Saturday, March 19, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Colorado Rockies

*sigh* The last 2005 season preview. I think the Rockies could come in fourth or fifth place in the NL West, but it all depends on their lineup. Their lineup is actually pretty bad at the moment, only because it is waiting for some kids to develop. Once that happens, the Rockies hope it will be more formidable and they will be able to contend...we'll see. Forgive me if I'm in a rush; I'm trying to eat Capn' Crunch, dress for work at 8, and write about the Rockies all at once.

Todd Greene, C: .282/.325./.508. My rule for backup catcher signings: Are they more helpful than Mike Matheny? If so, then you can’t complain unless they are overpaid. Green is making $750,000 so it’s all good.

Jamey Wright, SP: 4.12 ERA looks sparkling for Colorado, even in 14 starts. Until I see he has 45 walks to 41 strikeouts. A 0.91 K/BB ratio…wicked awesome. Wright seems to hover around the 1.00 K/BB ratio mark in his career, and goes back and forth between seasons where he gets away with it and does not. At least he is only making $550,000. Good move by the Rockies not overpaying for what appeared to be success.

Dustan Mohr, OF: I read an article that said Mohr had some interesting platoon splits, where he actually hit better on the road than at home. He apparently has been like that before, so it should be interesting to see how good he is in Colorado compared to how he is on the road. If he is anything like last year than kudos to the Rockies for this move (if he continues to hit on the road anyways).

Desi Relaford, IF: WHOO! -10.8 VORP = almost $1,000,000! Its like the NBA out there. Of course Relaford will probably hit in Coors…and not on the road. His Kaufman bandbox numbers (2002-2003) work a lot better than his Kaufman as a pitcher’s park numbers do.


1) Aaron Miles
2) J.D. Closser
3) Todd Helton
4) Preston Wilson
5) Matt Holliday
6) Dustan Mohr
7) Garrett Atkins
8) Clint Barmes

Looks from the limited major league action of Closser and Atkins that the Rockies could be very happy with a few of their young position players this year. Helton will deliver as always, and Preston Wilson, al though extremely overrated, will deliver value (just not on the dollar). Matt Holliday and Dustan Mohr represent the problem with this club's thinking. Rather than sign top of the line hitters to perform at great heights (I couldn't help myself, sorry) they sign middle of the road guys to hit real well at Coors and play on the road at a lower level (which is their norm). Filling your lineup with these people does you know good (see Vinny Castilla and Jeromy Burnitz), where the Andres Galarraga, Ellis Burks, and Larry Walker's of the world help. Its just recognizing the difference between signing B players and making them A's half the time, or signing A or A- players and turning them into A+'s. This team needs well over 1,000 runs to win a division, and I mean 100-200 more. This is not a lineup that will do it, featuring Matt Holliday in the 5 hole. This team needs Todd Helton and an Adam Dunn and a another on-base machine. Maybe they should build themselves with the Three True Outcome players...hey if it worked, Rob Deer wannabes everywhere would always have a place to work. All I know is the current idea does not work.

1) Jason Jennings
2) Joe Kennedy
3) Shawn Chacon
4) Jeff Francis
5) Jamey Wright

It is obvious by now that only some pitchers can adapt to the effects of Coors and remain somewhat effective. Jason Jennings has at time, Joe Kennedy posted the best starter's ERA ever at Coors his first year, and Jamey Wright once did, granted with smoke, mirrors, and some other magical stuff. Shawn Chacon had a WHIP around 2.00 last year as a closer, and to be blunt, that shit is scary. Jeff Francis is a great pitching prospect, but I worry about his pitching in Coors. John Sickels has a saying for every Colorado pitching prospect after talking about how good they are, "Too bad they play for Colorado." That isn't a good thing when a bio finishes with that statement. If you have checked out my Rockies rant, you will know what I think they need to do. Sidearm pitchers, sidearm pitchers, and then a few more sidearm pitchers. Steve Reed and Mike Myers succeeded, now bring in Chad Bradford if you can, pull the trigger on a BK Kim deal (please) and find some starters with a sidearm or submarine windup. Natural sinking motion on their pitches, groundballs, c'mon guys! The answer is staring you right in the face!

Chin-hui Tsao is the closer for now, as all of Rockies fandom apparently doesn't have faith in his ability to stay healthy. This bullpen lost the best pitcher it ever had (again) in Steve Reed. Not good. Tim Harrikala had a spectacular Colorado first half, and died down in the second, but his production is gone. Scott Dohman did good enough last year, but I don't see anyone else who contributed last year around. Or anyone who might contribute this time around. This is horrible, because the Rockies need, and I stress need, a strong, not solid, bullpen to win games. Starters get knocked out early so often that Colorado needs to have a bullpen capable of not only carrying the load, but also of holding onto leads this offense might create. For the first time I can think of, the rotation might be the strongest part of this team. Sadly it is not at a point where that is a good thing. Yes, I know things looked good with Hampton and Neagle and even the late Darryl Kile (one of my favorites, saddened greatly by his fate) but people did not know what they know now, so I'm being realistic. The lineup is too weak, the bullpen depth is nonexistent, and the rotation isn't strong enough. This is a fourth place team at best, and that depends somewhat on how much Arizona scuffles. Well, at least they didn't sign Russ Ortiz. Kudos for that.

Link

Friday, March 18, 2005

 

Some more changes

I have a few more things to announce regarding this site. I added a few more links (and organized them better) to the links section, and I'm in the midst of scheduling something I'm very excited about for some time in April. Its a surprise to most, and I'll be sure to announce when its coming so everyone can see.

Thanks for reading everyone, and as always, I appreciate feedback.

-Marc Normandin

 

2005 Season Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

Ugh...I've been waiting to do this one the entire time I've done team previews. Honestly I can see it happening that they don't even pull themselves out of the cellar, but with the youth movement in Colorado and the few positive signings in Arizona I can't see myself getting away with saying it. Just know that I am not picking them for fourth place, but rather saying we have two teams capable of last place in the division, but they can't both finish there...or can they? *cue spooky music*

Tony Clark, 1B: I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t. Stop asking me.

Royce Clayton, SS: Well Clayton’s home numbers are decent enough I guess. His road numbers are not. I think that Colorado place does something to skew less talented players numbers, but that’s just a
crazy idea. The Diamondbacks have done worse than sign Clayton for less than $1.5 million though. Kudos on not overspending on him (not that I approve of signing him in the first place.)

Craig Counsell, SS/3B: And now Clayton makes less sense. Even if Counsell hits like he did last year, if he defends as well he’ll have his uses and value.

Shawn Estes, SP: Finally! A player who might do better in Arizona than on his last team! Too bad his last team was Colorado. A #5 starter on a bad team is his best role.

Troy Glaus, 1b (If the Diamondbacks braintrust has any cells left): Glaus had a bad shoulder injury, he came back and hit playing first base. Diamondbacks gave a very large contract to him, and better play him at first. If not, all the Diamondbacks fans should hold a ceremonious suicide. You know, as a statement. Speaking of statements…

Russ Ortiz, SP: All I heard about Ortiz the past few seasons is how he is nowhere near as good as his record suggests, how his peripherals don’t support his ERA, and anyone silly enough to sign him long term deserves a kick in the goods. Well shine your kicking boots D-Backs fans, you’re the lucky new owner of Russ Ortiz and his lack-of-talent baggage (very expensive baggage by the way). I’m not sure Paris Hilton could afford this kind of baggage. Did I just make a Simple Life reference? I think I need counseling. I blame the D’Backs for this.

Jose Jimenez, RP: Jimenez was signed to a minor league deal, and might not even make Arizona’s roster unless an injury bug hits. Not the guy I really want on my team considering his past, but the good news is he has a pulse.

Quinton McCracken, LF: McCracken has his value when you don’t think of him as what he is not. He’s not the second coming of anything besides a helpful bench role player.

