Saturday, March 26, 2005

 

I can't wait...

...for Opening Day. I'm tired of spring training games, and the what if lineups, and questions about the Opening Day starter, etc. I just want to see some baseball that counts for something. This year is going to be pretty busy, with all Sox fans holding on to see if their team can reach the playoffs and (gasp) have a shot at repeating as World Champions. Luckily, many BP writers think they can, so I can breathe easy in having one ally outside Red Sox Nation.

As for what is going on in spring training, I'm worried about BK Kim getting that last pitching spot. He hasn't done anything effective all spring, not even effective enough to get traded to a team that has nothing to lose in Colorado. I want Lenny Dinardo to pitch on the big league squad, and just eat BK's salary in the minors. It is scary, but it would be a better use of resources than paying and playing him. Can't we stash him away like we did to Ramiro Mendoza last year?

So far, this is the Sox roster:

C: Varitek/Mirabelli
1B: Kevin Millar/Dave McCarty
2B: Mark Bellhorn/Ramon Vazquez
3B: Bill Mueller/Kevin Youkilis
SS: Edgar Renteria/Vazquez
LF: Manny Ramirez/Millar/Jay Payton
CF: Johnny Damon/Payton
RF: Trot Nixon/Payton
DH: David Ortiz

SP: Curt Schilling (DL), David Wells, Matt Clement, Tim Wakefield, Bronson Arroyo, Wade Miller (DL)
RP: Keith Foulke, Alan Embree, Mike Timlin, Matt Mantei, John Halama, Blaine Neal, BK Kim

That is 25 guys, not counting the two DL pitchers. So when Schilling comes back, maybe Kim gets shelved. They should use up Kim's options and try to pass him through waivers or something. I'm disapointed Roberto Petagine won't make the team, but that is just because I wanted to see him succeed in a platoon or part time role.

Ok, enough Red Sox stuff for now.

Free Calvin Pickering! He and Ken Harvey are both struggling in the Cactus League right now, but the pressure is on Pickering since Harvey is the incumbent first basemen. Granted, spring training has a small sample size, and it should be ignored in most instances (Red Sox fans, do you remember Tony Clark's huge spring with us) but teams still use it to gauge some things they should not. Like the fact that Calvin Pickering is the best hitter they have, sans Mike Sweeney. But, since the Royals are usually without Mike Sweeney, Big-P would be the man out in KC.

I'm very interested to see how San Diego stacks up against a Bonds-less NL West, even if it is only for a time being. They will have to capitalize on the month and a half he is out (6 weeks of rehab for everyone who thinks he'll be out all year...ever think he just wants everyone off his back for a bit?)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again; I can't stand Skip Bayless or his "ideas". Controversial for the sake of being controversial is not something I enjoy, so unless Skip is in Snap Judgement I usually can't deal with him. Well, at least he isn't John Kruk (CHONE FIGGINS FOR MVP! WOO!)

I think I've decided that the A's are going to be a better team than the Angels this year, and I'm going to stick to my guns this time. I think the pitching staff is going to come along very nicely, and I have this good feeling about Rich Harden that I didn't have when I originally wrote the team preview.

I spoke to John Sickels about doing a prospect interview on this site, and he agreed to do it sometime in April. If you have any questions you want to ask John regarding prospects and the like, or whatever, leave them as comments in this post and I'll let him sift through them to give you some answers, or I'll take some good ones. Again, whatever. As
Carl would say, "It don't matter...none of this matters."

Friday, March 25, 2005

 

Damnit...I knew it

According to Friendly Fenway's blog, Johnny Damon wants cash, and lots of it over an extended period of time. How does 6 years, $66 million sound to you guys for a centerfielder who is already overpaid at $8 million a year and has a skill set that should start declining once the ink dries on the new deal? The Sox have a rule about no contracts past 4 years, and they certainly won't give Damon 6 if they wouldn't even give Pedro 4. This is the part of Brian's article that I really want to focus on, but make sure you check out the rest of it:

"In what could be a bit of bad news
Johnny Damon thinks awfully high of himself. Damon is the best of a group of Red Sox players who are eligible for free agency at the end of this year. There has been no talk between Damon and the club about an extension, something that doesn't surprise or upset Damon. He says that he would sign a four year deal right now, but after the season is done the 31 year old will likely be asking for six years. He even threw in a barb about how the Yankees will be looking for a new center fielder in 2006. Damon compares himself to Ichiro Suzaki and J.D. Drew. He'll likely be looking for the type of deal that one of those two players might receive. Drew, as you may know, signed a 5 year, $55 million deal with the Dodgers this off-season. Johnny Damon has become the identity of the Red Sox. He's coming off one of the best years of his career and is quickly becoming one of the highest profile players in the majors, but if the guy thinks he should get a 6 year $66 million deal, he's nuts. I'd like for the Red Sox to bring him back, but even the $32 million over four years that he's getting now is a bit much, especially for a guy who is on the wrong side of 30."

