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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Season Preview: Houston Astros

2008 Record: 86-75   .534

Run differential: -31 (10th)

2008 payroll: $88,930,414

Look at the first two lines above.  That’s right, this team had a winning record despite being outscored by 31 runs last season.  In a normal season a team with that run differential would probably have a 75-86 season, not a good record.  In defiance of this statistic, Astro management has failed to realize they don’t have a contending team.  Last season they traded for Randy Wolf at the deadline shore up their rotation in case they had another miraculous surge like 2005 and 2006.  Unfortunately a late fade doomed them.  Although they won 86 games, the Astros finished third in the division and missed the playoffs. 

Gone this season are #3 starter Randy Wolf, starting 3B Ty Wigginton, and utility infielder Mark Loretta.  Houston signed Mr. Glass Mike Hampton to replace Wolf and two players who appeared washed up a couple a years ago in Aaron Boone and Jason Michaels.  Adding insult to injury here is the fact that Houston has the worst minor league system in baseball due to owner Drayton McLane’s draft debacles.  There’s only one prospect that could possibly make any kind of impact in 2009 in Brian Bogusevic and he is not projected to be much more than a borderline starter.  The entire rotation runs the risk of missing time with an injury (Oswalt has back issues, Backe had TJ surgery and missed time w/ a sore forearm last year, Hampton is Mr. Glass, Wandy Rodriguez is hurt all the time).  With Tejada at shortstop and Bourn and Lee in the outfield the defense is one of the worst in the league too. According to Baseball Prospectus, Houston was the oldest team in the league last year so there is little reason to expect improvement.  In fact it’s one Oswalt/Berkman/Lee injury away from mission control turning off radio contact and letting this team just float away into space.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C J.R. Towles $.402M Drafted 20th rd 2004
C Humberto Quintero $.61 M Acquired in trade w/ SD 3/28/05
1b Lance Berkman $14.5 M Drafted #16 overall 1997. Signed extension 3/05
2b Kaz Matsui $5 M Signed as FA 12/2/07
3b Geoff Blum $1.2 M Signed as FA 11/20/07
SS Miguel Tejada $13 M Acquired in trade w/ Bal 12/12/07
LF Carlos Lee $18.5 M Signed as FA 11/06
CF Michael Bourn $.435 M Acquired in trade w/ Phi 11/7/07
RF Hunter Pence $.45 M Drafted 2nd rd 2004.
Inf Aaron Boone $.75 M Signed as FA 12/17/08
UT David Newhan   Non Roster Invitee
Of Darin Erstad $1.75 M Signed as FA 12/27/07. Signed extension 8/08
Of Jason Michaels $.75 M Signed as FA 12/15/08
SP Roy Oswalt $14 M Drafted 23rd rd 1996. Signed extension 8/06
SP Wandy Rodriguez $2.6 M Signed as amateur FA 1/12/99
SP Mike Hampton $2 M Signed as FA 12/3/08
SP Brandon Backe $1.55 M Acquired in trade w/ TB 12/14/03
SP Brian Moehler $2.3 M Signed as FA 1/07. Signed extension 8/08
Cl Jose Valverde $8M Acquired in trade w/ Ari 12/14/07
SU LaTroy Hawkins $3.5 M Acquired in trade w/ NYY 7/30/08. Resigned 11/6/08
RP Doug Brocail $2.5 M Signed as FA 11/07. Resigned 12/08
RP Geoff Geary $1.7 M Acquired in trade w/ Phi 11/7/07
RP Chris Sampson $.449M Drafted 8th rd 1999
RP Wesley Wright $.425M Selected in 2007 Rule V draft
RP Fernando Nieve $.414M Signed as amateur FA from Venezuela 1999

Say hello to: Tyler Lumdsen, Aaron Boone, Jason Michaels, Mike Hampton, Jeff Fulchino

Wave goodbye: Mark Loretta, Randy Wolf, Ty Wigginton, Brad Ausmus

Rookies: Brian Bogusevic

Non-Roster Invitees to Watch: Reggie Abercrombie, Russ Ortiz, Toby Hall

Potential breakout: Wandy Rodriguez

Welcome to Earth: Kaz Matsui, José Valverde,

Likely to rebound: Hunter Pence, Brandon Backe, J.R. Towles

Strengths: Berkman, Lee, and Oswalt are perennial all-stars.

Weaknesses: The rotation is fragile. The lineup is made up of 4 guys that should not be playing everyday.  The outfield defense is poor.  The bullpen is an afterthought. Nineteen of the 25 players on the roster are over 30 and 11 are 33 or older.

