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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Season Preview: Arizona Diambondbacks

2008 Record: 82-80  .506

Run differential: +14 (7th)

2008 payroll: $66,202,712

On May 1st Arizona was 20-8 and had outscored its opponents by 56 runs.  Justin Upton looked like the next Ken Griffey Jr. and the trade for Dan Haren solidified a rotation that appeared to be the best in the league.  Shortly thereafter the offense went to sleep.  Chris Young only managed to hit .248, Eric Byrnes severely injured both hamstrings to the point where his future may be in question, and Chad Tracy had another disappointing season.  The bullpen wasn’t without blame either.  A year after having a fantastic season that caused many to include him among the league’s best relievers, Tony Pena put up numbers more along his career line (4.33 ERA, 80 hits in 72 IP).  Adam Dunn was acquired in a trade late in the season to try and resurrect a struggling lineup and Conor Jackson was shifted to left field in an effort to replace Byrnes.  These moves were made much too late, because in the end, Arizona missed out on the playoffs by just two games.

Now, Arizona did not make many moves this past offseason but there are still several reasons to like this club.  First is that the improvements of Stephen Drew and Justin Upton are for real. Upton is just 21 meaning the sky is the limit and Drew will probably make the All-Star team.  Although Chris Young’s batting average tanked last year his walk rate improved.  Replacing the departed Orlando Hudson, Felipe Lopez should at least be able to play 150 games giving the lineup additional stability.  If Eric Byrnes is able to play most of the season I think there will be a real offensive explosion in the desert.  Also, Max Scherzer and Jon Garland join a rotation, which is arguably already the league’s best with Webb, Haren, and innings eater Doug Davis.  Arizona is the rare case where just sitting back and letting the kids grow older represents a  greater gain than any free agent move.  Since the Dodger’s did little to improve this offseason, expect a dogfight for the division crown.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Chris Snyder $3 M Drafted 2nd rd 2002
C Miguel Montero $.401M Signed as amateur FA from Venezuela 2001
1b Conor Jackson $3.05 M Drafted #19 overall 2003
2b Felipe Lopez $3.5 M Signed as FA 12/12/08
3b Mark Reynolds $.397M Drafted 16th rd 2004
SS Stephen Drew $1.5 M Drafted #15 overall 2004
LF Eric Byrnes $11 M Signed as FA 12/27/05
CF Chris Young $1.75 M Acquired in trade w/ ChA 12/05
RF Justin Upton $.393M Drafted #1 overall 2005
Inf Chad Tracy $4.75 M Drafted 7th rd 2001
Inf Tony Clark $.8M Acquired in trade w/ SD 7/08. Resigned 2/09
Inf Augie Ojeda $.712M Signed as FA 12/07
Of Alex Romero $.39 M Signed as amateur FA from Venezuela 2002
SP Brandon Webb $6.5 M Drafted 8th rd 2000. Signed extension 1/06
SP Dan Haren $5.5 M Acquired in trade w/ Oak 12/07. Signed extension 8/5/08
SP Doug Davis $8.75 M Acquired in trade w/ Mil 11/25/06
SP Jon Garland $6.25 M Signed as FA 1/29/09
SP Max Scherzer $1 M Drafted #11 overall 2006
Cl Chad Qualls $2.53M Acquired in trade w/ Hou 12/07
SU Jon Rauch $2 M Acquired in trade w/ Was 7/22/08
RP Tom Gordon $.5 M Signed as FA 2/6/09
RP Scott Schoenweis $3.6 M Acquired in trade w/ NYM 12/12/08
RP Tony Pena $.43 M Signed as amateur FA from D.R. 2002
RP Yusmiero Petit $.412M Acquired in trade w/ Fla 3/07
RP Travis Blackley $.405M Signed as FA 12/19/08

Payroll obligations to former players: none

Say hello to: Scott Schoenweis, Felipe Lopez, Jon Garland, Tom Gordon

Wave goodbye: Connor Robertson, Randy Johnson, Orlando Hudson, Brandon Lyon, Adam Dunn, David Eckstein, Juan Cruz

Rookies: none

Non-Roster Invitees to Watch: Gerardo Parra

Potential breakout: Justin Upton, Stephen Drew

Welcome to Earth: I see no one on this team that is likely to decline.  Maybe a bullpen guy?