Shance Nance, RP: More walks than K’s and a .351 BAA…nifty. Sickels liked him as a future LOOGY candidate in 2002.

Kelly Stinnett, C: meh, no complain.

Shawn Green, OF: Trade and sign with a 3-year extension through 2007 for $32 million. I like Shawn Green, but not for over $10 million a season. I just saw an article that said the D’backs have been careful spending money this offseason and I almost threw up.

Acquired via trade: Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro for Randy Johnson. Shawn Green for Navarro and Danny Muegge, Beltran Perez and William Juarez.
Adam Peterson for Shea Hillenbrand.

Javier Vazquez is a great pickup. He is younger than Randy Johnson and should overcome his struggles in the second half of 2004 as long as it is not because of an injury from overuse in Montreal. I like this move better than all of their other ones. He is their true #1, no matter how many writers say its Ortiz *shudder*.

Adam Peterson has done very well in the minors, but struggled in his callup to the majors. Hillenbrand won’t be missed too much if Glaus does what he is supposed to, as well as Chad Tracy (.285/.343/.407 as a rookie, hopefully that improves.)


1) Chad Tracy
2) Craig Counsell
3) Luis Gonzalez
4) Troy Glaus
5) Shawn Green
6) Jose Cruz Jr.
7) Royce Clayton
8) Koyie Hill

I like Chad Tracy at the top of the lineup until his development is complete. Counsell's glove will at least offset his lack of production at the plate. Luis Gonzalez-Troy Glaus-and Shawn Green makeup the only 3-4-5 Shoulder Injury All-Star Team I can think of off the top of my head. Jose Cruz Jr. should improve his hitting some with a move back to the National League, as well as playing in Bank One Ballpark, hallowed home of home run hitters everywhere. Royce Clayton = not good. That is basically it for him. Koyie Hill struggled for the Dodgers at catcher last year, but who didn't? Oh wait, THE HEART AND SOUL OF THEIR FRANCHISE, PAUL LO-FRICCIN' DUCA DIDN'T! I'm not bitter towards LA Sportswriters, I swear on your mother.

1) Javier Vazquez
2) Russ Ortiz
3) Brandon Webb
4) Shawn Estes
5) Mike Gosling

A funny thing happened as I wrote down this rotation; I pegged this team for a definite 5th place in the NL West. Its going to happen now.

Javier Vazquez should be fine since his arm got some time off. He went through a lot of abuse in Montreal over the years, and it finally caught up to him in the second half of last season. Hopefully he comes back to his original form. Russ Ortiz...you know my feelings on his imminent explosion. I wonder if the D'Backs will try to move him by year two of the deal or just suck it up knowing there is no one who would want him for that money? Brandon Webb has something to look forward to: Derek Lowe's 2004. Webb's peripherals got shot to shit, to put it bluntly, in 2004, and I expect it to affect his ERA very soon. Shawn Estes is a 5th starter for a bad team. He is the 4th starter here...does that tell you anything? Mike Gosling has a 14/13 K:BB ratio, and a 4.97 K/9...if he does not improve, this will get ugly fast as well. Granted its a small sample size (4 starts) but the pressure is on in Arizona after management basically told the fans they are a team with a chance to compete...good grief.

Greg Aquino is the closer, Jose Valverde is the next best reliever. Brandon Lyon, Randy Choate, Mike Koplove, and Brian Bruney make up the rest of the bullpen. I'm sure I'm gaining the hate of any Diamondbacks fans who see this, but I think its going to be a long year in the desert. Luckily, the desert will fight with the mountains for 4th place, so there is some hope.

 

2005 Season Preview: San Francisco Giants

With the second knee surgery on Barry Bonds yesterday, and the addition of such hitting machines as Mike Matheny to this lineup (mild sarcasm there everyone) I am smelling a third place finish in the NL West. Or maybe that is just the smell of the Old Folks Home that is SBC Park. Either way, on to the transactions...

Mike Matheny, C: He can't hit at all. His defense is good, but will probably decline from here on out. He is an aging catcher who was just given a rich contract to play for San Francisco. Yorvit Torrealba was a much much better option, and they already had the rights to him.

Armando Benitez, RP: Benitez is one of the more dominant closers in recent memory, but he does not get a lot of the credit he deserves. Even if he regresses from last season's insane lines, he will be an upgrade over the horror show SF trotted out in 2004 after learning Nen would not be back once again.

Moises Alou, OF: 39 HR's with Chicago in 2004...I see more like roughly 20 in San Francisco this year. This is not the masher that San Fran may think they are bringing in, and he is playing the role of resident savior whenever Barry Bonds has to be out of the lineup...not a good thing for this team. Expect decline due to age as well as the team/park switch.

Omar Vizquel, SS: Vizquel's deal started off the free agent acquisition period, and it was too rich for anyone's blood. It is a very perplexing deal, as Vizquel will make more money the more the declines. The best part of this deal was that it made Kenny Williams knickers get in a twist. That's a Rocko's Modern Life quote for all of you who aren't in the know...I feel slightly ashamed.

Wayne Franklin, SP: I don't remember when he got to this team, but I threw him here. He won't do anything substantial, and probably won't even make the rotation.

1) Ray Durham
2) J.T. Snow
3) Moises Alou
4) Barry Bonds
5) Marquis Grissom
6) Edgardo Alfonzo
7) Omar Vizquel
8) Mike Matheny

The lineup starts out on a good note, even though I expect massive decline from J.T. Snow, whose second half of 2004 gave him a serious abberation on his resume. Of course, even though that was part of the reason the Giants only finished an inch behind the Dodgers in 04', Brian Sabean decided to pick up Snow's option, as well as the options of everyone else on the team who overachieved and are bound to disapoint in 05'. Ugh. Alou = dropoff. Bonds = Bonds. Grissom has actually done very well in his time with SF, unlike Alfonzo. Expect decline from Vizquel possibly this year, and at least by next year. Matheny is the quintessential black hole #8 hitter, surpassed in his ineptitude only by Brad Ausmus of Houston. What is it about catchers who can't hit living off a defensive reputation they may have long sense failed to live up to?

1) Jason Schmidt
2) Kirk Rueter
3) Brett Tomko
4) Jerome Williams
5) Noah Lowry

This rotation worries me for a few reasons. Schmidt will be a Cy Young candidate as long as he is healthy, but that could be a big if, thanks to the damage Dusty Baker and Felipe Alou have done to his arm. Kirk Rueter has been pitching with smoke and mirrors his entire career, and I keep waiting for the wheels to fall off. They haven't yet though, so kudos to him. Brett Tomko probably is not a #3 starter. At least people don't feel like he is a #1 anymore; any progress beats nothing I guess. Jerome Williams is regarded highly within the organization, but then again they also like J.T. Snow's bat, Vizquel's current glove, and gave up draft picks to the Royals for Michael Tucker. I don't know who to trust anymore!

Armando Benitez presents a massive upgrade for the bullpen, although Joe Nathan probably would have done fine. And he sure as hell would not have kicked Stan Conte in the crotch. (Oh A.J. Pierzynski, how no one will miss you, not even for a second). The bullpen was a major weakness last year, but adding Benitez will tie up a lot of loose ends for them.

The Giants have improved in their bullpen, but their rotation honestly didn't make any real substantial gains, and the lineup, while improving slightly, will lose some due to the addition of Matheny over Pierzynski at catcher and whatever time Bonds loses. The Giants record without Bonds last season was less than spectacular; the 2003 Detroit Tigers might have laughed at the way they played. Third place is where they will stay, if only because I refuse to acknowledge the Diamondbacks "progress"...or lack thereof.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

 

Everyone should also...