Payroll obligations to former players: none

Optimal batting lineup (position, name, bats, Avg/OBP/Slg, HR, SB, EqA):

2B Matsui  B .293/.354/.427  6, 20  .281

RF Pence R  .269/.318/.466  25, 11  .269

1B Berkman  B  .312/.420/.534  29, 18  .336

LF Lee  R .314/.368/.569  28, 4  .316

SS Tejada  R  .283/.314/.415  13, 7  .253

3B Blum  B  .240/.287/.418  14, 1  .245

C  Towles R  .137/.250/.253  4, 0 .183

CF Bourn L  .229/.288/.300  5, 41  .227

Prediction: 6th in the NL Central 

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Season Preview: Philadelphia Phillies

2008 Record: 92-70  .568

Run differential: +119 (2nd)

2008 payroll: $98,269,880

Last year’s Phillie team was not unlike the previous year’s or even 2006.  The core was made up of Utley, Rollins, and Howard as well as a solid pitching staff and good defense.  Why was 2008 the year the Phillies were able to bring home the championship?  There’s no real answer to this question except that maybe they were due.  Though he wasn’t infallible (getting nothing for Bobby Abreu, signing Adam Eaton), Pat Gillick deserves a lot of credit for plugging and tweaking his team to get the pieces he felt they needed.   Maybe more credit should go to former GM Ed Wade who drafted the big 3 and later as GM of the Astros traded Brad Lidge to Philadelphia for a bag of peanuts.  Also, Charlie Manuel was probably the best manager in baseball last season.  Manuel knew which relievers he could use in certain situations, was not afraid to pinch hit with his backup catcher, and only attempted stolen bases with the guys that should attempt them.  No matter how you look it at it, this all goes to show that if you build for a championship and stick with it, you can bring home the hardware.

So what to expect from 2009?  New GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is not off to a good start.  His first move was to not offer Pat Burrell arbitration.  Raul Ibanez, who was offered arbitration by Seattle, signed to take Burrell’s place at a way over market rate with a 3 year $30 million contract, costing the team their first round draft pick.  Later Burrell signed at market rate with Tampa to be their DH.  Since Burrell was not offered arbitration the team gets no compensation for losing him and is now susceptible to left-handed pitching in the heart of the order.  Also, Amaro failed to get a quality backup infielder in case Utley is to miss any serious time from off-season hip surgery.  That isn’t to say any of these moves will prevent the Phillies from repeating but in a tight division every little move matters.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Carlos Ruiz $.425 M Drafted 2nd rd 2005
C Ronny Paulino $.424 M Acquired in trade w/ Pit 12/08
1b Ryan Howard $15 M Drafted 5th rd 2001. Signed extension 2/09
2b Chase Utley $11 M Drafted #15 overall 2000.  Signed extension 1/07
3b Pedro Feliz $5 M Signed as FA 1/28/08
SS Jimmy Rollins $7.5 M Drafted 2nd rd 1996. Signed extension 6/05
LF Raul Ibanez $6.5 M Signed as FA 12/16/08
CF Shane Victorino $3.13 M Selected in 2003 Rule V draft
RF Jayson Werth $2 M Signed as FA 12/06
Inf Eric Bruntlett $.6 M Acquired in trade w/ Hou 11/07.
UT Greg Dobbs $1.15 M Claimed off waivers 1/07
Of Geoff Jenkins $6.75 M Signed as FA 12/07
Of Matt Stairs $1 M Acquired in trade w/ Tor 8/28/08
SP Cole Hamels $4.35 M Drafted #17 overall 2002. Signed extension 1/09
SP Brett Myers $12 M Drafted #12 overall 1999.
SP Jamie Moyer $6.5 M Acquired in trade w/ Sea 8/06. Resigned 12/08
SP Joe Blanton $5.48 M Acquired in trade w/ Oak 7/17/08
SP J.A. Happ $.39 M Drafted 3rd rd 2004
Cl Brad Lidge $11.5 M Acquired in trade w/ Hou 11/07.  Signed extension 7/08
SU Ryan Madson $2 M Drafted 9th rd 1998
RP Scott Eyre $2 M Acquired in trade w/ Cubs 8/08. Resigned 11/08
RP Chad Durbin $1.64 M Signed as FA 12/07
RP Chan Ho Park $2.5 M Signed as FA 12/15/08
RP Clay Condrey $.65 M Acquired in trade w/ StL 12/4/08
RP Adam Eaton $8.5 M Signed as a FA 11/06

Say hello to: Raul Ibañez, Ronny Paulino

Wave goodbye: So Taguchi, Pat Burrell, RJ Swindle, Jason Jaramillo, Greg Golson

Rookies: Jason Donald, Carlos Carrasco, J.A. Happ

Non-Roster Invitees to Watch: Jason Donald, Marcus Giles, Pablo Ozuna, Gary Majewski

Potential breakout: Ryan Madson

Welcome to Earth:  Shane Victorino, everyone in the bullpen not named Madson

Likely to rebound: Geoff Jenkins.  There aren’t a lot of candidates here

Strengths: The heart of this order is the best in the NL.  Utley and Rollins are both GG material up the middle.

Weaknesses: The bench is really not that good.  There are a lot of injury risks on the roster.