Likely to rebound: Chris Young

Strengths: The best 1-2 punch of any rotation in the NL.

Weaknesses: Strikeouts. Reynolds whiffed 200 times last year and Young, Byrnes, Upton, and the combined at-bat total for the catchers are all a threat to swing and miss 150+ times.

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

CF Young R  .248/.315/.443  22, 14  .258

SS Drew L  .291/.333/.502  21, 3  .277

1B Jackson R  .300/.376/.446  12, 10  .285

RF Upton R  .250/.353/.463  15, 1  .272

3B Reynolds R  .239/.320/.458  28, 11  .266

LF Byrnes R  .209/.272/.369  6, 4  .219

C Snyder R/Montero L  .272/.260

2B Lopez R  .283/.343/.387  6, 8

Prediction: 1st place NL West. Lose in NLCS.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Season Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

2008 Record: 90-72  .556

Run differential: +61 (4th)

2008 payroll: $80,937,499

Last season the Brewers made the playoffs for the first time since they went to the World Series in 1982.  The lineup was a testament to what a good minor league system can do.  Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, JJ Hardy, and Bill Hall were offensive centerpieces that were all drafted and developed through their minor leagues.  Even CC Sabathia, who picked up the Brewers and carried them all the way to the finish, was acquired by trading one of their top minor league talents.  Sabathia’s performance is one that will be remembered for the ages as he went 9-0 in his first 11 starts and made his last three starts on three days rest.  Ben Sheets finally was healthy enough to pitch in as he had his best season since 2004.  Despite the manager merry-go-round in the final month, the Brew Crew took the Wild Card.  Meeting the Phillies in the first round spelled doom though but the team’s overall performance brought optimism that Sabathia could be resigned and the team could try again.

Needless to say the offseason did not go well.  Sabathia left for the Bronx and Ben Sheets’ arm injury was more severe than originally thought so he is still unsigned.  This prevented Milwaukee from getting any first round compensation (Mark Teixeira was declared a higher ranking free agent by the Elias compensation system).  Furthermore, closer Salomon Torres retired.  Now Milwaukee will have to rebuild the rotation and bullpen in order to get back to the playoffs.  They should be able to count on big seasons from Braun and Fielder and this could finally be the year Weeks breaks out.  No more horrible bullpen moves will plague this team (although a horrible bullpen may) with Ken Macha, whose teams have never won fewer than 88 games, now at the helm.  Even so the Cubs appear to be just too good.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Jason Kendall $4.25 M Signed as FA 11/07
C Mike Rivera $.395M Contract purchased from Ind Lg 5/05
1b Prince Fielder $6.5 M Drafted #7 overall 2002
2b Rickie Weeks $2.45 M Drafted #2 overall 2003
3b Bill Hall $6.8 M Drafted 6th rd 1998
SS JJ Hardy $4.65 M Drafted 2nd rd 2001
LF Ryan Braun $.745M Drafted #5 overall 2005
CF Mike Cameron $10 M Signed as FA 1/11/08
RF Corey Hart $3.25 M Drafted 11th rd 2000
Inf Mike Lamb $.4 M Signed as FA 9/08. Resigned 12/9/08
Inf Craig Counsell $3.4 M Signed as FA 11/06. Resigned 1/09
Of Brad Nelson $.39M Drafted 4th rd 2001
Of Tony Gwynn, Jr $.4 M Drafted 2nd rd 2003
SP Yovani Gallardo $.404M Drafted 2nd rd 2004
SP Jeff Suppan $12.5 M Signed as FA 12/06
SP Manny Parra $.39M Drafted 26th rd 2001
SP Braden Looper $4.75 M Signed as FA 2/13/09
SP David Bush $4 M Acquired in trade w/ Tor 12/7/05
Cl Trevor Hoffman $6 M Signed as FA 1/8/09
SU Mitch Stetter $.39M Drafted 16th rd 2003
RP David Riske $4.25 M Signed as FA 12/5/07
RP Jorge Julio $.95 M Signed as FA 12/4/08
RP Seth McClung $1.67M Acquired in trade w/ TB 7/28/07
RP Todd Coffey $.8 M Claimed off waivers 9/08. Resigned 12/9/08
RP Carlos Villanueva $.413M Signed as FA from D.R. 2002

