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Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot

 


Each year I do a Keltner List of someone whose Hall of Fame credentials need further examination. I haven't done one this year in part because I've been working on something bigger.  This "project" took up considerable time but I think I'm ready to utilize it now. This is good because it's just in time for the Hall of Fame ballot results to be announced.

There are two ways to build a hall of fame case: a long productive career with many good seasons or a strong peak that puts a player among the elite at their position.  Obviously some players did both but many more players failed to do either.  I've created a ranking system called Hall of Fame Score (HOFSc) which is pretty similar to Baseball Prospectus' JAWS.  HOFSc relies upon WAR values whereas BP uses WARP. So let's review each player's candidacy with my new little toy.

Catchers - Avg HOFSc = 45.5
Sandy Alomar, Jr. (15.0): Sandy was an average catcher who hung around for a long time.  He was the 1990 AL Rookie of the Year and played in two World Series with Cleveland.  He was nothing special as a player but seems he had other non-quantifiable virtues that made him a guy teams wanted to have on their team.

Mike Piazza (57.15): Perhaps the greatest offensive catcher of all time, Piazza should be a lock for the Hall.  I have him ranked as the fifth greatest catcher of all time, just behind Yogi Berra.  There are rumors Piazza was a PED user though I've never seen anything concrete in that regard.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Breaking down the Royals-Rays trade


My friend and former blog contributor Taylor asked me to give my take on the trade. I thought it'd make a pretty nice blog post too so I've pasted what I said.

Ok, here's the deal:

Royals get James Shields (2 yrs $21 million) and Wade Davis (4 yrs, still pre-arbitration) plus a player to be named/cash.

Rays get: #1 prospect Wil Myers, middling prospect SP Mike Montgomery, SP prospect Jake Odirizzi, and 3B Patrick Leonard.

Let's start with the Rays. 
  • Wil Myers should immediately start in RF for them. He is the #1 hitting prospect in baseball and even if he doesn't hit for a high average, he has good power and will be a very good player.  
  • Jake Odorizzi was probably the first or second best pitching prospect for the Royals. They must not have much faith in him contributing right away or else he would not have been included in this deal.  Tampa probably gives him a shot to win the #5 starter spot in spring training with becoming a #3 starter being his eventual ceiling.
  • Mike Montgomery was regarded as the Royals top pitching prospect two seasons ago but since then he's been pretty mediocre or hurt.  He's your classic throw in to a big trade like this where the acquiring team hopes a new coaching staff can help him out of his funk. Boom or bust here.
  • Leonard could turn out to be a real steal. He's got a ton of power but right now has trouble making consistent contact.  However, he's only in low A ball and you can't really predict how he'll turn out. He's still too far away.
  • Essentially Tampa knew they needed hitting help and had excess pitching so calling up the Royals for Myers is a move that makes too much sense.
Now for the Royals:
  • James Shields is 31 years old and is an above average pitcher. He is not an ace. He can win 15+ games for  you and pitch 200+ innings. But remember, Tampa is a pitcher's park and the Rays had the best defense in the majors last year. Those definitely helped his numbers.  However, whose spot does he take in the rotation? Bruce Chen? He's a significant upgrade over what they had but he'll only be around for two years.
  • Wade Davis is a guy who the Rays moved to the pen because he was really struggling as a starter. Apparently last year he ironed some things out and many people believe he deserves another shot as a starter. As a reliever he's very good and could work anywhere from long relief to closer.  As a starter he's probably a #4 guy at best - which isn't bad! #4 Starters get $8-12 million dollar contracts these days.
  • This trade makes me think the Royals were really frustrated with their inability to trade or sign a front line starter this off-season.  Giving up Wil Myers isn't inherently bad; it's just that they gave up a lot with him for someone who is not an ace.  Now Jeff Francoeur is locked in as the starting RF for another season when it's possible just promoting Myers and cutting ties with Frenchy (the worst position player in the AL last season) would have yielded the same improvement as trading for a new starter.  That's the gut punch.
  • The silver lining in all of this is that Wil Myers is not a slam dunk. No prospect is.  All the hype around him is speculative but I'm convinced he's already better than Jeff Francoeur. And with the AL Central a toss up every year the Royals struck while the iron is hot so they can actually try to win now for once.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2012-13 Atlantic 10 Preview