Payroll obligations to former players: none

Optimal batting lineup (position, name, bats, Avg/OBP/Slg, HR, SB, EqA):

RF Werth R .273/.363/.498  24, 20  .301

LF Ibañez L .293/.358/.479  23, 2  .293

2B Utley L .292/.380/.535  33, 14  .311

SS Rollins R  .277/.349/.437  11, 47  .285

1B Howard L .251/.339/.543  48, 1  .292

CF Victorino B  .293/.352/.447  14, 36  .282

3B Feliz R .249/.302/.402  14, 0  .247

C  Ruiz R .219/.320/.300  4, 1  .224

Prediction: 2nd place and the NL wildcard. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Banish Thee

Oh Tampa, oh Tampa the sports-media exclaimed giddily during the Rays vaunted World Series run last year. A Cinderella story they were indeed. Like the Marlin title teams of 1997 and 2003, the AL Florida franchise generated great substance for baseball media outlets to provide aplomb to the fact that any baseball organization can bury its losing culture and emerge out of nowhere to make a pennant run. Yes, Tampa has done a fantastic job at transforming itself into a viable contender in the stacked AL East mind you, yet some interesting facts cannot go unsaid. During this exciting 2008 season, the Rays only had only 1.8 million people go through their turnstiles. They couldn’t even draw 2 million fans! In fact, the Rays didn’t even sellout their first four playoff games. It took the exciting last two deciding games of the ALCS vs. the Red Sox before all the Tropicana Field seats would be filled. The Marlins have fared no better, each season following their World Series triumphs, less than 2 million fans have shown up. Only twice has Florida drawn over two million people and only in their inaugural season of 1993 did the Marlins crack the heavily sought, three million benchmark.
Florida has no desire to support baseball. I don’t want to hear excuses of weather (Miami) or interstate traffic (Tampa). Tampa’s metropolitan population stands at an impressive 2.7 million with Miami amassing a gaudy 5.4 million. You’re telling me these incredible population centers with healthy economies can’t place 2.5 million bodies in their respective ballparks? Ah, the ballparks, the supposed thorn in Florida baseball success’ side. Dreary Tropicana offers a roof in the Sunshine State and the Marlins navigate the cavernous football field in Dolphin Stadium. If new stadiums were built for these franchises, fan attendance could increase but I have my doubts. Miami is notorious for its poor support of professional franchises and having the stigma as a pathetic sports-town. Tampa’s population has shown to be better at fleeing to Bucs games than Ray games and the Lightning have done well at drawing since their Stanly Cup title of 2004. Tampa has never achieved over 3 million fans in attendance. Tropicana Field, though a poor venue, is actually relatively young in lifespan with construction being completed in the early 1990s (Built to attract the San Francisco Giants out of Candlestick). Is another publicly funded overly priced modern ballpark that only upper middle-class can attend what Tampa should really abuse tax funds for? I don’t think so. My solution is to banish or contract the Florida Marlins and move the Tampa Rays. Therefore, the Marlin contraction allows the Pittsburgh Pirates to move into the NL East in place of the Marlins and bring the NL Central to five teams. This will decrease travel expenditures for NL East teams and bring all three National League divisions to five franchises. As for the fledgling Tampa franchise, move them out west to Portland or Las Vegas. Maybe even move back into Canada with a venture to Vancouver. The move will allow for a fifth team to join the four-team AL West and restore competitive balance to the other two five team divisions in the American League. It’s time to abandon the failed baseball expansion experiment in Florida and turn to the sprawling West Coast or possibly the northeast where baseball is impressively supported to help restore competitive and financial balance to MLB.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Season Preview: San Diego Padres

2008 Record: 63-99  .389

Run differential: -127 (14th)

2008 payroll: $73,776,616

The worst thing that could have happened to this year’s San Diego team was the passing of California’s Community Property Law decades ago.  With owner John Moores going through divorce, all of his entities must be divided in half.  Since the team cannot be divided into two equal parts it must be sold.  This really is too bad because the franchise had its greatest successes under Moores including a 1998 trip to the World Series.

In order to make the team affordable for potential buyers, Khalil Greene was traded to St. Louis for a bag of apples and a mediocre reliever, Jake Peavy was in constant trade rumors all winter, and the team’s big free agent splash was backup outfielder Cliff Floyd. 

Furthermore, San Diego has one of the bottom five minor league systems with only Matt Antonelli having the potential to be an above average major leaguer—and even that seems unlikely after last season’s flop in AAA.  Even when a new owner is found the future looks bleak. 