...take a look at the All-Baseball and Most Valuable Network sites. I have started browsing through them daily, and the work there is excellent. I'll do my best to get a writer or two from those sites to work with me here on occasion.

http://www.all-baseball.com

http://mostvaluablenetwork.com

The owner of these sites is a huge Red Sox fan by the way, if you want some motivation to click. :)

Also, check this out for the sheer fact that its friccin' sweet:

http://www.bat-girl.com/archives/000717.html

 

Everyone visiting today needs to check this out at least once

Will Carroll is running a liveblog of the Congressional Hearings on his website,

http://postmessenger.baseballtoaster.com

I think everyone would benefit from checking this out at least once today.

-Marc


 

2005 Season Preview: San Diego Padres

How can you pick the Padres for second place with a straight face Marc? Seriously? Well, I saw Bonds could only play part time in April, and I think the gap for second place, depending on how well the Padres come out of the gate, could be too big for the Giants to close. I am not saying it is because the Padres are that much better than San Fran, it is just that I feel they are close enough to equal that a lead created in April could stick. The Giants have a history of playing poorly without Bonds in the lineup recently, and Moises Alou isn't even Moises Alou anymore, nevermind Barry Bonds.

Miguel Asencio, SP: He won't be in the rotation. And if he is, then something has gone seriously wrong in San Diego.

Andy Ashby, SP: Signed to a minor league deal, San Diego will see how things go in spring training before making any decisions regarding this comeback-not-quite-a-kid.

Geoff Blum, 3B: After trading Ramon Vazquez to Boston, San Diego needed some more infield depth. Is Blum the answer? ...No.

Robert Fick, OF: I don't understand the Fick signing, mostly because they already have Xavier Nady in the fourth outfielder role and he is better than Fick. Much, much better than Fick.

Chris Hammond, RP: This should help the bullpen out some. His 2004 season in Oakland went a lot better than his 2003 season in NY, where he was criticized daily for not being the best reliever ever.

Dennys Reyes, SP: I think Kevin Towers and Allard Baird of Kansas City developed some sort of relationship this offseason, since they made a trade and Towers signed up two of Baird's starting pitchers he cut loose. Too bad they weren't getting along like this when Beltran was available last year, huh?

Rudy Seanez, RP: Tiny contract, pretty good numbers last season. Nice pickup by the Padres to fortify the bullpen if he pans out again.

Steve Sparks, SP/RP: Will fight with Darrell May for the 5th spot in the rotation, even though I think May is going to get it. You know what is pretty funny? I saw an article that said May will get the job based on "his experience". Sparks has been a full time pitcher since 1995; May started in 1995 as well, but didn't pitch anything close to regularly until 1997, and that was as a reliever. Then he was out of the majors from 1998 until 2002. Yes...experience. ANTI-KNUCKLEBALLING IS WHAT IT IS...sorry for the outburst.

Mark Sweeney, OF: Mark Sweeney will hopefully beat out Robert Fick for a backup OF roster spot, and at some point maybe he or Xavier Nady can replace Ryan Klesko as an outfielder for the sake of this Padres team. .266/.377/.508 in only 177 at-bats...someone start this poor man.

Woody Williams, SP: A lot of people think nothing of this deal, but I think he should be able to give them what David Wells did last year, maybe with a higher ERA. Then again, Petco is considered a severe pitcher's park, so we'll see.

Eric Young, Utility: Eric Young is useful to have around since he can play effectively for short stretches of time anywhere in the field except catcher. He has made a pretty decent career for himself if you take the time to check out his numbers.

Acquired Dave Roberts for Jay Payton, Ramon Vazquez, and David Pauley. Payton's bat was nonexistent in Petco last year, so he won't be missed too much. Vazquz is a good utility guy to have, but the signing of Eric Young weakens the sting of that loss. Roberts will give this team a viable leadoff hitter, rather than using Sean Burroughs because they have to.

Acquired Darrell May and Ryan Bukvich for Dennis Tankersely and Terrence Long. Darrell May pitched very well in 2003 when Kauffman was a hitter's paradise, and poorly in 2004 when it was a pitcher's park...wait what? I would rather have Tankerseley, but the Padres probably felt he wouldn't develop here. Bukvich did well in the 9 games he pitched in for KC last year. Terrence Long won't be missed.

1) Dave Roberts
2) Khalil Greene
3) Mark Loretta
4) Brian Giles
5) Phil Nevin
6) Ryan Klesko
7) Ramon Hernandez
8) Sean Burroughs

This lineup looks better than last years, since Nevin is around, Klesko can't possibly be as bad as before, Dave Roberts instead of Jay Payton, and Khalil Greene should improve some offensively. Expect some decline from Brian Giles and Mark Loretta, but hopefully for the Padres they can continue to contribute enough.

1) Jake Peavy
2) Woody Williams
3) Brian Lawrence
4) Adam Eaton
5) Darrell May

"Hi Dave Littlefield, its Kevin Towers of San Diego. Remember that trade we did a few years back, when we gave you Oliver Perez and Jason Bay for Brian Giles...yeah, can we redo that please? I just realized my team is the one who needs the two young kids and your the one who needs Brian Giles to put people in the seats. Yeah...if we had Perez and Peavy we could win two Cy Young awards per year, because they would change the rules just for us...I understand this is not normal procedure...yes I understand your team would then consist simply of the Wilson boys...how about I just send you another second base prospect or plain old outfielder to add to your growing list of "prospects"...now listen here, Brian Giles is still a fine player, and I love having him on my team...but I miss my darling Oliver. Please send him home...FINE! Keep him and stay in last place!!!" *click*.

Jake Peavy is quite possibly the best pitcher in the National League, right up there with Mark Prior and Oliver Perez. The Padres almost had 2 of the 3 best pitchers in the league in their rotation for close to minimum salaries. Woody Williams should do a good David Wells impression this year, and Brian Lawrence should do at least league average. I'm still waiting for Adam Eaton to turn some kind of corner and pitch effectively, and Darrell May can't possibly be as bad as he was in 2004. Maybe not as good as 2003 either, but seriously, 2004 was scary. So the rotation has the potential to be pretty good, but nothing amazing. Peavy carries the load on his shoulders, and everyone else is just there to help lift it slightly.

Trevor Hoffman is pretty good out of the pen; he isn't the Hoffman of the 90's, but he's better than what a lot of teams have. Otsuka, Seanez, Hammond, and Linebrink form a great bullpen core, so the Padres should have no issues holding onto leads as long as they can stay healthy. If Hoffman gets injured, look for Otsuka to take the closer role, all you fantasy fans out there.

Overall, I feel this team is capable of coming in second place, but not guaranteed. Both the Padres and the Giants have a lot of question marks that need to be answered to determine who finishes in second. The Padres may be able to snatch the Wild Card as well, depending on how together the Phillies may be, or if the Cubs can overcome the injury bug that is Dusty Baker.

 

2005 Season Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

I am confident the Dodgers can repeat as NL West Division Champs this season, because they improved a few pieces of their team, and no longer have to worry about Juan Encarnacion's bat. The rotation is improved greatly, and the lineup will miss Adrian Beltre, but not too much considering J.D. Drew will be around, and as I already mentioned, Juan Encarnacion won't be. On to the transactions and lineup, audio powered by Queens of the Stone Age.

(Note: Is it bad that I almost copied and pasted the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's transaction list from Microsoft Word into this post? *shakes fist at Arte Moreno's money making schemes*)

Wilson Alvarez, RP/SP: Useful to have around, especially considering it wouldn’t be a real baseball season if one of the Dodger’s real starters didn’t go down with an injury for some period of time. Lima Time is gone, so Alvarez is the only fill in starter…well unless Edwin Jackson comes around, but that itself is looking sort of sketchy. You could do worse things with your $2 million.

Paul Bako, C: Sub-.300 OBP…isn’t really going to do much considering the Dodgers picked up Navarro from the D’Backs for the future, and are hoping he can catch as soon as this year.

Elmer Dessens, RP/SP: Dessens is another of the spot starter reliever types the Dodgers seem to enjoy, and he should probably be as good as Lima if everything goes right. He can’t strike anyone out either, so besides the personality no one will notice the difference.

