose Russ Ortiz. A full season of Marcus Giles should be a help to an offense that lacks the presence of J.D. Drew this year.

Julio Franco, 1B: I say let Franco play on the cheap until he physically cannot. He does his job, he earns his money.

Brian Jordan, OF: I question how much he will play, and I only say he’ll play well when he does because that seems to be the way with the Braves.

Raul Mondesi, OF: I can see Mondesi crying in an interview later, telling the media how much Bobby Cox taught him to become mature…and then Mazzone taught him a nasty slider. Mondesi for $1 million is a chance worth taking when you have the Schuerholz horseshoe on your side. Mondesi might put his unreliable ways behind him finally only because he's realizing it isn't 1999 anymore and he's not guaranteed tons of money from a stupid Blue Jays contract.

Gabe White, RP: Not his best season in 2004. If he can be fixed its by Mazzone. I know it sounds like a copout just saying the Braves will fix these guys, but isn’t that how its been for 13 years or whatever now?

Via Trade: Acquired Tim Hudson for Charles Thomas, prospect Dan Meyer, and Juan Cruz.

Acquiring Hudson is a good move for the Braves. Hudson had one problem that Beane was probably subliminally worried about. His strikeout rate continued to drop (as well as Mulder’s) and that is usually a pretty good indicator of future performance. Charles Thomas is only a fourth outfielder at best, and the Braves bullpen is always good, so losing Cruz should not hurt too much. Hudson will help this team more than Russ Ortiz and Paul Byrd, and hopefully more than Jaret Wright of 04'.


Acquired closer Danny Kolb for Jose Capellan

Danny Kolb also has a dropping strikeout rate. Same idea as with Hudson. This also allows Smoltz to return to the rotation, but I think he might be a 6 inning or 90 pitch guy. Chances are good those will be 90 really good pitches though.
I would much prefer having Smoltz close than Kolb, but when you look at this rotation minus Smoltz it just does not look as good.

The Braves might replace (well not fully) some of the production of J.D. Drew if #1 ranked prospect Andy Marte (.301 Equivalent Average in the minors last year) is given enough time with the club in 05'. Another young player, Ryan Langerhans, should eventually get the outfield spot that Brian Jordan is holding. Maybe the Braves should let Mike Hampton play in the outfield instead of Brian Jordan. What if he hits .280 with 10 HR's? And he won't be pitching anymore...everyone wins. Obviously I'm kidding, but it would be funny if Hampton gave up pitching and became a DH after his massive contract ends.

1) Rafael Furcal
2) Adam LaRoche
3) Marcus Giles
4) Chipper Jones
5) Andruw Jones
6) Raul Mondesi
7) Johnny Estrada
8) Brian Jordan/Ryan Langerhans

The Braves will need Andy Marte's bat in this lineup. Absolutely need it. As great as Marcus Giles is, he would be better in the second spot with Chipper Jones batting third and Marte or Andruw Jones batting cleanup. Also, LaRoche isn't exactly the OBP machine you want out of your #2 spot, but Giles needs to bat third in this lineup minus Marte.

1) John Smoltz
2) Tim Hudson
3) Mike Hampton
4) John Thomson
5) Horacio Ramirez

If Smoltz's elbow can hold up over the course of the season than this will be a successful 1-2 punch in the rotation. Hampton isn't really a #3 starter, but Thomson's better than a #4 anyways. Horacio Ramirez looks like a great young option as the #5 starter with his ERA of 2.39 in 10 games (9 starts) last season, but his K/9 is below leave average at 4.62 and his K:BB ratio is 31:30...that is awful. He had a 2.06 GB/FB (Groundball to Flyball ratio) last year, which is good, but with all those walks there is going to be a lot of praying for double plays. Not everyone can be Carlos Zambrano; just ask Derek Lowe.

The Braves bullpen looks good, with guys like Chris Reitsma and Tom Martin, along with new additions Gabe White (who the Braves hope reverts to some of his past form) and Dan Kolb form a strong bullpen to go along with whatever pieces Mazzone and Schuerholz can pick up and fix along the way (Chris Hammond anyone?). Dan Kolb worries me as closer, because he is not dominant. I don't mean that in a he doesn't feature a blazing fastball and attitude way, because neither does Keith Foulke. I mean it more like his K/9 is 3.30, which is extremely low, and he relies almost entirely on his ability to make guys ground out. This is not a bad thing at all, it just might get scary sometime when there are guys on base because someone hit a fly ball when you needed a double play. His GB/FB ratio was very extreme last year, at 3.49, and 3.33 in 2003. If he reverts to his 2002 level though (2.65) his ERA might be much higher (4.22 in 2002). That is not bad, but it looks more like the ERA of whoever is closing for Tampa Bay rather than a potential division winner.

Overall I think the Braves should be able to win the division, but they will probably need Marte's bat to fortify the lineup at some point. Even if it is in June or July, it will be like a midseason acquisition. Hopefully he gives them the kind of production Justin Morneau gave the Twins in his rookie campaign last year. I am picking them to win the NL East, but I am kind of worried about doing so with the (supposedly) reenergized Phillies and more offensive Marlins on the rise.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Seattle Mariners

Many people think that Seattle is going to contend after signing Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson because the lineup has two "power" bats in it. Well, run scoring was a problem last year for the Mariners, but so were runs allowed, and they did not do squat about their rotation. Also, Richie Sexson is a guy who already hit his peak, is coming off labrum surgery, and is coming to a pitcher's park. I think his numbers will suffer just a tad. His was probably the worst signing of the offseason, considering the amount of money thrown at him for an unsure thing (4 years, $50 million). Do you really expect Carlos Delgado (4 years, $52 million) to be outperformed or even matched by Richie Sexson the next few seasons?