What's that Red Sox nation? Hanley Ramirez, centerfielder? Let's play a game called project their performance through Ramirez's service clock time and Damon's hypothetical 6 year contract, and then compare value, using the contract figures Damon actually wants. I'm going to use my best guess here, so don't criticize me (too much). Also, lets pretend Hanley Ramirez is on the club starting as of 2006's Opening Day, starting his service clock.

2005
Damon: .297/.373/.460, above average defense in center.
Ramirez: .270/.330/.400, haven't seen him play in center yet. (Major League Equivalent)

Obviously Damon wins in 2005, being a veteran major leaguer, while Hanley has to go to Double A now.

2006
Damon: .290/.365/.440
Ramirez: .282/.340/.420
I think their performance, while still giving the edge to Damon, would be slightly closer.

2007
Damon: .283/.360/.435 Defensive performance becomes average due to aging
Ramirez: .290/.352/.440
Ramirez would be starting his second season in the majors, while Damon would be getting older. The performance is still close, although overall I think Damon could still be better, but Ramirez's upside would be huge.

2008
Damon: .272/.352/.420
Ramirez: .300/.360/.460
I'd expect by Ramirez's third year in the majors for him to surpass Damon not only on a value level, but also on a skill level. I'd expect some more decline out of Damon's defense.

2009
Damon: .270/.349/.422
Ramirez: .304/.362/.461

2010
Damon: .269/.347/.410
Ramirez: .300+/.360+/.460+
I don't want to get too out of control with Ramirez's numbers, so I'm just going to say he could build off his previous years numbers, using them as a performance base.

2011
Damon: Roughly .270/.340/.410, roughly major league average player, defense in center way down from age
Ramirez: .300+/.360+/.460+

2012
Damon: League Average
Ramirez: Starting his peak years?

Granted, the Sox may lock Ramirez up prior to the last two seasons or so in order to keep his price down, avoid arbitration, or lock him up before he can really hit his peak around age 27. But let's look at the performance: Damon would have been better in (starting with 06') in 2, maybe 3 of the seasons. Ramirez is the much better player in the second half of the contracts though, and has better value all the way around. Damon would be making $11 million per season for that performance, even the league average ones. Ramirez would make the league minimum, then maybe double that after a year or so, few hundred thousand more along the way, never making over a million until either arbitration or the Sox lock him up on a long term "Wow that is a lot of money for a 24-25 year old" Nomar type value contract. Even if Ramirez isn't able to sustain the numbers I've generated for him, or Damon is able to keep his skill set intact longer, the fact is he is overpaid now at $8 million (with the exception of his 2004 campaign) and a raise to $11 million when he will definitely be in decline is outrageous, especially with such a great value per dollar player waiting in the wings. If it will help the women out, we'll have Hanley grow long locks of flowing hair to ease the pain. Get this boy to a salon, immediately!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

 

One of the kids starts today

Jon Papelbon will make a spring training start for the Red Sox today, and with Curt Schilling and David Wells (read: old) in the rotation, we should see him as a member of the Red Sox sometime within the next two years. John Sickels gives him a B+ in his 2005 Prospect Book. He is slated for Double-A action this year, and if successful there (like you could say about all minor league pitchers) he could be ready for the big leagues soon. I'm pretty excited about Papelbon coming up soon, because the Sox haven't had a legitimate pitching prospect that we've kept (Arroyo aside, we traded for him) since Brian Rose. Tomo Ohka, Carl Pavano, Tony Armas; all traded to the Expos. Sun Woo Kim, traded to the Expos. Juan Pena came up, succeeded in a few starts, hurt his arm, and fell off the planet. I feel slightly cheated considering I'm turning 19 and the one real pitcher we've kept with us for awhile (Aaron Sele) didn't even have his best years until he left. I think this is why I was disapointed when the Sox signed Renteria, rather than promote Hanley Ramirez. I am excited that Dustin Pedroia is going to play second base this year in the minors, and Hanley Ramirez will be his double play partner at short, but I'm not sure what that means for Hanley's future. Papelbon's Sarasota (Class A) numbers by the way: 2.64 ERA, 129.2 IP, 153:43 K:BB ratio (3.56 if you want the decimal) and Sickels book tells me does it with a 92-94 mph fastball, a slider, a curve, a changeup, and the ability to keep the ball in the park (always a plus, I hate gopheritis). I for one am excited for his entrance into the rotation in the future, as well as fellow John, John Lester.

Brian at Friendly Fenway says that Lenny Dinardo and Mark Malaska were sent down to the minors. I'm disapointed because A) I like Dinardo and B) Brian mentioned BK Kim might have a roster spot in the majors because of it. Sweet Jesus, I beg you no! I'll be overly optimistic, and say BK won't have a spot on our roster, we just haven't sent him down because there are numerous trade offers for him. Yes, yes, thats the one I'll believe...please Colorado take him from us.