J.D. Drew, OF: I’ve always liked Drew, and always wished him the best of luck. So I was happy when he went a full season without going on the DL last year. Of course I don’t think he should be rewarded with a five year deal for $55 million because of it. Statistically, he deserves it. Health wise…well the Dodgers seem to have a history of overpaid stars getting hurt at the most inopportune times…like always. But the Dodgers are paying this much for Drew for the same reason the Red Sox overpaid Renteria and Varitek: because they can.

Scott Erickson, SP: I’ve always hoped Erickson wouldn’t get hurt so he could actually pitch and stuff, ya know? But that never seems to be the way with him.

Jeff Kent, 2B: His numbers will suffer from going to Chavez Ravine after playing in Minutemaid, but he should still put up better 2B numbers than most of the league. Oh yeah, and he’ll outperform Alex Cora. By a slim margin, ya know? (Cora 19.4 VORP, Kent 55.2 VORP). Kent's decline phase has been hidden by playing in Minute Maid Park, but it has not taken a severe drop yet, and his defense is excellent and unheralded (probably because it isn't pretty enough).

Ricky Ledee, OF: I don’t understand why he always has a job. But he does. Someone needs to look into this. It isn’t so much that there is a job, it is that the job requires the doling out of a seven figure salary.

Jose Valentin, SS/3B: I am glad someone decided to take a chance on this power/power combination of Valentin. He walks. He just never hits. .216/.287/.473. I saw an odd stat on Valentin a few years back when he was on my fantasy team, I don’t know if it is still in effect but he was a .200 hitter with no one on base and a .280 hitter or something like that with men on. Put him behind an on-base machine! I’d look it up but it isn’t that important at the moment, and I'm sure DePo knows why he signed him.

Odalis Perez, SP: Got Perez back in the rotation, and at a bargain price considering the market for average pitchers. Perez isn’t the greatest pitcher in the world, but he sure as hell is better than what Kris Benson might do.

Derek Lowe, SP: Everything that could be said about this deal has been said. Going to LA will help his numbers considerably by cutting down on his doubles and triples allowed, and since he doesn’t give up homeruns that tendency of Chavez Ravine won’t be an issue. Does it justify the contract he was given? We’ll see after its over.


Brad Penny, SP: He isn't really a free agent signee, but since he barely pitched for the Dodgers last year I'll include him on the grounds that he is like a free agent pickup.

1) Cesar Izturis
2) Milton Bradley
3) J.D. Drew
4) Jeff Kent
5) Hee Seop Choi
6) Jose Valentin
7) Jayson Werth
8) David Ross

I really like this lineup actually, now that it is written down here. A very effective 2-6 in the lineup, and Jayson Werth has a decent bat himself. David Ross is better than the vomit-inducing numbers he posted last season, and Izturis isn't Dave Roberts, but he'll do. Hee Seop Choi needs a platoon partner at first base for when lefties are pitching, and Jayson Werth is going to miss some time with an injury he sustained in spring training, so the lineup will change often.

1) Odalis Perez
2) Derek Lowe
3) Brad Penny
4) Jeff Weaver
5) Kaz Ishii/Edwin Jackson

If Brad Penny is healthy he should suffice as an ace, because with Perez and LA modified Lowe and Weaver, the rotation is actually pretty good. Hopefully Edwin Jackson gets it together and is able to pitch effectively out of the #5 spot. Hopefully Lowe doesn't have any serious road issues, or else the rotation will take a serious hit in their depth and effectiveness. If Penny is healthy and Lowe is better than last year, I'll give this rotation a solid grade.

Eric Gagne. He's ok you know. I heard he's pitched well a few times. Seriously though, the Dodgers pen is actually very good besides Gagne, with Yhenzy Brazoban, Elmer Dessens, Darren Dreifort, Wilson Alvarez, Duaner Sanches, and Giovanni Cararra. Dessens and Alvarez are capable of spot starts, Dreifort is extremely effective out of the pen (and his injury risk is reduced some) and the others are all extremely capable setup men. If the starters can get 6 quality innings every time out, the pen should have no trouble finishing off the opposing team.

This team, after putting it down here, is better than I thought it to be. I was sort of just assuming the Dodgers would repeat based on their previous win and the Giants lack of serious moves in the offseason (relative to the amount the Dodgers made I mean). I can see them finishing in first place easily if the team can just stay healthy; one injury to J.D. Drew or Brad Penny and all of a sudden the team looks completely different.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

 

Responsibility. What's that?

Another week goes by, and the normal excitement surrounding spring training finds itself surrounded in a haze of steroids.

Tomorrow, numerous baseball players (possibly including Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and Curt Schilling) and even Commissioner Bud (I plead the 5th!) Selig will be testifying in front of Congress's House Reform Committee. Will we get answers? Will the players come clean? Will Selig admit he knew all along? Will Robin escape the cluthes of the Joker, and will Batman be able to survive another fatal laugh?

I expect to learn as much about steroids and what interaction they had on the game of baseball in the late 90s following the strike through the early 00's as I do about the effects of adding another carboxyl group to an amino acid. It's going to feature players and the biggest smoke blower of them all, doing just that, blowing smoke, and who can blame them? What they did at the time was not illegal in baseball, so as much as we'd like to crucify them, we really have no right. Maybe the hearings will even get postponed because Selig runs out of players to testify with him, and a tie will be called by the Reform Committee!

Quick Hits:

--We're more than 2 weeks from STARTING the season, and Kerry Wood is already suffering from shoulder tightness, and Mark Prior from elbow inflammation. So Carlos Zambrano is going to be starting the first game of the season. Is anyone else worried that Dusty Baker is going to kill someone? I'm half expecting Zambrano to throw his first pitch on opening day and watch in horror as the top half of his arm goes with him.

--Russell Branyan, the sabremetric love child of Rob Deer himself, has earned a starting job in Milwaukee. Congrats to Branyan, who does nothing but hit 230 with a 330 OBP. (Slight bias as I have Carlos Lee in my fantasy league, and I just saw someone getting on base or driving him in :) ).

--Joe Mauer is already surrounded amidst injury talk, with respect to his knees. Why doesn't Minnesota just make him a DH and sign some average catcher. He's clearly the real deal hitting, so why test his knees? Look how long Carlos Delgado played catcher, and then look how long he's been hitting 30 hrs and 100 rbis as a first basemen (although I understand they have Justin Morneau, it's the principle). On a similar twins note, FREE MICHAEL CUDDYER!

--To reiterate Marc here, LAUGH AT ALEX SANCHEZ, LAAAAAAAUGH! He was dropped by the Tigers earlier this week, further proving that just because when you are lucky enough to get on base (and not instantly strike out) and steal a base or 2, that you aren't even good enough to start for the Detroit Tigers. That's a pretty big Rochambeau shot if I've ever heard it.

--Best of luck to Rick Ankiel, another mistake made by Tony LaRussa. I can't even imagine the pressure he was forced to face, enough, I'd assume, to create a lifetime of control problems. I honestly hope he works out as a hitter, if only as a pinch hitter. If nothing else comes of this, I hope it dispells some of the imaginary greatness around Tony LaRussa. With so much being made of steroids, and his A's teams of the late 80s, is he really that great of a manager if he could only win one series with the Juice Brothers? Nevermind his horrible misuse of young talent, and poor bullpen use.

--Lastly, Curt Schilling is now saying he won't rule out the possibility of starting opening day. Frankly, I believe him. I can see him coming out in full RoboCop armor, with a cybernetic ankle, and pitching a no hitter with one of those nifty YankeeHater hats on. If only he wasn't Republican, I could sacreligiously worship him as a God.

And in closing, to you Lou Pinella- FREE BJ UPTON!, oh, and if possible, kick some dirt on an Umpire, it always makes me smile...

 

Just a quick note...