Payroll obligations to former players: none

Say hello to: Jorge Julio, RJ Swindle, Braden Looper, Chase Wright, Trevor Hoffman

Wave goodbye: Russell Branyan, CC Sabathia, Joe Dillon, Salomon Torres, Eric Gagne, Brian Shouse, Ben Sheets, Ray Durham, Guillermo Mota

Rookies: Alcides Escobar, Matt Gamel

Non-Roster Invitees to Watch: Trot Nixon, Chris Capuano, Chris Duffy

Potential breakout: Rickie Weeks

Welcome to Earth: Jason Kendall, Jeff Suppan

Likely to rebound: Corey Hart

Strengths: Power.  Braun and Fielder could each hit 40 homers and Weeks, Hart, Hardy, Hall, and Cameron could all hit 20.

Weaknesses: Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder might be the worst defensive players at their respective positions.  Trevor Hoffman should not be closing games.

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

RF Hart R  .268/.300/.459  20, 23  .264

SS Hardy R  .284/.345/.491  24, 2  .283

1B Fielder L  .276/.372/.507  34, 3  .300

LF Braun R  .285/.335/.553  37, 14  .298

CF Cameron R  .243/.331/.477  25, 17  .282

2B Weeks R  .234/.342/.398  14, 19  .268

3B Hall R/Lamb L  .239/.214

C Kendall R  .246/.327/.324  2, 8  .237

Prediction: 2nd place NL Central


Wednesday Widgets

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Big Ten Basketball Renaissance

The Big Ten is in the midst of a renaissance. With a deluge of elite coaches manning the ranks of the conference, the future is extremely bright for this old Midwestern college fraternity. With seasoned floor generals like Tubby Smith, Bo Ryan and Tom Izzo mixing with young proteges like Matt Painter and Tom Crean, each university is employing an elite basketball mind amongst its sidelines. With Thad Matta’s Buckeyes, Bruce Webber’s Illini, and Tom Crean’s Hoosiers all bringing in top ten recruiting classes next year, anything is possible for the conference with no real weak-links. Even annual doormats Northwestern and Penn State are showing signs of building competitive programs. No longer will the ACC be considered top dog for the next five years. No longer can Dick Vitale fawn over the mighty Blue Devil and Tar Heel basketball programs. And no longer can the Big 10 be associated with sluggish defensively focused basketball styles.
With all of this improved basketball on the pipeline, one wonders which teams will rise and fall? Next year Purdue will sport its best team since their ’94 Glenn Robinson Elite Eight team. The Boilermakers arch-rival; the infraction laden Indiana Hoosiers are beginning to rise from the ashes of NCAA sanctions by obtaining a highly rated recruiting class. Will both Indiana teams be able to share the throne of basketball power in Indiana? Same can be said for the three-headed monster of Michigan State, Michigan, and Ohio State. With each college fighting over recruits in the same fertile prep grounds of Michigan and Ohio; which school will see a decline in success? Tubby Smith’s arrival in Minneapolis has also spelled possible doom for Bo Ryan’s Badgers and their recent Big 10 success. Iowa’s hire of Todd Lickliter will also limit the effectiveness of the Ryan style of play and the many winning seasons it produced in Madison. Every team within this conference seems to have a shot at a special season within this upcoming decade. So sit back and enjoy the reemergence of one of the finest basketball conferences in the country.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Season Preview: LA Dodgers

2008 Record: 84-78  .519

Run differential: +52 (6th)

2008 payroll: $118,588,536

Last season’s Dodger squad was one marred with injuries and disappointment.  Rafael Furcal, Brad Penny, Nomar, Jason Schmidt, and Andruw Jones all failed to live up to expectations and missed substantial playing time.  This necessitated the Dodgers to make some bold moves to strengthen their roster during the stretch run.  Acquisitions of ManRam, Casey Blake, and Greg Maddux helped give them to the division crown for the first time since 2004.  Strong pitching allowed them to sweep past the Cubs and move to the NLCS where they lost to the eventual champion Phillies.