Adrian Beltre, 3B: Sure it helps the lineup a lot. But Beltre may never see his astonishing 2004 numbers again. His numbers probably won't take a hit from pitcher friendly Safeco since he played with Los Angeles, but they may suffer some from the NL to AL switch. Not to mention none of the good pitchers are on his team, so he's going to have to face them.

Ricky Gutierrez, SS: Hey, Boston won a World Series with Gutierrez and Pokey Reese.....sort of.

Pokey Reese, SS: $1.2 million to play defense, because he sure as hell isn't going to hit in Safeco if he can't hit in Fenway.

Aaron Sele, SP: Back to the place where his success began. If he can stay healthy he might be able to help this team, but that isn't saying much for the rotation.

Richie Sexson, 1B: See above. Even if he produces this year, what about the next year he's overpaid? And the year after that? Ugh.

1) Ichiro Suzuki
2) Randy Winn
3) Adrian Beltre
4) Richie Sexson
5) Bret Boone
6) Raul Ibanez
7) Bucky Jacobsen
8) Dan Wilson
9) Pokey Reese

Ichiro probably won't have the hits record again, so some regression is expected from his spot. Randy Winn hasn't hit all that well since coming to Seattle. Beltre should regress some, and the same since Sexson's last full season. Bret Boone will show us whether he is entering the real decline phase of his career or just hit a bump in the road. Ibanez still sucks, sorry guys. Bucky Jacobsen should be interesting this season, just because he is getting a full year. He projects to 34 homeruns in 162 games if you take his 42 game homerun rate from last year. I'm not saying he'll hit that many, but it'd sure help.

1) Jamie Moyer
2) Joel Piniero
3) Ryan Franklin
4) Bobby Madritsch
5) Gil Meche

Moyer is finally showing his age, but Piniero isn't as bad as he showed last year. Ryan Franklin is alright enough, and Madritsch did well in his 11 starts. Gil Meche is a #5 starter at best. Basically, this rotation can be decent enough, but not good. And they need more than good to contend in a division where on paper they are the fourth most talented team out of four. Sadly for Seattle, I think a lot of overhyped hearts are going to be broken this summer.

 

2005 Season Preview: Texas Rangers

I expect the Rangers to basically do the same thing as last year. The only free agent they really added who will have any impact is Richard Hidalgo; Sandy Alomar Jr. and Robert Machado don't count as impact signings, even if they take the pressure of Barajas (who probably shouldn't be a starting catcher anyways). Third place again unless Seattle really improves, instead of just misses being a .500 team.

Sandy Alomar Jr, C: Alomar is not really performing much at all anymore, with a .240/.298/.308 line in 2004. Not really the guy you look forward to seeing as a Rangers fan everytime Barajas needs a day off.

Richard Hidalgo, RF: Hidalgo found his power stroke with the Mets, but if he continues to hit in the .240 range it will be just another Texas player with power, a low average and a low OBP. Which is exactly what this team needs less of. If Hidalgo rebounds than Texas made out good in this deal, as Hidalgo has equal powers of amazement and disapointment over his career so far.

1) Michael Young
2) Alfonso Soriano
3) Hank Blalock
4) Mark Teixeira
5) Richard Hidalgo
6) David Delluci
7) Kevin Mench
8) Laynce Nix
9) Rod Barajas

The lineup starts out on one of the best notes either league can boast. Soriano is probably the worst hitter of the four here, mostly because of his inability to do anything but swing. If Hidalgo doesn't rebound that 5th spot is going to look a lot worse than it could be, and Delluci has a boatload of annoying, recurring injuries. Mench is good but he, like almost everyone else on Texas, doesn't walk enough. No one is as guilty as Laynce Nix on this point though (.248/.293/.437). Rod Barajas in the first half (.270/.289/.530) and second half (.225/.261/.370) were both equally bad, but worse in some respects than the other. In the first half he did not walk, but he hit for atleast some power. In the second half he walked a little, but couldn't hit or hit homeruns anymore. When I say he walked in the second half, I mean he raised his walk total from 4 to 13. You can see why the Rangers lost their momentum last year. When the pitching staff was actually pitching well, the lineup had run out of steam, and since they couldn't take a walk never caught any breaks.

1) Kenny Rogers
2) Ryan Drese
3) Chan Ho Park
4) Joaquin Benoit
5) R.A. Dickey

I like the Rogers/Drese combo for this team, since it gives them two pretty good starters at the top of their rotation. There is no clear ace on this team though, and with the lack of pitching talent at the back end of the rotation that presents a serious problem. Even if Chan Ho Park was at his best he would not be an ace, and I'm pretty sure he won't be at his best anyways. Chris Young is a capable prospect who could come into the rotation, after 7 successful starts last season. When Dickey or Benoit really get hit hard, or Park gets injured, look for Chris Young to take over a spot and hopefully keep it.

The bullpen is anchored by Fransisco Cordero, who has pitched real well the last few seasons. Frank Fransisco, Doug Brocail, Brian Shouse, and Ron Mahay all pitched well last season, and the Rangers will need them to repeat that performance in order to think about contending. This pitching staff is better than many give it credit for, but with the OBP troubles of the lineup hidden by the pr0-hitting tendencies of Arlington, it just is not enough to keep pace with the hit crazed Angels or the recharging Athletics.

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