I added a few new links to the site. Joy of Sox and Friendly Fenway are two really good Red Sox blogs that I plan on reading daily from now on, and if you haven't checked out the Most Valuable Network sites yet you definitely should. The Twins one gives a great view on how that organization is run, which is fascinating in its own right.

Small celebration for me, as this blog was added to the listings at http://baseballblogs.org
Check out the front page, cause I am right there today. Check out the bad ass new button in my links section going to that site. Yeah thats right, buttons can be bad ass my friend.

Thanks a bunch

-Marc Normandin

 

2005 Season Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

The 2005 Pirates will bring you more of the same: last place with a few inspiring players chugging along surrounded by mediocrity. This time around, its Jason Bay rather than Brian Giles, and Oliver Perez instead of Jason Schmidt. Recognizing this trend keeps me from optimism, sadly.

Todd Ritchie, SP: Ritchie is returning to the place where he originally became overrated. He hasn't done anything impressive at all in the last few seasons, and his signing is not really anything to get excited about. If he can pitch half decently he might get flipped to a desperate contender come July, or at the least a team who thinks they are a contender *cough 2004 Mets cough*.

Acquired Benito Santiago for Leo Nunez. This trade makes no sense, except to replace Jason Kendall. Are you going to tell me the Pirates didn't have anyone in their organization who catches? Santiago probably isn't valuable enough to get traded by July 31st.

Acquired Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes for Jason Kendall. This move accomplishes the goal the Pirates have been focused on almost since Kendall signed his contract: getting rid of him. Redman should improve on last year's performance, but not to a point where you stop missing Kendall. Arthur Rhodes will never see action in a Pirates uniform, because...

Acquired Matt Lawton for Arthur Rhodes. Rhodes was flipped to the Indians to shore up their bullpen, and the Pirates acquired Matt Lawton for their part. A good bat to have, especially since Dave Littlefield seems to do a good job assembling bullpens out of low cost talent.

1) Matt Lawton (there is no one else to do the job)
2) Jack Wilson
3) Jason Bay
4) Craig Wilson
5) Rob Mackowiak
6) Benito Santiago
7) Tike Redman
8) Jose Castillo

The lineup will be weak because of the sad excuses for 6-9 spots in the lineup, plus the necessity of having Lawton lead off rather than in the #5 or #2 hole, adding more depth to the lineup. I like Jack Wilson, but I don't expect his first half of 2004 again. Expect a middle ground between the two halves in 2005. Jason Bay is the new Brian Giles, and expect the same kind of production, although with less walks than one of the heroes of OBP. Craig Wilson is the power hitting Wilson, and I'll take that. Rob Mackowiak is one of those players who is kind of stretched in a starting role, and would serve better as a utility guy. Santiago is past his prime, past his rejuvenated prime, and probably past his usefulness. Tike Redman and Jose Castillo's averages and OBP's made me quite sad. I'm not sure I can talk about them much longer...

1) Oliver Perez
2) Kip Wells
3) Josh Fogg
4 and 5: Sean Burnett/Ryan Vogelsong/Mark Redman

The rotation starts out on a good enough note, with Perez and Kip Wells a good enough 1-2 combo, but quickly deteriorates. Sean Burnett needs to increase his strikeouts or else his sinkerball tendencies will be all for naught. Ryan Vogelsong got hammered in 2004. Josh Fogg probably works better as a spot starter in a long relief role, and Mark Redman is capable of being good, but Jack McKeon's inability to call his bullpen out soon enough in 2003 may have taken its tole on Redman's arm.

The bullpen is made up of castoffs and cheap talent, with the likes of Jose Mesa and Solomon Torres in tow. Pittsburgh's bullpen is actually pretty effective most of the time, but the rotation and lineup never really stack up well enough to do anything. Not to mention if they are playing .500 at the deadline any veteran of substance is shipped off giving the Pirates no chance to finish at anything close to a decent record. Expect more of the same from this boring little team, but make sure you don't discount the accomplishments of those who excite. Jason Bay and Oliver Perez are great talents that should succeed despite the team that surrounds them for years to come.

 

2005 Season Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers. There is no team I would rather see rise to power in the NL Central, besides maybe the Reds, and overthrow the rule of the Cardinals and Cubs. The Astros would be overthrown, but they did a good job of starting that one by themselves. The Brewers time is not now, but hopefully for the sake of sausage lovers everywhere it is soon.

Rigo Beltran, RP: 8.97 K/9 in 100 IP…2.46 K/BB ratio…he could help if everything aligns the right way. Brewers have the luxury of taking chances on players like this.

Ricky Bottalico, RP: Bottalico was successful last year by not giving up a lot of hits, but his K/BB ratio was only 1.79…it could come back to hurt him.

Damian Miller, C: Miller will help that Brewers pitching staff, and even though he isn’t the best hitter in the world he will help that lineup some.

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

Lee had a higher VORP than Podsednik and Vizcaino combined. I shouldn’t have to say much more than that, besides what was Kenny Williams thinking? He doesn't walk a lot, but he walks enough, and he automatically becomes their best hitter, assuming Geoff Jenkins does not revert back to 2003 form anyways.

Re-signed Russell Branyan!!!! The longer he stays in baseball the happier I am. Some year I want him to start by accident and hit 35 HR’s, but strike out 240 times. Can we make this happen?


Invited Rick Helling to spring training. Helling is a guy who should eat up some innings for the staff if healthy, and who knows, maybe Mike Maddux (who I am hearing repeatedly is a great pitching coach) can help him out some. Two word to back up Maddux's new reputation: Doug Davis.

1) Brady Clark
2) Junior Spivey
3) Lyle Overbay
4) Geoff Jenkins
5) Carlos Lee
6) Russell Branyan
7) Damian Miller
8) Bill Hall

I actually like this lineup. Brady Clark is past his prime, but he is still capable of a good OBP, so he should bat leadoff for this team. I don't like Spivey too much, but unless Damian Miller bats second thats where he'll end up. Miller should bat second but I don't see it happening for some reason. Lyle Overbay is a good hitter who needs to continue to perform or else uber-prospect Prince Fielder is going to steal his job eventually. If Geoff Jenkins can revert to his 2003 form with a higher walk rate and more power, then the 3-6 of this lineup will actually be potent. Carlos Lee is not going to get any better, but he shouldn't get worse anytime soon either. Great deal by the Brewers trading away Podsednik and Vizcaino when their values were highest (overrated as they may be) for Carlos Lee. If Russell Branyan wins the starting job over Wes Helms I'll probably hold a party at my house, and Doug Melvins invited. If Damian Miller lost one of his limbs in June he'd still be an improvement over Brewer's catchers last year, not to mention his defensive reputation and his handling of a pitching staff add to his value. Rickie Weeks did not progress as expected in the minors last year, but the Brewers are hoping he comes alone nicely and adds something to the team in the near future. J.J. Hardy is another middle infield prospect who the Brewers have high hopes for, so for their sake I hope they both improve substantially and add to this team in the future.

I want to write a short something about Russell Branyan here. He is listed #1 on the depth chart everywhere except ESPN.com (and the Brewers site has him with the job right now as well, so that should mean something right?). His career basically makes me feel like over the course of a full season he is capable of hitting .230/.340/.500+. That is mighty impressive considering its a .230 average, and I don't think front offices value this player in the Rob Deer mold (dubbed a True Three Outcomes player by BP) enough. Branyan is capable of somewhere around league average defense as well, so he won't hurt with the glove. Give this guy a chance to start and let him do what he does best: walk, strikeout, and make fans in the bleachers happy they got tickets to games.