This season’s squad is unlikely to have the same injury luck but if lightning strikes twice it is doubtful there is enough depth to keep the team on top.  Brad Penny and Derek Lowe are both gone from last season’s rotation.  Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald are both ready to step in but there is reason to expect they’ll tire with the number of innings they will be needed to pitch.  The oft-injured Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf are also expected to be contributors.  If these three things work out then the Dodgers may be the best team in the league but it’s most likely only one will.

Offensively the Dodgers are set.  The lineup is a blend of power and speed and is evenly balanced with left and right-handed hitters meaning runs will come in bunches.  James Loney, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Rafael Furcal are good bets to improve on last season’s performance and though Manny won’t hit .396 again, having him in the cleanup spot for a full season will pay huge dividends.

This is a Dodger team that has championship expectations and rightly so, but if the rotation has issues it could be a rough summer in Dodgerland.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Russell Martin $3.9 M Drafted 17th rd 2002
C Brad Ausmus $1 M Signed as FA 1/26/09
1b James Loney $.411 M Drafted #19 overall 2002
2b Orlando Hudson $3.38 M Signed as FA 2/20/09
3b Casey Blake $5 M Acquired in trade w/ Cle 7/08. Resigned 12/08
SS Rafael Furcal $6.5 M Signed as FA 12/05. Resigned 12/08
LF Manny Ramirez $25 M Acquired in trade w/ Bos 7/31/08. Resigned 3/09
CF Matt Kemp $.406M Drafted 6th rd 2003
RF Andre Ethier $3.1 M Acquired in trade w/ Oak
Inf Mark Loretta $1.25 M Signed as FA 12/10/08
Inf Blake DeWitt $.39 M Drafted #28 overall 2004
Of Juan Pierre $10 M Signed as FA 11/06
Of Delwyn Young $.39 M Drafted 4th rd 2002
SP Chad Billingsley $.5 M Drafted #24 overall 2003
SP Hiroki Kuroda $10 M Signed as FA from Japan 12/07
SP Clayton Kershaw $.39 M Drafted #7 overall 2006
SP Randy Wolf $5 M Signed as FA 2/6/09
SP Jason Schmidt $12 M Signed as FA 12/06
Cl Jonathan Broxton $1.83 M Drafted 6th rd 2002
SU Hong-Chih Kuo $.392M Signed as amateur FA 1999
RP Cory Wade $.39 M Drafted 10th rd 2004
RP Claudio Vargas $.4 M Signed as FA 12/31/08
RP Greg Miller $.39 M Drafted #31 overall 2002
RP Eric Stults $.39 M Drafted 15th rd 2002
RP Guillermo Mota $2.35 M Acquired in trade 11/07. Resigned 1/14/09

Payroll obligations to former players: Andruw Jones, Esteban Loaiza

Say hello to: Mark Loretta, Orlando Hudson, Randy Wolf, Brad Ausmus, Claudio Vargas

Wave goodbye: Greg Maddux, Scott Proctor, Nomar Garciaparra, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Derek Lowe, Chan Ho Park, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, Joe Beimel

Rookies: James McDonald

Non-Roster Invitees to Watch: Shawn Estes, Yhenzy Brazoban, Eric Milton, Ivan DeJesus, Doug Mientkiewicz

Potential breakout: Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw

Welcome to Earth: Hiroki Kuroda

Likely to rebound: Rafael Furcal missed most of last season due to injury.  He is apparently healthy this season.

Strengths: Infield defense.  Strong, balanced offense

Weaknesses: No depth in the rotation.  Jason Schmidt, who did not pitch last season and only threw 25 innings in 2007, is penciled in as the #4 starter

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

SS Furcal B  .357/.439/.573  5, 8  .347

C Martin R  .280/.385/.396  13, 18  .288

RF Ethier L  .305/.375/.510  20, 6  .310

LF Ramirez R  .332/.430/.601  37, 3

1B Loney L  .289/.338/.434  13, 7  .274

CF Kemp R  .290/.340/.459  18, 35  .282

2B Hudson B  .305/.367/.450  8, 4  .281

3B Blake R .274/.345/.463  21, 3

Prediction: 2nd place NL West


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Season Preview: Chicago Cubs

2008 Record: 97-64  .602

Run differential: +184 (1st)

2008 payroll: $118,345,833

Last season the Cubs had the best record in the NL and the best run differential in the majors on their way to breezing to the NL Central crown.  But their Cubbieness came out of hiding in October as the Dodgers sent them home by sweeping them in the first round of the playoffs.  As disappointing an ending like that is, the Cubs should be confident going into the 2009 season.