At least Sandy Alderson and Kevin Towers retained their jobs so there is creativity in the front office.  San Diego fans should hope Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and possibly even Jake Peavy get traded to the highest bidders over the next couple of seasons in order to restock a terrible farm system Oakland style.  This will at least give the team some starting blocks.  Because with a low payroll and no minor league system we’re looking at the 1998-2000 Devil Rays as a best case scenario.  I doubt even the San Diego Chicken will even come out to watch these guys so if San Diegans need to laugh they should watch Anchorman.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Nick Hundley $.39 M Drafted 2nd rd 2005
C Henry Blanco $.75 M Signed as FA 1/21/09
1b Adrian Gonzalez $9.5 M Acquired in trade w/ Tex 1/6/06. Signed extension 4/07
2b Matt Antonelli $.39 M Drafted #17 overall 2006
3b Kevin Kouzmanoff $.41 M Acquired in trade w/ Cle 11/06
SS David Eckstein $.85 M Signed as FA 1/15/09
LF Chase Headley $.39 M Drafted 2nd rd 2005
CF Jody Gerut $1.78 M Signed as FA 1/21/08
RF Brian Giles $9M Acquired in trade w/ Pit 8/26/03. Resigned 5/05.
Inf Luis Rodriguez $.675 M Signed as amateur FA from Venezuela '97
Inf Everth Cabrera $.39 M Selected in Rule V draft '08
Of Scott Hairston $1.25 M Acquired in trade w/ Ari 7/27/07
Of Cliff Floyd $.75 M Signed as FA 2/5/09
SP Jake Peavy $8 M Drafted 15th rd 1999. Signed extension 12/07
SP Chris Young $4.5 M Acquired in trade w/ Tex 1/6/06. Signed extension 4/07
SP Cha Seung Baek $.393 M Acquired in trade w/ Sea 5/27/08
SP Wade LeBlanc $.39 M Drafted 2nd rd 2006
SP Josh Greer $.39 M Drafted 3rd rd 2005
Cl Heath Bell $1.23 M Acquired in trade w/ NYM 11/15/06
SU Justin Hampson $.403 M Claimed off waivers from Col 10/06
RP Cla Meredith $.415 M Drafted 6th rd 2004
RP Joe Thatcher $.393 M Acquired in trade w/ Mil 7/25/07
RP Chad Reineke $.39 M Acquired in trade w/ Hou 7/22/08
RP Mark Worrell $.39 M Acquired in trade w/ StL 12/4/08
RP Mike Ekstrom $.39 M Signed as amateur FA from Panama 2006

Say hello to: Mark Worrell, Chris Britton, Henry Blanco, David Eckstein, Cliff Floyd

Wave goodbye: Khalil Greene, Josh Bard, Michael Barrett, Shawn Estes, Clay Hensley

Rookies: Matt Antonelli

Non-Roster Invitees to Watch: Mark Prior, Kyle Blanks, Chris Burke, Chris Britton, Emil Brown

Potential breakout: Chase Headley

Welcome to Earth:  Adrian Gonzalez is an excellent player but last season was a career year.

Likely to rebound: Chris Young

Strenghts: Jake Peavy and Chris Young play in a big ballpark with a good defensive outfield.

Weaknesses: There are many but I’ll say shortstop if Luis Rodriguez is playing everyday.

Payroll obligations to former players: none

Optimal batting lineup (position, name, bats, Avg/OBP/Slg, HR, SB, EqA):

RF Giles L .306/.398/.456  12, 2  .318

2B Antonelli R

1B Gonzalez R  .279/.361/.510  36, 0  .311

3B Kouzmanoff R  .260/.299/.433  23, 0  .263

CF Gerut L/Hairston R* .303/.284

LF Headley B  .269/.337/.420  9, 4  .281

SS Eckstein R .265/.343/.349  2, 2,  .260

C Hundley R  .237/.278/.359  5, 0  .236

*I have listed EqA’s for Gerut & Hairston

Prediction: 5th place and the worst record in the NL 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

SeasonPreview: Cincinnati Reds

2008 Record: 74-88  .457

Run differential: -96 (12th)

2008 payroll: $74,117,695

With the 2008 hiring of Dusty Baker, the Reds essentially declared themselves in “win now” mode.  Surprising rookies Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez were thrown into the rotation and proved they are more than capable of becoming fixtures in the rotation with Volquez having Cy Young potential.  Joey Votto finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting and Adam Dunn continued to produce like clockwork. Sadly these great performances did not result in a playoff birth as Bronson Arroyo got off to a slow start, Aaron Harang had a sub par season by his standards, and the team suffered injuries early and often.