1) Ben Sheets
2) Doug Davis
3) Victor Santos
4) Chris Capuano
5) Ben Hendrickson

Ben Sheets and Doug Davis (if they continue their 04' success, which seems likely) are actually one of the better 1-2 punches in either league. The problem is the rest of the rotation. Victor Santos' peripherals are just average, and his GB/FB ratio (0.96) show him to be flyball pitcher, which you never like to see, which just makes you worry sometimes. I'm not saying being a flyball pitcher hinders success; its just that you'd like to have one peripheral going your way you know? If you can't stop walking people or don't strike a lot of people out, you don't want to be giving up flyballs. Chris Capuano actually has some decent peripherals, with a 8.15 K/9 and 80 strikeouts in 17 starts. Look for improvement from him, and a better performance than Santos. I have seen some websites very high on Ben Hendrickson, and others not so impressed. On that note, I am not too sure of what to expect of him. Obviously his minor league track record means something since his major league one is not impressive, so we'll have to wait and see how he develops. Basically, the Brewers rotation is composed of a true ace, a great #2 who could be a #1 for the Cardinals or Reds, and three #5 guys with one (Capuano) having potential to be a #4 guy.

The bullpen is probably better off not having Danny Kolb. Let that ticking timebomb of a low strikeout rate and extreme GB/FB ratio explode elsewhere. Mike Adams is the new closer , with Jose Capellan in line to setup. Adams doesn't strike many people out, and he gives up flyballs, so we'll see how this goes. His K/BB ratio is 2.79 though, so thats nice to see. Ricky Bottalico should help out nicely, as should Justin Wehr.

I can honestly see the Brewers irking their record over .500 this year. They can outpitch the Reds and hit pretty well (if Jenkins is in 03' form and Branyan starts at third) and they are in the same division as the Pirates, so that gives them a lot of games to improve their record with. I can see them finishing in 5th place though, but I am really starting to feel a 4th place finish the more I write about them. This is a little more crazy to say, but if things really go well I can see them beating out the Astros for third place. Maybe. Wouldn't that be nice people of Milwaukee?

 

2005 Season Preview: Cincinnati Reds

The Reds are funny. They have so much talent on the offense that they could somehow win the division if everything fell into place (although highly unlikely), or they could come away with the Wild Card. The problem is the offense always gets hurt, and then the team falls to pieces. It is basically perfectly balanced to win despite their pitching, but once its effectiveness goes down due to injury its not nearly enough help.

Rich Aurilia, SS: Aurilia’s stock has fallen like Tom Green’s career as of late. So naturally the Reds signed him. I can’t really criticize the move though because it is a minor league contract [read inexpensive] and they have a shortstop issue after letting Larkin walk (and their replacement hurting himself).

Kent Mercker, RP: Mercker had a very good year out of the bullpen for the Cubs, and I checked all the translated and advanced pitching stats at BP to make sure his ERA was legit. Well it is. So good job Cincinnati, hopefully he repeats his performance for you.

Eric Milton, SP: Milton should be a #4 or #5 starter making maybe $3 million a season for the innings he is going to eat up. He gives up way too many homeruns, he doesn’t strikeout enough people for the walks he gives up, and he has not had a real good season in a few years, which isn’t a good sign. So the Reds gave him 3 years and $25 million, you know so he could make as much money as Matt Clement. Damnit people.

Joe Randa, 3B: Randa was atleast inexpensive, and his offensive slide may have just been part of the collective death that was Kansas City this year. Plus Kearns is sent back to the OF, ending the 3B experiment.

David Weathers, RP: Considering Mercker got basically the same pay per season in his 2 year deal that Weathers gets for his one season, I shake my head. Weathers is not the worst pitcher, but he isn’t as good as Mercker has been. When you only have so much money you need to learn how to spend it efficiently.

Ben Weber, RP: Weber got hammered last year, but is usually effective for the Angels. Salary figures were not released for this deal, so it probably isn’t worth that much. If he does well, then yay for Cinci. If not then at least he was inexpensive.

Paul Wilson, SP: A lot of people questioned the signing of Paul Wilson for $4 million+ a year. Then Kris Benson who has similar numbers (if not more ability, but potential doesn’t do you much when you never fulfill it) gets $7.5 a season. Plus, if Wilson is the only thing that Cinci feels they can bring to the rotation that resembles an ace as far as their talent goes, then it looks better again.

Via trade: Acquired Ramon Ortiz for a minor leaguer. Ramon Ortiz is a good pickup for the Reds because he is capable of pitching well. Then again he is also capable of pitching terribly. So either way it is going to be fun as always in Cinci. Hopefully for their sake he pitches effectively and gives them something to help Paul Wilson.

1) D'Angelo Jimenez
2) Joe Randa
3) Sean Casey
4) Adam Dunn
5) Ken Griffey Jr.
6) Austin Kearns
7) Jason LaRue
8) Felipe Lopez/Rich Aurilia

If healthy, Casey-Dunn-Griffey-Kearns is right up there with any lineup in the league, and is probably the best outfield in baseball (again). Although the Red Sox with a healthy Trot Nixon can put up a pretty good argument. I would like to see some more of Ryan Freel somewhere in the lineup to see what he is capable of. Jason LaRue is good as far as a regular catcher goes, and the Lopez/Aurilia combo probably won't wow anyone. In all honesty I'd love for this lineup to stay healthy just for once to see what it is capable of doing over a full season.

1) Paul Wilson
2) Eric Milton
3) Ramon Ortiz
4) Aaron Harang
5) Luke Hudson

...where is Pete Harnisch and Steve Cook when you need them? Just kidding of course, no more Jim Bowden signings, thank you. Wilson isn't an ace, but he is the best pitcher on this team as of right now. Eric Milton is vastly overrated, and going from one home run park to a worse home run park is not going to help his league leading homeruns allowed total from 2004. Did I mention he's making as much money as Matt Clement? Ramon Ortiz has been good, and worse over his career. Something tells me he is going to stick to the worse side of the equation. Aaron Harang (like Cory Lidle before him) is better than Eric Milton and Ramon Ortiz, but was never given a chance to be overrated. Luke Hudson seems to have alot of upside according to every report I've seen, and hopefully he returns from a torn labrum to pitch effectively. He is Tim Hudson's younger brother by the way, but that doesn't always mean much in baseball (Chris Gwynn and Ozzie Canseco anybody?) I want the more dependable brother. Thank God for the Boone's of the world.

The bullpen last year....well not so good. Ben Weber, David Weathers, and Kent Mercker have been added though, as well as Gabe White and other retreads lost. This addition, as well as the addition by subtraction, to the equation of the pen should help the Reds greatly, since their rotation won't. At the moment there are 5 innings eaters; hopefully the lineup holds up and gives them fabulous run support, and then pen can save the day. It is their only hope.

When you guys get to blow out birthday candles and make a wish, don't be selfish. Make a wish for the Reds outfield to stay healthy. Or for Wily Mo Pena to all of a sudden learn how to play shortstop or something. The Reds need that sort of thing. Now that I think about it, why don't they try something crazy like that? Put him at second base maybe, move Jimenez to SS. It'll strengthen the SS position, and weaken the 2b one defensively, but the offensive gain would more than offset it. Especially if Pena only fields a little below average. Someone needs to look into this now. Or maybe this is crazy talk cause its 3:08 in the morning. Either way, its thinking like this that a team like the Reds can take a chance on. Why? Because if they can sign Eric Milton to a huge contract they better damn well be creative in other areas.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Houston Astros

A funny thing happened when Carlos Beltran chose the Mets over the Astros; in the time it took Beltran to sign his contract, the Astros went from playoff contender to 3rd or 4th place team. I'm not saying Beltran is worth 3 spots in a division, but his bat and defense and youth would have helped an aging Astros team considerably. The Astros problem is not a lack of identity; they might have a little more identity than they need. The Killer B's may have turned into mashers in the playoffs last year, but there season statistics were down again. Bagwell and Biggo, the faces of this organization, are both in their decline phase, and Lance Berkman will miss at least a month with a torn ACL. The Berkman problem is not as bad as it seems, because Jason Lane will get his last chance to win an outfield spot. He is capable and deserving of an outfield spot, which brings me to the identity crisis point. Craig Biggio either needs to move back to second base for one more season, giving top prospect Chris Burke more time in the minors (or part time play in the majors) or lose out on massive amounts of playing time. If Jason Lane is not allowed to start in the outfield all season long, the Astros will have lost out on their 2nd or 3rd best hitter. This is not a good thing for a team that already lost Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran's bats, as well as the little Bagwell and Biggio will continue to lose with time. Bagwell can't really be moved due to his massive contract, but maybe resting him more often to give other options playing time would be wise.