 

Cubs Closer Update

The pitcher slated for the Cubs's closer job, Joe Borowski, is the proud new owner of a non-displaced fracture in his right ulna. The Cubs will most likely give the job to LaTroy Hawkins, which as I've said before, is not what I want to happen. Granted my fantasy team now has a closer for almost two months, but it isn't the result I wanted. Hawkins is by far their best reliever, and since the Cubs will not use him in the Keith Foulke mold (old school style whenever he is needed, not just in the 9th) his value will be greatly decreased to the Cubs. Why not use Ryan Dempster like you planned? Or since you are kicking Glendon Rusch out of the rotation (which I'm as infuriated at as I can be about something like this) to let Dempster have a spot, why not let him have a go at the shiny, overvalued role of closer? How about spring traning NRI Chad Fox? Anyone but Hawkins? I don't understand the need for the "proven" closer tag on teams. Hasn't anyone realized that basically all closers are made, and very few actually come up from the minor leagues with an established closer track record? Why not just make another one? Billy Beane probably would have just made another one by now (Keith Foulke, Billy Koch, Jason Isringhausen, etc.) Closers own the save stat, which is essentially much more useless than most people (and I'm focusing on the media here) gives credit for. Jose Mesa had 43 of them last year. Do you want Jose Mesa on your team?

The Cubs would be much better served to throw Dempster into the closer's role for now, leave Hawkins as the best reliever available for any situation he is needed in, and leave Rusch in the rotation. Next option: Dempster in the rotation, Hawkins as the reliever, Rusch as the closer. With the way Hawkins will be used, it almost seems a waste of resources. If they are that hot to trot for a "proven, established closer" then why not trade for Ugueth Urbina before the Mets snag him, or sign Billy Koch and his 163 career saves to satisfy your urges? I hate to think of the Cubs weakening their chances anymore with something that could be avoided so easily. Who knows, maybe if Kerry Wood gets overworked some more he'll be the closer within a year.

1) Prior
2) Big Z
3) Maddux
4) Rusch
5) Dempster

CL) Wood
Hawkins, Fox, Borowski, Remlinger

Kind of scary in a way actually. I wouldn't want to face him, and he could be used in 2-3 inning situations like an old school 70's handlebar moustache wearing closer. This farm system has some B level pitchers in it, and you might as well give them a shot to crack the rotation if your going to let Dempster and his lack of control have a go at it. I think the Cubs would prosper with Kerry Wood as shutdown reliever/closer. Just something to think about. My main point is there are so many other ways to do this besides giving up your most valuable reliever to the closer role where his use will be limited. Notice I say Kerry Wood would be good for 2-3 innings, keeping his usefulness, possibly adding to it by allowing him to pitch multiple times on a weekly basis. I just had a vision of Dusty Baker using him for 3 innings 12 days in a row though, and then I pictured Will Carroll looking ill thinking about it. Poor Kerry Wood.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

 

Revisiting the Season Previews: NL West Shakeup

The news that Barry Bonds could miss half or all of the season makes me very angry, very sad, and slightly crack a smile at the same time. I am very angry, because I want to see him playing and hit homeruns and do everything that makes me happy to be a stathead. I am sad, because I fear everyone will now miss out on Bonds and start to devalue his contribution to the baseball world. But I am ever so slightly happy, because now the Giants will suffer the fate that their roster building has brought them to. For maybe the first time in my life, I think I am going to disagree with Peter Gammons, who said that the Giants depth will help them keep their winning ways. Last year, the Giants went 14-28 without Bonds in the lineup. They added Moises Alou, which will be a slight improvement (but not the huge boost some expect) and lost some offense with the addition (or should I say subtraction) of Mike Matheny to the lineup. I just don't see them playing at a winning level of baseball with the "improvements" to the lineup. Pedro Feliz has his uses, but he isn't Barry Bonds, and the team is built in a manner that coincides with having Barry Bonds in your lineup, so I just don't see it working. Maybe this will teach Brian Sabean a lesson in having young talent and using draft picks so you can save yourself with some in house callups rather than rely on guys like Vizquel, Matheny, and Alou when you want to support your star player. That way, you have a team full of real talent rather than one filled with "experience" meant to help you get along on the coat tails of Bonds. Then again, maybe Michael Tucker will save the day. After all, he was worth losing two draft picks.

This news means that the Dodgers and Padres will fight to the death for the division crown unimpeded other NL West teams. Let's take a look at the three lineups, sans Bonds.

LA Dodgers

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

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

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

The Giants have the better lineup in only one position; the leadoff spot. Bradley and Greene trump Snow, Loretta and Drew beat out Grissom (no knock against Marquis, he's just not a #3 guy), and even with more decline from Giles I'd take him over Alou at this point, and Kent definitely beats him out. The Giants lineup isn't pretty at all after the first 5 spots, and Feliz is trumped by Nevin and Hee Seop Choi (especially if there is a capable platoon partner for Choi in LA). If you want to talk pitching, the Giants don't really have the rotation to overcome losing the powers of the greatest player in all of the land. Jason Schmidt is Jason Schmidt, and I see improvement from Noah Lowry and Jerome Williams, but Kirk Rueter might have used up all of his luck and Brett Tomko will revert to mid-rotation Brett Tomko, not "I usurped the soul of the best month of Jason Schmidt's career down the stretch run" Brett Tomko. The Dodgers have their own pitching worries, but their lineup (and home ballpark) will help that issue, and the Padres have Jake Peavy to counter Jason Schmidt, and a better lineup to boot, along with their own little pitcher's park. If Bonds is not out too long, the Giants might be able to get away with it and stay in the race. If he really is out until midseason though, or the whole season, then its going to take some serious convincing to get me to change my stance.