Offensively, the hiring of Dusty Baker brings quotes like “I think walks are overrated…if the guy can’t run he’s just clogging up the bases” with accusations of Adam Dunn being lazy and the benching of Joey Votto for not being “aggressive.”  This led to eventual 40 homer and NL leader 122 time base clogging machine Dunn being shipped to Arizona for likely 5th starter Micah Owings. Replacing Dunn is speedster and future NL out leader Willy Taveras. Taveras is just an average defensive player, has zero power, and has failed to get on base more than 30% of the time two out of his last three seasons in Colorado.  This swap coupled with the high injury risk accompanying Cincinnati’s young starters will most likely offset the progress made by the young hitters.  One must wonder if the hiring of Dusty Baker is compromising the futures of the young players and delaying  their ability to win now into the next decade.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Ramon Hernandez $9 M Acquired in trade w/ Bal 12/11/08
C Ryan Hanigan $.39 M Signed as amateur FA 2002
1b Joey Votto $.39 M Drafted 2nd rd 2002
2b Brandon Phillips $4.75 M Acquired in trade w/ Cle 4/06. Resigned 2/15/08
3b Edwin Encarnacion $2 M Drafted 9th rd 2000
SS Alex Gonzalez $5.38 M Signed as FA 11/06
LF Chris Dickerson $.39 M Drafted 15th rd 2001
CF Willy Taveras $2.25 M Signed as FA 12/27/08
RF Jay Bruce $.39 M Drafted #12 overall 2005
Inf Jeff Keppinger $.403 M Acquired in trade w/ KC 1/07
UT Jerry Hairston, Jr $2 M Signed as FA 3/3/08.  Resigned 1/7/09
Of Norris Hopper $.403 M Drafted 8th rd 1998
Of Jonny Gomes   Non-roster Invitee
SP Aaron Harang $11 M Acquired in trade w/ Oak 7/30/03. Resigned 2/07
SP Edinson Volquez $.393 M Acquired in trade w/ Tex 12/21/07
SP Bronson Arroyo $9.5 M Acquired in trade w/ Bos 3/06. Resigned 2/07
SP Johnny Cueto $.39 M Signed as amateur FA from D.R. 2004
SP Micah Owings $.402 M Acquired in trade w/ Ari 9/12/08
Cl Francisco Cordero $12 M Signed as FA 11/28/07
SU Jared Burton $.395 M Selected in '06 Rule V draft
RP Bill Bray $.391 M Drafted #13 overall 2004
RP Arthur Rhodes $2 M Signed as FA 12/12/08
RP David Weathers $3.9 M Signed as a FA 12/04.  Resigned 1/28/09
RP Ramon Ramirez $.39 M Signed as amateur FA from Venezuela
RP Mike Lincoln $1.5 M Signed as FA 2/5/08. Resigned 12/4/08

Say hello to: Arthur Rhodes, Ramon Hernández, Willy Taveras

Wave goodbye: Jeremy Affeldt, David Ross, David Patton, Ryan Freel, Corey Patterson, Javier Valentín

Rookies: Drew Stubbs, Daryl Thompson

Non-Roster Invitees to Watch: Drew Stubbs, Jonny Gomes

Potential breakout: Edwin Encarnación (again), Joey Votto

Welcome to Earth:  Willy Taveras.  He was awful last year and that was in Coors Field.

Likely to rebound: Brandon Phillips

Strenghts: Strong core of young players.  The rotation could be excellent barring injuries.

Weaknesses: Even without Dunn there is power in this lineup but without him there are some frightening low on-base percentages.  Also are very right-handed.

Payroll obligations to former players: Mike Stanton ($.5M), David Ross ($.375 M), Juan Castro ($.1 M)

Optimal batting lineup (position, name, bats, Avg/OBP/Slg, HR, SB, EqA):

LF Dickerson L .304/.413/.608  6, 5  .328

1b Votto L .297/.368/.506  24, 7  .294

2b Phillips R .261/.312/.442  21, 23  .260

RF Bruce L .254/.314/.453  21, 4  .260

3b Encarnación R .251/.340/.466  26, 1  .277

C Hernández R .257/.308/.406  15, 0  .249

SS Gonzalez R* .272/.325/.468  16, 0  .267

CF Taveras R .251/.308/.296  1, 68  .241

*Missed 2008 due to injury.  2007 statistics listed

Prediction: 4th place 

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Season Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

2008 Record: 67-95  .414

Run differential: -149 (15th)

2008 payroll: $50,788,783 

The Pirates hope to avoid making MLB history this season.  If they fail to win half their games they will set the record for most consecutive losing seasons with 17 (current record held by 1933-48 Phillies).  Sadly, it is unlikely they’ll be able to avoid this fate.

That doesn’t mean the future is bleak, however.  Last season ownership finally got rid of David Littlefield, whose tenure is marred with terrible decisions like signing Jack Wilson to a 3 year contract in 2006 and trading for a clearly washed up Matt Morris when the Giants were willing to pay someone to take him off their hands.  New president Frank Coonelly and GM Neal Huntington have already made a splash that appears to have put the Pirates in the beginning phases of future competitiveness.  First, they went head to head with Scott Boras and paid overslot for Pedro Alvarez, the best college player.  Second, Xavier Nady, Jason Bay and Damaso Marte were shipped to New York and Boston in deadline deals that netted Craig Hansen, Brandon Moss, Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, Daniel McCutcheon, Jeff Karstens, Andy LaRoche, and Bryan Morris.  Third and maybe most importantly, they let the kids play.