Dave Burba, RP: …Whatever.

Roger Clemens, SP: A wee bit more cash than last time, but in perspective the Astros paid Clemens a 2 year, $23 million contract…and that ain’t bad. Good choice you know, retaining him and all.

John Franco, RP: Didn’t really pitch well in 2004, so I’m not sure what the Astros are shooting for there. Having someone older than Clemens maybe?

Orlando Palmeiro, PH: Well he didn’t have a negative VORP, so I guess he is doing well enough. Plus they are not paying him well or anything. It is kind of a meh move, like if they did not do it would it matter so much? But then again doing it does not really hurt them.

Phil Norton, RP: Another bad Cincinnati reliever. If Cinci doesn’t want them why should you? Maybe its because they ignore good players. I’m really confused, seriously.

Jose Vizcaino, Util: He doesn’t walk. He hits (sort of). VORP of 7.8, which is right around what Craig Counsell did (8.7). Counsell is making over $3 million this season (and last). So I guess considering you can deal with it.
Houston also tendered contracts to everyone and their brother not named Wade Miller. They were afraid of getting hit hard in arbitration, and since they planned to unload all of their $$ on Beltran I guess that is acceptable. Plus they got to the NLCS without him and have Pettite coming back.

Turk Wendell, RP: His numbers were uh…less than impressive in a short 04’ stint. But it could have just been the injury he had. We’ll see; a minor league deal is inexpensive and they will know in spring training if he’s got any stuff left.


1) Craig Biggio
2) Adam Everett
3) Jeff Bagwell
4) Lance Berkman
5) Jason Lane
6) Morgan Ensberg
7) Chris Burke
8) Brad Ausmus

Biggio still his a lot of doubles, and hit 24 homeruns last year. His problem is that his average and walk rate are both dropping, and that is not good for a leadoff hitter, especially one who happens to be a corner outfielder. Adam Everett isn't really known for his offense, and his spot as the #2 hitter is questionable (.273/.317/.385). Bagwell had his worst statistical season last year, batting .266 and only slugging .465. His walk rate remains good with a .377 OBP, but if the average and slugging continue to drop that can only get you so far out of the #3 hole in the lineup. Lance Berkman is one of the better hitters in the National League, and this lineup will need him back. Jason Lane is capable of putting up some real good numbers if he can keep the starting job for the season, but will probably have to fight for a job at some point. Ensberg's power completely vanished (1o HR's) last year after hitting 25 homeruns the year before. Hopefully for the Astros sake he can bounce back some. Chris Burke takes over the job at second base for Jeff Kent. BP feels he is a good candidate for NL Rookie of the Year, so he is someone to watch. He is excellent defensively, according to Baseball America, but BP has him at -3 Runs Above Average at second base in 04'. Brad Ausmus used to be acceptable to have in the lineup, because of his defense and throwing arm. It comes to a point where you need to let go though, and that seems to be the Astros problem.

1) Roger Clemens
2) Roy Oswalt
3) Andy Pettite
4) Brandon Backe
5) Pete Munro

Clemens and Oswalt are one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball. On that note, Backe and Munro are one of the sketchiest 4-5 combos for a supposed contending team in baseball. The strength of this rotation rests on Pettite's elbow, and Backe's ability to pitch adequately. I'd include Pete Munro in the discussion, but whats the point? Maybe Tim Redding can find his old form and save the #5 spot in the rotation.

The bullpen is anchored by Lidge, and the main problem will be getting to him. Chad Harville is good, Chad Qualls pitched well enough, but Mike Gallo isn't really a capable LOOGY. Carlos Hernandez will stay in the pen unless he shows he can pitch like he could before getting hurt (of course then he may get moved into the rotation.) The bullpen is pretty weak, and depends entirely on Brad Lidge. He can't pitch like its the playoffs all season long, not if he wants to pitch longer than this year.

The Astros best hope this year is third place, and if things fall into place in Milwaukee or Cincinnati a little more I can see the 'Stros finishing in 4th. All it'll take for that is one healthy Austin Kearns or Ken Griffey Jr., or the Brewers smartening up and giving Russell Branyan the starting job at third base.

 

A small victory...

A small victory for stat heads everywhere: The Detroit Tigers released outfielder Alex Sanchez today. Sanchez batted .322 last season with a .335 (shudder) OBP and awful defense. His .322 was hollow. Completely hollow. Singles and almost no walks. Here are some stats that give away how poor his .322 average actually was. His Isolated Power (Slugging Percentage minus Batting Average) was .063. His Secondary Average, which is (Total Bases - Hits + Walks + Stolen Bases) divided by At-Bats, was .102. Bill James' definition for Secondary Average: "A number meant to reflect everything else except batting average. A player will have a high secondary average if he hits for power, takes walks, and steals bases". (Formula from The Bill James Handbook 2005).

I remember there was a time when his average was actually higher than his OBP due to a sacrifice hit or sacrifice fly (can't recall). I used his empty average to my advantage on my fantasy team last year, since caught stealing wasn't a category and I had Todd Helton to offset the low OBP, so I remember the average being higher. He steals a lot of bases, but gets caught almost as often, so his steals are counterproductive. 19 steals with 13 caught stealing for a 59% success rate, 70% being the productive benchmark for anyone who didn't know. That 59% rate is magnified due to the fact that it isn't him going like 2/4 on stealsl; its 19/32 in a shortened season. Over the course of a whole season that is a lot of rallies killed. One other thing, he had 12 sacrifice hits in only 332 at bats (352 Plate Appearances, shows you how often he took a walk huh?). Defenses tend to figure those sorts of things out, and his average would drop once the bunt was not as effective a weapon for him. Not to mention how often he would probably ground out via a bunt attempt.

His defense is well below average in centerfield, and the Tigers have Curtis Granderson waiting in the wings to take over the job anyways. Kudos to the Tigers front office for recognizing this problem and terminating it, rather than letting his subpar play masked by speed and high averages continue to hurt their chances at winning games.

Monday, March 14, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are one of the teams who will probably fight for the NL Wild Card, but I don't think they have the offensive weapons to win it this year. With the Marlins and Phillies stacked lineups, I would put the Cubs on a level above the Mets, based solely on the strength of their rotation...of course that rotation has to remain healthy for it to be most effective. With Dusty Baker calling the shots, I am not too confident that the big three in Chicago will stay healthy all season.

Chad Fox, RP: Out of the blue, Chad Fox is fighting for the closer spot with Ryan Dempster and LaTroy Hawkins. Chicago's best option? Probably Fox, if only to keep Hawkins out of the closer role and Dempster out of the walks lead for relievers. You may think this is because Hawkins can't do it, if you listen to newspapers, but the truth is that Hawkins is their best reliever and would be relegated to the 9th inning, rather than when necessary earlier on in games. So the Cubs belief that Hawkins just can't close may help them in the long run.

Henry Blanco, C: Baseball Prospectus said statistically Blanco was deserving of a Gold Glove at catcher last year...sadly he hits worse than Brad Ausmus (is that possible?)

Jeromy Burnitz, OF: Burnitz is expected to replace Sammy Sosa's production in the outfield. The bad part of this is that Burnitz put up numbers comparable to Sosa in 04' with the aid of Coors Field in Colorado. Sadly for Chicago, they are going to soon be disapointed I think. Burnitz has his strengths, but honestly guys, you waited waaaaaaay too long to address this need.

Acquired Jerry Hairston Jr. for Sammy Sosa.