 

Spring Training Trades

The Red Sox made an interesting move yesterday that probably won't register as a headline, but bears some attention. They traded Adam Hyzdu, who is 33 years old and doesn't really have much to offer the Red Sox this year (hot spring training stretch aside) for Blaine Neal, a pitcher from the San Diego Padres. Neal had a 4.07 ERA last year in 42 IP, with a 36:11 K:BB ratio. He also put up some good looking numbers in Portland in the Pacific Coast League, sporting a 1.86 ERA in 38.7 IP with no homeruns allowed (6 at the major league level though). This looks like a good deal from the outset, without too much in depth analysis, since the Sox traded someone they are not planning on using for someone who they will use a roster spot on. Also, the move assures me that Kevin Youkilis will make the team, and I don't have to go on a hunger strike outside the stadium now.

I decided to take a look at Blaine Neal's PECOTA Card at baseballprospectus.com in order to see where he was on a list of comparables, and what the Sox could expect from him this season. The first name that jumps out at me is the 2002 version of Braden Looper, who is second on the list. Looper that year sported a 3.14 ERA with a 55:28 K:BB ratio, so as far as getting a free productive reliever goes, the Sox win on this one. Neal's breakout rate is also over 46%, so I'm hopeful he does just that and the Sox get a great reliever to ease the burden on the aging Timlin/Embree combo.

I'm very happy with the Red Sox roster so far, and I really feel they have the best team in baseball this year. Of course, that means nothing if your team falls apart for a week in October, but it at least makes me feel good going into the season. Maybe they can win a division at some point soon, and end that mini-drought.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

 

Knuckleballers

I am obsessed with knuckleballers. Maybe it is because Tim Wakefield is my favorite player, or maybe it is because when you use Tom Candiotti or Wakefield or Charlie Hough in a video game, no one can stop you unless by accident. I root for knuckleballers whenever I come across them (Jered Fernandez, Steve Sparks, Dennis Springer, and the Red Sox own Charlie Zink) and try to read what I can about them (thanks to Rob Neyer and Bill James for the knuckleball section in The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers).

This is why I was excited when I was reading BP 2005 and saw that Ryan Jensen of the San Francisco Giants is attempting to become a knuckleballer. I obviously hoped he would do well, but then thought why doesn't this happen more often? In the past few seasons we've had Ryan Jensen take up the knuckler, and before that Charlie Zink was told go to the bullpen as a normal pitcher or become a starter with a knuckler. Why doesn't this happen more often? I fear the death of the knuckleball in the major leagues. How would it die? Well Ryan Jensen and Charlie Zink and others can learn to throw the knuckler as much as they want, but if they are not given a shot (or get one and fail) then there may be no real knuckleballer left to assume the throne Tim Wakefield currently sits on and occasionally shares with Steve Sparks. The Niekro's kept it alive, then Charlie Hough and Tom Candiotti, now Tim Wakefield and Steve Sparks are the current major leaguers making a difference with it. Jered Fernandez pops up and down between the minors and majors, so he doesn't count.

BP asks why more fringe prospects aren't asked to learn the knuckleball, and I want to know the answer as well. There should at least be more attempts at it; what if someone who can't get that extra bite on his slider or changeup is over qualified for a knuckler, but we never find out because said team is impatient and releases the poor non-prospect.

The knuckleball has brought me one of my favorite baseball memories of all-time, comically on a level with Larry Walker putting his helmet on backwards to face Randy Johnson in the all-star game. Tim Wakefield was pitching against the Chicago White Sox, and had struck Frank Thomas out twice already to that point. His third strikeout came on a sidearm knuckleball that danced in a way that the anti-Elvis movement of the 1950's would have despised. Frank Thomas struck out in an embarassing manner, but instead of looking angry, he was smiling and looked like he was ready to laugh at the insanity of the pitch. Wakefield was covering his mouth with that damn knuckleball grin he has and looked like he was ready to explode with laughter. I want to find a video clip of that at-bat and watch it over and over until it is really burned into my head.

Note to self: Add "make knuckleballers out of fringe pitching prospects" to agenda for when you get major league front office job.