Yes, LaRoche flopped and Tabata appears to have disciplinary issues but these are the types of risks rebuilding teams need to make.  The Pirates had nothing to lose by making these deals.  Tabata rebounded after the trade and the Pirates are sticking with LaRoche again this season.  In 2011 the Pirates should have a solid core of Andrew McCutcheon, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Jim Negrych.  This is something to get excited about and with the new regime calling the shots it’s not hard to see the Pirates reclaiming their spot as one of MLB’s most accomplished franchises in a few years.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Ryan Doumit $2.05 M Drafted 2nd rd 1999.  Signed extension 12/08
C Jason Jaramillo $.391 M Acquired in trade w/ Phi 12/10/08
1b Adam LaRoche $7.05 M Acquired in trade w/ Atl 1/07.
2b Freddy Sanchez $6.1 M Acquired in trade w/ Bos 7/31/03.
3b Andy LaRoche $.395 M Acquired in trade w/ LA 7/31/08.
SS Jack Wilson $7.52 M Acquired in trade w/ StL 7/00. Signed extension 2/06
LF Nyjer Morgan $.391 M Drafted 33rd rd 2002
CF Nate McLouth $2 M Drafted 25th rd 2000. Signed extension 2/09
RF Brandon Moss $.391 M Acquired in trade w/ Bos 7/31/08
Inf Ramon Vazquez $1.75 M Signed as FA 12/12/08
Inf Brian Bixler $.391 M Drafted 2nd rd 2004
Of/1b Steve Pearce $.391 M Drafted 8th rd 2005
Of Eric Hinske $1.5 M Signed as FA 1/30/09
SP Paul Maholm $3.5 M Drafted #8 overall 2003.  Signed extension 1/09
SP Ian Snell $3 M Drafted 26th rd 2000.  Signed extension 3/08
SP Tom Gorzelanny $.42 M Drafted 2nd rd 2003
SP Zach Duke $2.2 M Drafted 20th rd 2001. 
SP Ross Ohlendorf $.391 M Acquired in trade w/ NYY 7/25/08
Cl Matt Capps $3.05 M Drafted 7th rd 2002. Signed extension 4/08
SU Jason Grabow $2.3 M Drafted 3rd rd 1997.
RP Sean Burnett $.391 M Drafted #19 overall 2000
RP Tyler Yates $1.3 M Acquired in trade w/ Atl 3/08. 
RP Craig Hansen $.7 M Acquired in trade w/ Bos 7/31/08
RP Evan Meek $.391 M Selected in '07 Rule V draft.
RP Donald Veal $.391 M Selected in '08 Rule V Draft

Say hello to: Ramon Vazquez, Jason Jaramillo, Eric Hinske

Wave goodbye: Jason Michaels, Ronny Paulino

Rookies: Andrew McCutcheon, Donald Veal

Non-roster Invites to watch:  Andrew McCutcheon, Craig Monroe, Denny Bautista

Potential breakout: Andy LaRoche.  He’s not really this bad, is he?

Welcome to Earth: Matt Capps.  Last year was one of the best relievers.  Expect some regression.

Likely to rebound: Tom Gorzelanny

Strenghts: I think the rotation rebounds to become above average.

Weaknesses: The offense stinks.

Payroll obligations to former players: Matt Morris ($1M)

Optimal batting lineup:

LF Morgan L  .294/.345/.375  0, 9  .268

3b LaRoche R  .152/.227/.232  3, 2  .160

CF McLouth L   .276/.356/.497  26, 23  .303

C Doumit B  .318/.357/.501  15, 2  .300

1b LaRoche L .270/.341/.500  25, 1  .294

RF Moss L/Pearce R*  .253/.258

2B Sanchez R  .271/.298/.371  9, 0  .241

SS Wilsons R .271/.312/.348 1, 2,  .237 

*I  have listed Moss & Pearce’s EqA’s from last season

Prediction: 5th place NL Central and another losing record.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Season Preview: Colorado Rockies

2008 Record: 74-88  .549

Run differential: -75 (11th)

2008 payroll: $68,655,500 

The Rockies of 2007 made an historic run to the playoffs and to the World Series that many thought would carry over to 2008.  Unfortunately, last season the team was mired with injuries to key players like Todd Helton (83 games) and Jeff Francis (24 starts) and had underwhelming performances from key contributors Troy Tulowitzki (.732 OPS, 101 G) and Willy Taveras (.241 EqA).  Realizing that the team has young parts, which can be built around, and a star whose impending free agency would likely cause him to leave Colorado, GM Dan O’Dowd traded Matt Holliday to Oakland for RP Huston Street, SP Greg Smith, and top outfield prospect Carlos Gonzalez.   Knowing that #1 starter Jeff Francis is likely out for the year after shoulder surgery, Street and Garret Atkins are likely trade candidates in an attempt to complete the rebuilding effort.  Starting center fielder Willy Taveras was also not tendered a contract in order to let blooming rookie Dexter Fowler get his shot. 