There were several changes made to the roster during the offseason.  Kerry Wood was let go in free agency so the younger and more talented Carlos Marmol close games, Jason Marquis was sent packing to Colorado, and Mark DeRosa was traded to Cleveland for some middling minor league pitchers.  These moves allowed the Cubs to sign right fielder Milton Bradley who immediately brings a new intensity to the team.  DeRosa’s positional flexibility will be missed but he had what is most likely to be his career season offensively last year.  Health issues have always been a problem for Bradley but hitting has not.  Aaron Heilman, Luis Vizcaino and Kevin Gregg were acquired in separate deals to provide a link from one of the National League’s best starting staffs to Marmol.

The new lineup really isn’t much different than last seasons.  Disappointing free agent Kosuke Fukudome will be moved to center where he will platoon with Reed Johnson.  While neither of these guys should be expected to excel defensively, this platoon should maximize their offensive strengths as they replace Jim Edmonds’s torrid half season in Wrigley.  The expected Mike Fontenot and Aaron Miles platoon at second base should allow the Cubs to get the most offense out of this position of any team in the division. 

If the Cubs can get 140 innings out of Rich Harden--and that is definitely a big if--this team should have no problem retaining their crown as division champs.  And as we see each year, once you make the playoffs anything can happen.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Geovany Soto $.401M Drafted 11th rd 2001
C Paul Bako $.725M Signed as FA 1/30/09
1b Derrek Lee $13 M Acquired in trade w/ Fla 11/03. Resigned 4/06
2b Mike Fontenot $.405M Drafted 21st rd 1999
3b Aramis Ramirez $15.65 M Acquired in trade w/ Pit 7/03. Resigned 11/06
SS Ryan Theriot $.5 M Drafted 3rd rd 2001
LF Alfonso Soriano $13 M Signed as FA 11/06
CF Reed Johnson $3 M Signed as FA 3/25/08
RF Milton Bradley $5 M Signed as FA 1/6/09
Inf Aaron Miles $2.2 M Signed as FA 12/31/08
Of Kosuke Fukudome $11.5 M Signed as FA from Japan 12/07
Of Joey Gathright $.8 M Signed as FA 12/16/08
UT Micah Hoffpauir $.39 M Drafted 13th rd 2002
SP Carlos Zambrano $17.75 M Signed as FA 1/15/09
SP Ryan Dempster $8 M Signed as FA 1/21/04. Resigned 11/08
SP Ted Lilly $12 M Signed as FA 12/06
SP Rich Harden $7 M Acquired in trade w/ Oak 7/8/08
SP Sean Marshall $.327M Drafted 6th rd 2003
Cl Carlos Marmol $.575M Signed as amateur FA from D.R. 1999
SU Kevin Gregg $4.2 M Acquired in trade w/ Fla 11/13/08
RP Luis Vizcaino $3.5 M Acquired in trade w/ Col 1/6/09
RP Chad Gaudin $2 M Acquired in trade w/ Oak 7/8/08
RP Aaron Heilman $1.63 M Acquired in trade w/ Sea 1/20/09
RP Neal Cotts $1.1 M Acquired in trade w/ ChA 11/06.
RP Angel Guzman $.401M Signed as amateur FA from Venezuela 1999

Payroll obligations to former players: Jason Marquis

Say hello to: Kevin Gregg, Joey Gathright, Aaron Miles, Luis Vizcaino, Milton Bradley, Paul Bako, Aaron Heilman

Wave goodbye: Kerry Wood, Bobby Howry, Mark DeRosa, Jason Marquis, Jim Edmonds

Rookies: Jeff Samardzija

Non-Roster Invitees to Watch: Corey Koskie, So Taguchi, Mike Stanton, Chad Fox

Potential breakout: Micah Hoffpauir

Welcome to Earth: I don’t see Milton Bradley playing 140 games again

Likely to rebound: Kosuke? I’m not sure anyone will really have a better season but if I had to pick someone I’d pick Fukudome.