 

Rumors and the Like

Normally I wouldn't post rumors, since there are so many of them, but this is just too good to pass up. Apparently the Reds are searching for some pitching help (which they very desperately need) and are willing to swap Wily Mo Pena or Ken Griffey Jr. for it. Now what makes this interesting is that the supposed destination for Griffey would be Houston in exchange for a handful of prospects. In deciding between Griffey and Pena, there are a few variables to discuss. Wily Mo Pena has almost no plate discipline but may hit 40 homeruns someday. Griffey has plate discipline and is a very talented player, but he is never healthy for a full season. Do the Reds take the risk of dealing with Pena's untrained batting eye and strikeout rate for a full season? Or do they hope beyond hope that Griffey is able to finally play a full season without too much injury?

Houston would all of a sudden have an outfield of Ken Griffey Jr, Lance Berkman, and hopefully Jason Lane, not Craig Biggio. Biggio could move to second base for the time being, and give Chris Burke more time in the minors. Unless the Astros decided to try and move Biggio into some kind of utility role as his career winds down. This is a very interesting move that could shift some of the power in the NL Central, but it is also capable of keeping the Astros from blowing up and starting over like they should.

Tampa Bay all of a sudden needs a second basemen and a cleanup hitter, since Roberto Alomar and Danny Bautista retired on back to back days. I have an idea...let Jorge Cantu start at second base instead of panicking and claiming you need a new one. .301/.341/.462 in 173 AB's last season as a rookie. He's sure to improve on that with more playing time in the big leagues. He hit 20 doubles in 173 AB's! That is one of three things: A fluke, a massive amount of doubles over the course of a season, or the warning that this guy might start hitting homeruns soon. It is more than worth the chance. As for the left field scenario, well that might not be solved so easily. You sure as hell don't want to do something like sign Alex Sanchez to a deal...oh wait...damnit. The next step shouldn't be Joey Gathright either; I know he's really, really fast, but that does not mean he's good *cough Sanchez cough*. Ray Lankford is available via free agency. Having Lankford on your roster for a season could be good for you, better than promoting talent too early and starting their service clocks, and he is still capable of walking and hitting somewhat (.255/.349/.425 from the 37 year old outfielder). Why not? What do you have to lose, your Tampa Bay? And it is evident Chuck LaMar is not going to do anything spectacular anyways. Watch, this will be the one time Tampa Bay doesn't sign an aging player to fill a void because he has a recognizable name; the one time it would be acceptable.

Monday, March 21, 2005

 

From fantasy to reality..

Since Marc saw fit to post his fantasy baseball team (and we're in the same league), I extend to all of you the Stoddard Draddots (my team)!

C- Johnny Estrada. Not the finest catcher in the league, but considering he hit 314 last year, on an Atlanta team that I feel got better (yay for Andy Marte), and considering I picked him up in the 12th ROUND, it's not a bad pick.

1B- Albert Pujols. Ok, so at this point you may be realizing I had the first pick in the draft, and this was a slightly (and by slightly I mean, I thought about taking Vlad for about .02 seconds) difficult decision. I don't care about the planar fascitis. It's a keeper league, and if he misses this year to get totally healthy, I still get 4-5 years without question of in his prime Pujols. Not to mention the avg, opb, slg, HR's, RBIs, 2b's, Runs; I think I may have just soiled myself thinking about it.

2B- Mark Loretta. Loretta is a reflection of the draft strategy I tried oh so hard to implement this year. In years passed, I generally have a decent team, with a lowish avg, but decent power. So in other words, I usually won HR's, and SLG, and lost everything else. Loretta and his 143 singles, 47 doubles, and 335 avg can start for me anyday, and I thought he was a great 5th round pick.

3B- Tie at the Moment. I drafted Dallas MacPherson. With all the high avg's I'd been grabbing, I figured I'd be able to handle one 260-270 avg with 30 hrs and a nice slg/obp. Then he had to go and hurt his back. So I grabbed Michael Cuddyer off waivers, mostly because he plays 3 of the 4 major infield positions (not SS eligible), and I see him having a breakout year if the Twins actually let him start (which I think they will). Either way it should work out well for me. On a more bitter note, this position was supposed to be filled by David Wright, but he got snagged 6 picks before I was going to draft him, stupid Spiderman *shake fist*.

SS- Juan Uribe. Not only is he eligible at 2b, 3b, and SS, but he hit 283 last season, and looks to improve on it (in a perfect world, not a Kenny Williams world.) Either way, he gets on base, hits for decent power, and was a steal in the 10th.

OF1- Miguel Cabrera. My 2nd round pick, and probably my favorite pick of all. Being only 21 (22 in April) Cabrera has an upside that would make Mount Everest look like a valley. He's just going to get better and better, and he'll be on my team for years to come while he does it. (Not to mention he carried me all the way to the fantasy baseball finals last year before Scott Rolen, Soriano, and the rest of my team died).

OF2- Carlos Lee. Another personal favorite. Lee is leaving the AL, a much tougher league than the NL, where hitters can thrive. In Milwaukee, Lee isn't going to have a lot to play for. With that said, I think it means you'll see him running the base paths a lot more, because frankly, what's Milwaukee got to lose. I don't see him improving on his avg or power numbers, but I see the obp and steals going up a little.