If pitching and strong defense up the middle is the direction O’Dowd is deciding to take (a strong bullpen and good defense were key components of their early 90s teams but were overshadowed by the Blake Street Bombers) then he needs to stick to it.  Changing gears every two years will not allow this franchise to achieve continuous success.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Chris Ianetta $.396 M Drafted 4th rd 2004
C Yorvit Torrealba $3.5 M Acquired in trade w/ Sea 12/7/05.  Resigned 11/29/07
1b Todd Helton $16.6 M Drafted 1995 #8 overall.  Signed extension 3/99
2b Clint Barmes $1.63 M Drafted 10th rd 2000.
3b Garrett Atkins $7.05 M Drafted 5th rd 2000. 
SS Troy Tulowitzki $.75 M Drafted #7 overall 2005
LF Seth Smith $.390 M Drafted 2nd rd 2004
CF Dexter Fowler $.390 M Drafted 14th rd 2004
RF Brad Hawpe $5.5 M Drafted 11th rd 2000.  Signed extension 3/4/08
Inf Ian Stewart $.390 M Drafted #10 overall 2003
UT Jeff Baker $.403 M Drafted 4th rd 2002
Of Ryan Spilborghs $.397 M Drafted 7th rd 2002.  Resigned 12/21/05
Of Matt Murton $.415 M Acquired in trade w/ Oak 11/12/08
SP Ubaldo Jimenez $.75 M Signed as amateur FA from D.R. 2001
SP Aaron Cook $8.75 M Drafted 2nd rd 1997.  Signed extension 12/11/07
SP Jason Marquis $9.875 M Acquired in trade w/ Cubs 1/6/09
SP Franklin Morales $.391 M Signed as amateur FA from D.R. 2002
SP Jorge de la Rosa $2 M Acquired in trade w/ KC 4/30/08. 
Cl Manny Corpas $.75 M Signed as amateur FA from Panama 1999
SU Huston Street $4.5 M Acquired in trade w/ Oak 11/12/08
RP Alan Embree $2 M Signed as FA 12/11/08
RP Taylor Buchholz $1.06 M Drafted 6th rd 2000
RP Steven Register $.390 M Drafted 3rd rd 2004.
RP Greg Smith $.390 M Acquired in trade w/ Oak 11/12/08
RP Jason Grilli $.8 M Acquired in trade w/ Detroit 4/30/08

Say hello to: Huston Street, Greg Smith, Jason Marquis, Alan Embree, Carlos Gonzalez

Wave goodbye: Jayson Nix, Matt Holliday, Willy Taveras, Luis Vizcaino

Rookies: Dexter Fowler

Non Roster Invites to watch: Josh Fogg, Glendon Rusch, Scott Podsednik

Potential breakout: Ubaldo Jimenez, Seth Smith

Welcome to Earth: Ian Stewart, Aaron Cook.  While Cook's GB rate is likely to remain about the same, his batting average of balls in play (BABIP) is likely to rise even with a good defense behind him.

Likely to rebound: Troy Tulowitzki

Strenghts: Defense up the middle. Fowler and Tulo are excellent defensive players.

Weaknesses: Where will the offense come from once Todd Helton serves his inevitable DL stint?  With the loss of Holliday, there's also not much power in the lineup.

Payroll obligations to former players: none

Optimal batting lineup:

CF Fowler B 

SS Tulowitzki R .263/.332/.401 8, 1  .249

1b Helton L  .264/.391/.388  7, 0   .274

C Ianetta R .264/.390/.505 18,0  .302

RF Hawpe L .283/.381/.498  25, 2  .295

3b Atkins R  .286/.328/.452  21, 1 .266

LF Smith L .259.350/.435  4, 1  .270

2b Barmes R .290/.322/.468 11, 13  .269

Prediction: 4th place NL West

*This post has been edited after learning Jeff Francis is likely to miss the entire 2009 season

Monday, February 16, 2009

Das ist nicht gut

After Norway’s surprising 1-0 friendly upset of Germany last week I decided to wait a few days to see what the fallout would be within the Deutcher Fussball-Bund (DFB) before blogging on the match. So far Germany’s head coach Joachim Low has not been sacked and remains head coach of the Mannschaft. Prior to the Norwegians first victory over Germany since 1936, turmoil had been surfacing within the German media about some of the veterans (Michael Ballack & Torsten Frings)calling out the job performance and game strategy of coach Low and whether their talents were being properly utilized on the pitch. The drama led to Frings’ benching and eventual public apology over calling out the skipper. Since Low’s takeover of the National Team duties after Jurgen Klinsmann’s resignation following the 2006 World Cup, the national mood towards Low’s stewardship has been relatively positive. Klinsmann had instituted a more offensively aggressive strategy within German football that led to the surprising 3rd place finish in the ’06 World Cup and Low continued the German resurgence into the football elite with it culminating in a runner-up finish at Euro 2008.
Low being an assistant under Klinsmann has continued to support an attacking style of football, yet the scoring from the Mannschaft in recent fixtures has been met with spotty goal scoring and weakened defense, with defense being the calling card of German soccer. Low’s initial response to the embarrassing loss to Norway has been to call out his 24 year old goalie (Rene Adler) and asking for his young net-minder to discover the greatness of German goalies of yesteryear like Jens Lehmann and Oliver Kahn.
Whether it’s the anemic offense, leaky defense, or inexperience in goal, the German National Team has lost its way as it heads into the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The Germans still remain one of the younger international squads and will be a top favorite to take the World Championships, but a proper showings must occur in their upcoming qualifiers this spring. The next two qualifying matches will be against Liechtenstein and Wales. If Low has censored the possible mutiny within his camp by the time these games commence, the Mannschaft should steamroll the competition. If he has lost his player’s confidence, the DFB will be forced to make a coaching change or face the consequences of losing their great chance at capturing ultimate glory in 2010.