Strengths: The Cubs have one of the league’s top offenses and rotations to go with an intelligent manager.

Weaknesses: Several guys with injury issues and very few left handed hitters.

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

SS Theriot R  .307/.387/.359  1, 22  .267

LF Soriano R  .280/.344/.532  29, 19  .291

RF Bradley B .321/.436/.563  22, 5  .337

3B Ramirez R  .289/.380/.518  27, 2 .300

C  Soto R  .285/.364/.504  23, 0  .291

1B Lee R .291/.361/.462  20, 8  .282

2B Fontenot L/Miles B  .305/270

CF Johnson R/Fukudome L  .270/.263

Prediction: 1st place. NL Champs 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Season Preview: Atlanta Braves

2008 Record: 72-90  .444

Run differential: -25 (9th)

2008 payroll: $102,365,683

The 2007 offseason saw Atlanta make a couple of moves which they thought would put the finishing touches on a team expected to contend and back into the playoffs.  Edgár Rentería was traded to Detroit for a couple of prospects including Jair Jurrjens, Tom Glavine was signed, and Omar Infante was acquired from the Cubs.  In the end injuries, the league’s worst outfield, and a historically awful record in one run games doomed the Braves.

While the Braves cried, “Pity me!” the rest of the league had good reason to laugh.  Yes, the amount of injuries showed bad luck but the real problem was in the plan itself.  One cannot go into a season counting on getting significant contributions from two 40+-year-old pitchers and Mr. Glass.  The key contributors in the bullpen were also associated with injuries.  Offensive superstar Mark Teiexeira’s career performance in the first half is best reflected in the number of All-Star teams he’s made (1).  Adding insult to injury was free-swinging Jeff Francouer having the worst season by a Braves outfielder EVER.

After trading for Vazquez, the 2008 offeseason headed on a downward spiral as high profile free agents Burnett, Rafael Furcal, and Griffey Jr all spurned the Braves for other deals.  Frank Wren rallied to sign a few guys, most notably Derek Lowe, in a desperate attempt to renew the faith of the fans.  Instead of signing free agents Atlanta needs to remember how they got to the playoffs to begin with: a core built and developed via a strong farm system.  Atlanta has the prospects in place for their next run.  As it is though, the Braves appear on the cusp of contention this season but if they fail it will just be a big waste of money.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Brian McCann $3.5 M Drafted 2nd rd 2002. Signed extension 3/07
C David Ross $1.4 M Signed as FA 12/5/08
1b Casey Kotchman $2.89 M Acquired in trade w/ LAA 7/29/08
2b Kelly Johnson $2.83 M Drafted #38 overall 2000.
3b Chipper Jones $10 M Drafted #1 overall 1990. Signed extension 11/05
SS Yunel Escobar $.403M Drafted 2nd rd 2005
LF Garret Anderson $2.5 M Signed as FA 2/22/09
CF Gregor Blanco $.39 M Signed as amateur FA from Venezuela 2000
RF Jeff Francoeur $3.38M Drafted #23 overall 2002.
Inf Martin Prado $.39 M Signed as amateur FA from Venezuela 2001
Of Matt Diaz $1.24 M Acquired in trade w/ KC 12/05
UT Omar Infante $1.85M Acquired in trade w/ ChN 12/4/07
UT Greg Norton $.8 M Acquired in trade w/ Sea 5/08. Resigned 12/08
SP Derek Lowe $15 M Signed as FA 1/15/09
SP Javier Vazquez $11.5 M Acquired in trade w/ ChA 12/4/08
SP Jair Jurrjens $.39 M Acquired in trade w/ Det 10/29/07
SP Kenshin Kawakami $7 M Signed as FA 1/13/09
SP Tom Glavine $1 M Signed as FA 11/07. Resigned 2/09
Cl Mike Gonzalez $3.45M Acquired in trade w/ Pit 1/07
SU Rafael Soriano $6.1 M Acquired in trade w/ Sea 12/06.
RP Peter Moylan $.44M Signed as amateur FA from Australia 3/06
RP Manny Acosta $.39 M Signed as FA 2/07
RP Blaine Boyer $.39 M Drafted 15th rd 2005
RP Jorge Campillo $.39 M Signed as FA 12/17/07
RP Boone Logan $.405M Acquired in trade w/ ChA 12/4/08