OF3- Hideki Matsui. GODZILLA! As much as it pains me to draft a Yankee, I was thin at OF when round 7 came along. Guys with 30+ doubles, and hrs, 100+ singles, runs, and rbis, and obp's 100 points over their average don't come along everyday. I put my bias aside, and picked him up. May Tokyo fall victim to his wrath!

Util. Mark Teixeira. I know it's hard to call my 3rd overall pick (and the 25th overall in the draft) a sleeper, but man, is Teix ready to absolutely break out. Playing in that park, with that offense, and that bat; I see nothing but good things, and very bruised Rawlings baseballs from Teix.

SP- I subscribe to the Marc/Matt philosophy of beating down the other team with a lot of above average pitching, instead of a little of great pitching. With that said: Tim Hudson, Carlos Zambrano, AJ Burnett, Brad Radke, Brian Lawrence, Danny Haren, Tim Wakefield, Jarrod Washburn, Noah Lowry. It's hard to say who's the ace of my staff. I'm inclined to say Zambrano, but a case could be made for Hudson. I'm really hoping Burnett is healthy and he racks up the K's again. As for the rest, I'm just hoping for 12-15 wins, and a non lethal ERA and WHIP. Lowry was my sleeper pick, seeing a lot of K's and wins in his future.

RP- Also another shared theory between Marc and I, in that I hate drafting closers early. The early rounds should be for stacking your lineup, and getting your without a question aces. My closer sleeper (Mota) got snagged a round earlier than I had intended to draft him. When it came back to me I gambled on Troy Percival. If he's healthy, it could be a great pick. I also grabbed Mike Adams in the later rounds to try and sure up saves. But again, Marc and I being on the same wavelength, I overloaded on holds. I picked up both Ray King and Chris Reitsma. That's 31 holds each last year, in a category few people ever match up well in. So sure, I may lose saves every week, but I'm going to win holds. 1 for 1, could be a lot worse.

Bench. I already mentioned MacPherson being on my bench. The other 2 slots are filled up by Geoff Jenkins (I needed/wanted that 4th of) and J.D. Closser. I don't think Closser can be considered a sleeper since everyone knows who he is, but he's got tremendous upside at a thin position, and looks to play 81 games a year in Coors Field. How can you not love that, not to mention I snagged him in the 22nd round.

All I can say is, GO DRADDOTS!

 

Fantasy Baseball

I plan on writing some sort of fantasy baseball article on a weekly basis, but since I still have one draft coming up on March 26th (as well as one of the other writers for the article) I will put that on hold for now.

For now, I will simply list my team and my aspirations for each player:

C - Jason Kendall. I expect some of his average, and therefore his OBP to decline in his move to Oakland, but he will be a member of a more potent lineup and the overall effects should not hurt his value. A staple on my fantasy teams at catcher for a good 4-5 years now.

1B - Todd Helton. Helton is another staple of my team (who I missed in 2003, but *settled* for Barry Bonds). The weaker his lineup is around him, the higher his walk totals become, with 127 last year. Even if his RBI totals take a hit, that OBP will keep me happy.

2B - Mark Bellhorn. .260/.370/.444 is great for a second basemen, especially when I nabbed him in the middle of the draft.

3B - Casey Blake. Blake won't be playing much at third base this year if Aaron Boone has anything to say about it, but I grabbed him after passing up on multiple third basemen in favor of pitchers. I don't expect him to match his 2004 production, but anything close would be nice. Blake shifts to the OF and eventually will give me a 3b/OF option...yay depth!

SS - Khalil Greene. Developing power and good enough rate stats, especially considering I picked him in the latter stages of the draft.

OF: Barry Bonds. I got Bonds and Helton as my 1-2 picks (I was last in the draft, go back to back selection) so I focused on pitching for a few rounds. Bonds will miss some time with that second knee operation, but hopefully my offense can carry my team before he comes back.

OF - Adam Dunn. I traded Brad Wilkerson and Glendon Rusch for Adam Dunn to shore up my offense, and then Bonds went down. I'm very happy I got Dunn now, since I was in need of another power threat to stabilize my hitting stats for a month or so.

OF - Brian Giles. Giles is in his decline phase, but as my third outfielder (and picked in the teen rounds) you can't go wrong. Another staple of my fantasy team for 4-5 years now. I used to take all the good players off of Pittsburgh that everyone ignored and succeed using that tactic. It worked until they had to go and get all famous and nationally exposed and the like...bastards.

Utility - Vernon Wells. I expect Wells to rebound from last year, and if he even averages out his 2003 and 2004 campaigns my utility spot is well used.

Bench: Todd Walker, Frank Thomas, Russell Branyan (free agents) and Austin Kearns (dropped Keith Ginter, Kearns picked up off waivers).