Hairston is basically the utility guy for Chicago now, which would be useful except for the fact he will most likely be hurt when his services are needed. As bad as Burnitz could be, I would probably rather have him in the outfield than Hairston, so at least they got that move done.

1) Corey Patterson
2) Todd Walker
3) Aramis Ramirez
4) Derrek Lee
5) Nomar Garciaparra
6) Jeromy Burnitz
7) Todd Hollandsworth
8) Michael Barrett

This lineup is still very good, but Burnitz is capable of being an offensive black hole, and I am not sure which Michael Barrett is the real one yet (03' .208/.280/.398...04' .287/.337/.489). Patterson should continue to improve his game, and a full season of Todd Walker is an upgrade over the Grudzielanek/Walker platoon of 04'. Ramirez may regress slightly, only because last year was so great. A full season of Nomar Garciaparra (the Cubs hope) should offset some of the lost production of Moises Alou and Sammy Sosa. Todd Hollandsworth has been shoved into a starting role, and that most likely means two or three months of good offensive production with multiple injuries mixed in.

1) Mark Prior
2) Kerry Wood
3) Carlos Zambrano
4) Greg Maddux
5) Glendon Rusch

If Prior, Wood, and Zambrano all remain healthy this will be one of the best rotations in baseball, if not the best. Wood is basically in the #2 hole based on the idea of how good he is, because Big Z has surpassed him. Rusch should be a real surprise out of the #5 spot, as he has been one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball the past few years as far as actual ERA versus peripherals have gone due to a lackluster defensive effort and other problems behind him. Maddux will continue his decline phase, but out of the #4 spot I'm not sure you can complain. I didn't draft Zambrano in my fantasy league this year basically because I am waiting for his arm to fall off. If it does not, maybe he can be likened to Livan Hernandez by the fact they are both medical enigmas capable of taking massive amounts of arm abuse. If it does fall off, I want to call for Dusty Baker's head. Whose with me!!! Guys? C'mon...

The bullpen lost Kyle Farnsworth, to the delight of Cubs fans everywhere, but has not really added anything of substance. If Chad Fox is Florida Marlins Chad Fox of 03', it is a great addition. If he is Boston Red Sox Chad Fox of 03', then the Cubs should call the Tigers back and plead for Farnsworth. Dempster holds the closers spot now, but we'll see how many double plays it takes to bail him out of walks in the 9th inning before someone wises up and removes him from that role. Hawkins is one of the best relievers in baseball, and will continue to setup closers who will probably blow leads.

I can see everything working for the Cubs this year and them actually taking the division. I just think they did not help their bullpen out enough (addition by subtraction is nice, but nicer still would have been Armando Benitez) and the rotation has question marks that could take the form of surgical knives. The lineup is still dependent on the homerun, because there are no real OBP threats on this team. The problem is they just lost the 70+ homeruns from Sosa and Alou's departures...this could be real beautiful or real ugly in a hurry...or maybe it will be slow and painful, keeping with Cubs tradition. Either way, I'm secretly rooting for them now that the Red Sox have won...I refuse to root for the White Sox until Kenny Williams is deposed...not fired, but deposed as a dillusional tyrant would be, so my vote goes to the Cubs suffering fans. Ugh...so many Chicago revolutions to stage, so little time.



Sunday, March 13, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

I am not picking the Cardinals to repeat as division winners because they improved the most; I am picking them because they regressed the least. There was a huge shift of talent out of the NL Central this year, and the team that may have improved the most was probably Milwaukee. Sadly, they are not in a state where they will compete for the division yet, so St. Louis gets my call for first place.

"Hall of Famer" Einar Diaz, C: Thank you for that nickname Jerry Remy. Diaz has a long ways to go to make the Hall of Fame, since as of now he only has 20 homeruns, but he should not let that stand in the way of his goal of being taken seriously.

David Eckstein, SS: What can I say positive about David Eckstein? He is considered a leadoff hitter, but he's merely adequate, he was considered good defensively; again adequate, and his salary is well...more than adequate. Renteria may not be the greatest shortstop in all the land (bring me the finest meats and cheeses) but he sure as hell beats Eckstein on his best day.

Mark Grudzielanek, 2B: This is a move I like, because if healthy he will produce more than Tony Womack. Not enough to cover the Cardinals loss of Renteria though, even subpar 2004 Edgar. I also like it because Todd Walker gets the starting job in Chicago, finally.

Mike Myers, LOOGY: Good old Left-Handed-One-Out-Guys (thank you John Sickels). Myers isn't the best at what he does, but he's good enough, as evidenced by him going through Garret Anderson and Hideiki Matsui (most of the time successful anyways) in the playoffs. He does scare me though because he seems to walk his one batter half the time, then face a righty. Good pickup since they lost Steve Kline, but he definitely is not Steve Kline. That reminds me, do you think Kline already dirtied an Orioles hat with spit and whatever else he uses? Or do you think he is going to wait until he's played there a little, worn it in some?

Acquired Mark Mulder for Danny Haren, Kiko Calero, and Daric Barton. Mulder will replace Woody Williams pitching production (if not injured like he says) with a little more, but he is not a true ace. He is very, very good, but he is lacking the dominance of an ace and relies greatly on his defense. Sadly this defense now includes David Eckstein and Mark Grudzielanek. It could be worse, he could have Nomar and Grudzielanek like the Cubs last year.

1) David Eckstein
2) Mark Grudzielanek
3) Albert Pujols
4) Scott Rolen
5) Jim Edmonds
6) Larry Walker
7) Reggie Sanders
8) Yadier Molina

This lineup remains extremely dangerous, solely due to the fact that it has Pujols-Rolen-Edmonds-Walker, and then Reggie Sanders out of the 7 hole. If Walker can stay healthy (I want to laugh at that, but its too sad) than the lineup will remain formidable. The issue is, there are holes in it. Eckstein is not a leadoff hitter. At all. .276/.339/.332? Yuck. Grudzielanek is a capable #2 hitter though (.307/.342/.432). One good thing is that Yadier Molina cannot possibly be as bad with a bat as Mike Matheny at catcher. Of course, on the pitching end of it, all pitchers seem to love Matheny and his ability to call a game. As a Varitek fan, I can't discount that. It is a real good lineup, but due to the decline of Reggie Sanders and the addition of Eckstein and Grudzielanek I cannot say it is as good as last years.

1) Mark Mulder
2) Matt Morris
3) Chris Carpenter
4) Jason Marquis
5) Jeff Suppan

If Mark Mulder and Matt Morris are healthy, then they should get really good production out of the 1-2 spots. But...it will be on the same idea as last year, where this team has 3-4 #2 caliber starters, and no true ace. Chris Carpenter is supposed to be healthy and ready to go as well, which would give them a great 1-3. I am interested to see whether Jason Marquis can duplicate his performance from last year. His GB/FB ratio was way out of line with the rest of his career, and the defense behind him has taken a step backwards. His K/BB ratio was also much better than normal, and he had 21 double plays from the defense (previous career high during his struggles was 11). What I am trying to say is that numbers like these can fluctuate and give off the appearance of improvement rather than real progress. Ask Derek Lowe how a GB/FB ratio and low strikeout rate can hurt you, or how a defense that does not turn enough double plays can really mess with your numbers. National League Jeff Suppan is a real good (not great) starter. American League....eh not so much.

The bullpen is not as strong as last year, since it has lost Steve Kline, Kiko Calero, and Danny Haren. New addition Mike Myers will try to fill Kline's key role in the bullpen, along with Ray King, Julian Tavarez, Cal Eldred, and that Jason Isringhausen guy. He's ok I hear. He's actually extremely good when he's healthy, unless serving up a monstrous homerun to Jeff Kent in the NLCS.

This team is very talented, and capable of returning to the World Series. It remains the team to beat in the National League, with Atlanta, Florida, and Los Angeles creeping up behind them. St. Louis should win the division easily, but not as easily as last season.


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