Say hello to: Javier Vazquez, Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, Boone Logan, Eric O’Flaherty, David Ross, Garret Anderson

Wave goodbye: Brent Lillibridge, Mike Hampton, John Smoltz

Rookies: Jordan Schafer, Tommy Hanson

Non-Roster Invitees to Watch: Jordan Schafer, Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson

Potential breakout: Yunel Escobar

Welcome to Earth: Jair Jurrjens, Martin Prado, Jorge Campillo

Likely to rebound: Jeff Francoeur (he can’t be any worse, right?),

Strengths: Innings eating rotation, infield defense

Weaknesses: The offensive output from the outfield looks bleak and no RH power hitters.

Payroll obligations to former players: none

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

CF Blanco L  .251/.366/.309  1, 13  .259

SS Escobar R .288/.366/.401 10, 2  .275

3B Jones B  .364/.470/.574  22, 4  .363

C  McCann L  .301/.373/.523  23, 5  .311

LF Anderson L/Diaz R    .262/.202

2B Johnson L  .287/.349/.446  12, 11  .281

1B Kotchman L  .237/.331/.316  2, 0 . 235

RF Francoeur R  .239/.294/.359  11, 0  .231

Prediction: 3rd place


Hawkeye Basketball Season Review

As the 2008-09 Iowa basketball season comes to an end one can only go blah. At best the Hawkeyes seem headed for some lame so-called postseason such as the NIT or CBI. Most likely it will be a non-NIT tournament since Iowa’s season isn’t even deserving of an NIT invite and it could end up being a stay-at-home affair if they don’t come up on top in this last week of the regular season. Really, I don’t care if this team makes a non-NCAA tournament affair, for I yearn for the days of the Hawks being an annual top-25 program.
Season Highlights:
Some bright spots in this subpar season was the arrival of super-freshman Matt Gatens. Gatens’ stellar shooting and overall performance in his first college year was possibly the most heralded freshman campaign since Ricky Davis. Another main highlight was the continued improvement of sophomore guard Jake Kelly. Though, his season was up and down with spotty shooting, a sprained ankle, and substitute point guard duty; Kelly has emerged as the best player on the team. The Hawkeyes also displayed tremendous defensive effort and finally sported some new uniforms compared to the AAU scrubs that have been worn the last decade.
Season Lowlights:
The Steve Alford era has still left its stench among the Hawkeye program. Attendance has slowly recovered from all-time lows during his coaching career and the void in talent has never been more evident with the complete lack of depth on this years’ squad. The lack of depth has been even more exposed with an astounding amount of injuries. The most costly injury being senior Cyrus Tate’s sprained ankle that left a gaping hole in the Hawkeye front court which added to the team being one of the worst rebounding squads in the Big Ten.
I knew Todd Lickliter’s second season would be met with great challenges and most likely would end in an NIT bid at best, but a similar record to last year was not expected. The jury is still out on the head coach, and his seven year contract guarantees a long-term tour of duty to right the ship in Iowa City. My hope is his coaching style eventually turns around a proud program with a once sustained tradition of winning.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Season Preview: San Franciso Giants

2008 Record: 72-90  .444

Run differential: -119 (13th)

2008 payroll: $76,594,500

Last season was first without Barry Bonds in a Giant uniform since 1992.  A sans Bonds offense coupled with a young rotation made San Francisco many experts’ mortal lock for 100 losses.  With a surprising performance by the rotation and extreme luck in one run games (31-21), the Giants were happily able to avoid the cellar and give the sportswriters a great big …burger to eat.  The major highlight was Tim Lincecum showing he is the best young hurler in baseball by winning the Cy Young Award in his first full season. Additionally Jonathan Sanchez finally had a defined role and Brian Wilson showed he has the stuff to be a big league closer.  Unfortunately filling Bonds’s shoes proved difficult as the offense was an embarrassment-- only managing 94 home runs and finishing ahead of just San Diego in runs scored.