This is a pretty strong bench. If Bellhorn falls to 2003 levels I have Walker to replace him, and Branyan will provide a source of power if he keeps the starting job. With Helton and Bondsian averages in my lineup, I can afford the .230-.240 of Branyan with power. I hope Thomas comes back from his injury to slug .500 once again, as that will be a huge boost from the 21st round I got him in. Austin Kearns, when or if healthy, will contribute to my lineup if Wells is faltering.

Not the best lienup I've had, but stacked with depth. The pitching is my strong point:

SP - Ben Sheets, Oliver Perez, Jake Peavy, Rich Harden, Josh Beckett, Zach Greinke, Jeremy Bonderman, Orlando Hernandez. Now that is a rotation. I don't have any 20 game threats, except for maybe Rich Harden or Josh Beckett is the Fish catch fire, but the rate stats should be astounding.

RP: I didn't draft a closer for two reasons.

1) If I can't get Brad Lidge or Eric Gagne, I don't want a closer in the first 10 rounds. When round 10 came around, my guy for closer got selected, and I decided to go after relievers who will get my holds instead, and focus on picking up a poor closer who racks up saves at a later date, or hope for LaTroy Hawkins to regain the closer's job in Chicago.

2) I hope to secure a few other pitching categories with the starting pitchers I have, and forcing a closer pick seemed like a waste by the time I focused on it.

LaTroy Hawkins, Justin Duchscherer, Mike Gonzalez, and Brendan Donnelly are my relief pitchers. In that group are two possible closers (Hawkins and Gonzalez, if Jose Mesa is dealt or just plain sucks) and four extremely talented setup men. Holds galore I hope.

Overall, I think this is the best draft I've had in years, as I usually have a real good draft and build off of that via free agency and trades. I don't think I should have to do too much tinkering to my roster, unless of course no closer emerges from the group of four and I have a a few extra utility guys lying around. Barring injury (damn you 2004 season) I feel pretty confident in my ability to finish in the top 6 in the league, and maybe even pull out another championship season. I'd post my draft order, but I have another draft coming up, and that would just be bad for me, I've probably said too much already. Hopefully you guys think I'm stupid or something.

 

A few transactions to get things going...

The week started off busy for a few baseball teams, with the Mets and Dodgers making a trade (much to the chagrin of Yankees executives, who despise Paul DePodesta getting anything done after the Johnson debacle), Lance Berkman getting a massive extension, and rumors of Juan Encarnacion finding a new outfield corner to poison.

Steve Trachsel requires back surgery to fix the discomfort and pain he has been feeling as of late, which means he will be out of action for the Mets for a good chunk of time. The Mets had been looking at Tim Redding as a possible replacement out of Houston, but settled for a swap of 1B/C Jason Phillips for Kaz Ishii of the Dodgers. Ishii leaving the rotation in Los Angeles means that Edwin Jackson is probably going to be stepping in to the role of the #5 starter, and if he is able to fulfill his promise Dodger fans won't miss Ishii. As for the Mets, Trachsel was in the midst of the decline stage of his career, but Ishii may not be the best thing for them. In the Mets defense, they needed someone, and can't afford to give up too much for a pitcher at this point. If only they still had Scott Kazmir, then this wouldn't be an issue. We'll chalk that one up to the old regime though, so Minaya gets a break for now.

Ishii had a translated ERA over 5.00 last year, and was on the walks leaderboards. He had a 99:98 K:BB ratio (good God) and was lucky to pitch in LA where batting averages are depressed and a lot of those runners were kept from scoring. Shea Stadium is pitcher friendly as well, but expect Ishii to complete his implosion. The Mets only gave up Jason Phillips though, and he is a backup catcher at this point in his career, especially after the failed Mike Piazza at first, Phillips behind the plate experiment. Phillips will have his uses for the Dodgers though, since they are having an offensive issue behind the plate themselves.

Lance Berkman got a 6 year, $86 million extension on his contract that will run from 2005-2010, with an option for 2011. I love Lance Berkman and all the numbers he puts up. He is 29 years old though, and the Astros are going to be paying him for years he has already produced. I am not saying he is going to fall off the planet immediately, but this contract is only going to have production = money spent for the first few years. Berkman will be 35 at the end of the 6 year phase of the contract, and knowing how much the Astros love to keep fan favorites around (especially when their names start with B) the option for the 7th year will most likely be picked up to keep San Francisco for overpaying for a veteran past his prime. Berkman's contract will not be an issue until the last few seasons of it, so the Astros should not be criticized as much as say, for the Jeff Bagwell deal that will pay him $17 million to hit .260 with less than 25 HR's soon. If that does happen though, since Berkman is not a speedy player, and thus will probably not age that well, I can see everyone asking the Astros if they have learned their lessons about contracts that are way too long and pay too much money. I would rather the Astros made a 3-4 year deal with Berkman paying him a few million more per season than he will make now than give him the 6-7 year deal with a teeny bit less cash and run the risk of having 2004 Bagwell version 2.0 on their hands.

Juan Encarnacion is rumored to be moving to the Pirates at some point if Jeff Conine can show he is healthy enough to start in the outfield for the Marlins. This deal would make me much more confident in the thought that the Fish are capable of dethroning the Braves as division champs, solely because Encarnacion will not be in the lineup (I would have said, "because Encarnacion will not be hitting", but that is the problem with him, isn't it?)