Season Preview: New York Mets

2008 Record: 89-73  .549

Run differential: +84 (3rd)

2008 payroll: $138,293,378 

Last season the Mets were determined to put their epic collapse of 2006 behind them.  But it took them a little while to find their groove as they struggled to a 40-42 after the first three months.  But the Mets rebounded by going 18-8 in July.  They even went 11-7 vs the Phillies.  Unfortunately for Met fans going 13-12 in September and losing on the season’s final day allowed the Phillies to win the division and Milwaukee to squeak past them for the Wild Card.

Much scrutiny lay upon their bullpen’s inability to hold leads down the stretch so once the offseason began GM Omar Minaya decided do a complete overhaul it up by signing KRod and trading for JJ Putz and groundball machine Sean Green.  What Met fans should really be concerned about is the rest of the lineup.  Yes, the Mets finished 2nd in the NL in runs scored last year but a team with David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado should have a GREAT offense not a good one.  That speaks volumes for the lack of production the team gets from C, 2b, LF, and RF.  Considering the Mets did nothing to address these issues, fans shouldn’t be expecting this team to be much better than last season. 

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Brian Schneider $4.9 M Acquired in trade w/ Was 11/30/07
C Ramon Castro $2.5 M Signed as FA 12/04. Resigned 11/16/2007
1b Carlos Delgado $12 M Acquired in trade w/ Fla 11/05. NYM picked up ‘09 option 10/08
2b Luis Castillo $6 M Acquired in trade w/ Min 7/30/07.  Resigned 11/19/2007
3b David Wright $7.5 M Drafted 2001 #38 overall.
SS José Reyes $5.75 M Signed as amateur FA 2000 from D.R.
LF Danny Murphy $.390 M Drafted 3rd rd 2006
CF Carlos Beltran $18.5 M Signed as FA 1/2005
RF Ryan Church $2.8 M Acquired in trade w/ Was 11/30/07
2b/of Marlon Anderson $2.2 M Acquired in trade w/ Was 8/06. Resigned 11/6/07
Inf Alex Cora $2.0 M Signed as FA 1/22/09
Of Jeremy Reed $.925 M Acquired in trade w/ Sea 12/10/08
Of Fernando Tatís $1.7 M Signed as FA 1/8/08. Resigned 10/30/08
SP Johan Santana $20 M Acquired in trade w/ Min 2/2/08
SP John Maine $2.6 M Drafted 6th rd 2002
SP Oliver Perez $12 M Acquired in trade w/ Pit 7/31/06. Resigned 2/2/09
SP Mike Pelfrey $5.25 M Drafted 2005 #9 overall
SP Tim Redding $2.25 M Signed as FA 1/9/09
Cl Francisco Rodríguez $11.5 M Signed as FA 12/9/08
Setup JJ Putz $5.0 M Acquired in trade w/ Sea 12/10/08
RP Pedrio Feliciano $1.61 M Signed as FA from Japan 12/05
RP Sean Green $.405 M Acquired in trade w/ Sea 12/10/08
RP Duaner Sanchez $1.69 M Acquired in trade w/ LA 1/4/06
RP Jonathon Niese $.390 M Drafted 7th rd 2005
RP Darren O’Day $.390 M Selected in Rule V draft 12/11/08

Say hello to: Francisco Rodriguez, JJ Putz, Sean Green, Connor Robertson, Jeremy Reed, Tim Redding, Alex Cora

Wave goodbye: Scott Schoenweis, Joe Smith, Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez, Jason Vargas, Pedro Martinez, Moises Alou

Rookies: Jonathon Niese, Danny Murphy

Potential breakout: Sean Green

Welcome to Earth: Fernando Tatis.  While I think he's a solid platoon player, don't expect a .299 EqA again

Non Roster Invitees to watch:  Livan Hernandez, Freddy Garcia, Tony Armas, Bobby Kielty, José Valentín

Strenghts: Defense up the middle. Three of the best young players in the NL

Weaknesses: Not a lot of offense at C, 2b, LF.  Ryan Church is a platoon player playing everyday.

Improvements: Bullpen!

Payroll obligations to former players: Scott Schoenweis ($1.6M)

Optimal batting lineup (position, name, bats, Avg/OBP/SLG, HR, SB, EqA)

SS Reyes B   .297/.358/.475  16, 56  .294

CF Beltran B  .284/.376/.500  27, 25, .307

3B Wright R  .302/.390/.534  33, 15, .320

1B Delgado L  .271/.353/.518  38, 1, .296

RF Church L  .276/.346/.439  12, 2, .274

LF Tatis/Murphy* R/L  .297/.369/.484  11, 3, .299

2B Castillo B  .245/.355/.305  3, 17, .257

C  Schneider R  .257/.339/.367  9, 0, .252

*Tatis stats only

Prediction: 1st place NL East