The 2009 club isn’t much different.  Due to Brian Sabean’s never ending crush on 30+ year old men, San Fran signed a few guys to short deals hoping provide this team with more “leadership” in an effort to help them “go a long way.”  The most famous addition is the Big Unit who agreed to a one-year contract.  Also coming to town are two relievers to help shore up the pen in Affeldt and Howry.  Luckily, the team only signed one geezer to fix the offense. Banking that a return to the NL rejuvenates Edgár Rentería and finally letting rookie Travis Ishikawa as well as top hitting prospect Pablo Sandoval play could allow the offense to creep up to league average. 

This team needs to be cautious though since manager Bruce Bochy pushed his young pitchers so hard last season. We all know what happened to Prior and Wood when Dusty took the reins.  Let’s just hope Lincecum and Cain don’t suffer a similar end.  When you put everything together you get a team where if all things break right could find itself in the playoffs or with some bad luck could end up as one of the worst teams in baseball.  Either way this team has pitching depth that should be the foundation for their next contending teams.  Now to just find a way out of the Zito and Rowand contracts…

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Bengie Molina $6 M Signed as FA 12/06
C Steve Holm $.39 M Drafted 17th rd 2001
1b Travis Ishikawa $.39 M Drafted 21st rd 2002
2b Emmanuel Burris $.39 M Drafted #33 overall 2006
3b Pablo Sandoval $.39 M Signed as amateur FA from Venezuela 2002
SS Edgar Renteria $7 M Signed as FA 12/4/08
LF Fred Lewis $.392M Drafted 2nd rd 2002
CF Aaron Rowand $8 M Signed as FA 12/12/07
RF Randy Winn $8.25 M Acquired in trade w/ Sea 7/05. Signed extension 2/06
Inf Kevin Frandsen $.398M Drafted 17th rd 2004
Inf Rich Aurilia   Non Roster Invitee
Of Dave Roberts $6.5 M Signed as FA 12/06
UT Eugenio Velez $.39 M Selected in AAA phase of Rule 5 draft '05
SP Tim Lincecum $.65 M Drafted #10 overall 2006
SP Matt Cain $2.65 M Drafted #25 overall 2002. Signed extension 3/07
SP Randy Johnson $8 M Signed as FA 12/26/08
SP Jonathan Sanchez $.395M Drafted 27th rd 2004
SP Barry Zito $18.5 M Signed as FA 12/06
Cl Brian Wilson $.395M Drafted 24th rd 2003
SU Jeremy Affeldt $3 M Signed as FA 11/17/08
RP Bobby Howry $2.75 M Signed as FA 12/3/08
RP Jack Taschner $.83 M Drafted 2nd rd 1999
RP Alex Hinshaw $.39 M Drafted 15th rd 2005
RP Sergio Romo $.39 M Drafted 28th rd 2005
RP Luis Perdomo $.39 M Selected in 2008 Rule 5 draft

Say hello to: Jeremy Affeldt, Bobby Howry, Randy Johnson, Edgár Rentería

Wave goodbye: Tyler Walker, Omar Vizquel

Rookies: Pablo Sandoval, Sergio Romo, Travis Ishikawa

Non-Roster Invitees to Watch: Ramon Ortiz, Buster Posey, Rich Aurilia, Josh Phelps, Juan Uribe

Potential breakout: Jonathan Sanchez, Fred Lewis

Welcome to Earth: Bengie Molina

Likely to rebound: Bobby Howry

Strengths: The rotation is excellent.

Weaknesses: The offense is putrid.  The left side of the infield has the same range as a rose bush.

Payroll obligations to former players: none

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

LF Lewis L  .287/.357/.458  9, 21  .281

SS Rentería R  .270/.317/.382  10, 6  .247

RF Winn B  .306/.363/.426  10, 25  .286

C  Molina R  .292/.322/.445  16, 0  .266

3B Sandoval B  .345/.357/490  3, 0  .297

CF Rowand R .271/.339/.410  13, 2  .262

1B Ishikawa L  .274/.337/.432  3, 1  .272

2B Burris R  .243/.333/.486  1, 0  .277

Prediction: 3rd place and a losing record