I also sigh at the prospect of Alex Sanchez getting a job so quickly after his release by a team who almost set the loss record two seasons ago. If they don't want him, why would you?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

 

Farewell to Alomar

Robert Alomar announced his retirement yesterday, ending his 17 year career. His last good season was in 2001, and he had been drifting from team to team the past few seasons, but that should not take away from what is essentially a Hall of Fame career. Alomar is one of the best second basemen of all time, and probably the second best of his time next to Craig Biggio. Alomar amassed 2724 hits, 210 homeruns, 474 steals, a .300/.371/.443 line, and 10 Gold Gloves. He also won four Silver Slugger awards for being the best hitter at his position at different intervals in his career. Oddly enough, the most similar batter to him in his career is Craig Biggio (using Baseball-Reference's Similarity Scores). Lou Whitaker, Frankie Frisch, Barry Larkin, Ryne Sandberg, and Joe Morgan are a few other comparable players. Frisch, Sandberg and Morgan are Hall of Famers, and Larkin should be, as well as Biggio. So sufice to say, his chances are pretty good at getting in. Unless of course he runs into a problem that Larkin very well may face.

Alomar's last few seasons (2002-2004) were mired in an inability to play at a high level like he always had. He was handed a big contract that didn't pan out as well as all the teams that acquired him hoped, and he was labeled a disapointment as of late. Hopefully this is not the image of Alomar that sticks in the BBWAA writers minds when they vote in elections 5 years from now. One more issue for Alomar, as far as being a first ballot Hall of Famer goes. He and Larkin both retired in 2005, (or do they count that as 2004, since that is the last official season they played? Someone help me with that one) so they will go on the ballot together. This should not hurt their chances in the long run, but it may keep both of them from being first ballot HOF'ers. Larkin's chances are already hurt by an injury mired last few seasons (except 2004) where he and the Reds were criticized often by the media and fans alike.

The only reason I worry for Alomar in the slightest is because of Lou Whitaker's inability to garner any vote support on the ballot. He is second in similarity score to Alomar, and his career line .276/.363/.426 is very good for a second basemen, especially in the 80's before Jeff Kent and Craig Biggio and Alomar really got going. Maybe Joe Morgan's fine career has ruined it for everyone who isn't Joe Morgan at the second base position. I hope not, considering we have some excellent second basemen on their way to the Hall of Fame within the next 10 years.

Let's take a look at some other second basemen who should retire within the next 5 years and merit some attention as possible Hall of Famers.

Jeff Kent: 36 years old, 1910 hits, 302 HR's, .289/.352/.505, 2000 MVP. Kent needs a few more seasons like last year if he is to have any chance, because for some reason he seems to be in the shadows when it comes to media admiration. He has 302 HR's in 13 seasons as a second basemen; Alomar and Biggio haven't hit that total (although they do other things in their games as well) in 17 seasons, and Joe Morgan hit 268 in 22 years. Kent might have to get really close to 400 if he plans on making a trip to Cooperstown when he retires. An average of 20 over the next 4 years would really help, and one last big season (while I wouldn't count on it) would be extremely helpful to his chances.

Craig Biggio: 38 years old, 2639 hits, 234 HR's, .286/.373/.435, 2 top ten MVP finishes, and according to Bill James, the 35th best player in baseball history back in 2000. Also considered the 5th best second basemen of all time. This was 4 seasons ago, and while Biggio's supreme air of greatness may have worn off some (especially with the OF experiment) his career numbers have been padded in the counting stats. A virtual lock as a Hall of Famer; if not, I will never recognize another Hall of Fame vote again. They could anoint Tim Wakefield as the greatest knuckleballer of all-time and I'd spit in their faces...awkward I said that during an Alomar article huh? Didn't even mean to. Let's put it this way...Jeff Bagwell is a Hall of Famer at first base, and Biggio is even better.

Bret Boone, 35 years old, 1703 hits, 245 HR's, .268/.327/.447, third place MVP finish in 2001. I don't think Boone really has a chance at making it. The only reason I included him is incase he continues a late career surge (with the exception of last year, which may have signaled his decline stage). If he does happen to add 3-4 more seasons that look like 2002 or 2003, than you may have a case for him. The problem is, he probably won't. I just wanted to cover my ass incase he does.

I want to run a prediction for around 20 years from now (or more) and say I think Marcus Giles will develop into a Hall of Fame caliber second basemen...if he doesn't kill himself on the basepaths first. He is a perennial all-star and eventual MVP winner waiting to happen. He could easily become a Craig Biggio or Robert Alomar type and cruise into the HOF in 20 years. I'm also not just saying this because I love the Giles boys; I think he is capable of being a much better player than Brian Giles overall, and considering his peak, that is saying something nice.

If you have anyone else you'd like to add to the discussion I'd love to hear from you.


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