The A-10 is often forgotten when discussing major basketball conferences.  Maybe it’s because most of these schools do not have football or perhaps it’s because most of the members are mid-sized private universities.  Whatever the reason, you can find good basketball here. Five straight years three or more teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament with four teams going in both 2009 and 2012.  The conference has been dominated by Xavier (15 conference titles in 28 years) and Temple (9 A-10 tournament titles) but now new challengers appear poised to make a move. 

The Reigning Champs
Temple
As mentioned above Temple should always be mentioned when discussing the potential contenders for the league crown.  Last year’s squad went 24-8 (13-3) and qualified for the NCAAs.  Unfortunately they were bounced in the first round by South Florida.  It’s going to be tough for the Owls to repeat after losing two starters including leading scorer Ramone Moore. To further complicate matters is the potential ban of stud senior Khalif Wyatt. If Wyatt is out for any length of time I think it makes Temple a bubble team and not a team that can win the conference.
St. Bonaventure
The Bonnies surprised many people (including yours truly) last season in route to winning the conference championship.  They were one and done in the NCAAs though, losing by three to Florida St. in the second round.  Their best player (Andrew Nicholson) was selected in the NBA draft and starting forward Da’Quan Cook graduated. I’m not sure there’s enough left here to compete for a repeat performance.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

2012-13 Big Ten Preview

And we're back!  The summer flew by and unfortunately the blog was neglected as a result. But now it's time for college basketball so I'm feeling a little more energetic this weekend.

I'll start off by giving a short preview of all twelve Big Ten teams and then I'll just pick and choose my way through conferences later. So here we go, my predicted reverse order of finish, the Big Ten preview begins now...

12. Nebraska
Last Season: 12-18, tied for 11th in Big Ten
Graduated: G Bo Spencer, G Toney McCray, G Brandon Richardson, G Caleb Walker, C Jorge Brian Diaz (retired)
Brandon Ubel is the last big man left in Lincoln.
He'll need to anchor this team to avoid a last place finish.
New Faces: Devell Biggs, Benny Parker, Shavon Shields, Sergej Vucetic
Outlook: Poor coach Tim Miles.  In his first season as Huskers head coach he'll have only five returning scholarship players including one starter.  There is potential talent coming in but it will have to wait a year due to transfer requirements.  With a short and shallow roster, Nebraska is destined for a last place finish but with three seniors there will be nights when they compete.
Projected Starters:
G Ryan Gallegos (Jr)
G Dylan Talley (Sr)
Devell Biggs (Jr)
F Andre Almeida (Sr)
Brandon Ubel (Sr)
Bench: F David Rivers (So), G Benny Parker (Fr), G Shavon Shields (Fr), C Sergej Vucetic (Fr), G Jordan Tyrance (RS Fr), G Trevor Menke (So), F Kyle Kurkowski (RS Fr)

11. Illinois
Last Season: 17-15, tied for 9th in Big Ten
Graduated/Went Pro: C Meyers Leonard, G Sam Maniscalco
What's going on with this guy? He has all the talent in
the world but his disappointing career to date is a micro-
cosm of Bruce Weber's failed tenure in Champaign.
New Faces: F Sam McLaurin (transfer), Devin Langford (redshirt)
Outlook: There are talented seniors on this roster but none of that talent has materialized for any stretch of length. Now, with no freshmen on the team, Illinois will switch to new coach John Groce's system which relies heavily on a talented point guard. If Tracy Abrams can't handle the job it may be a really long year in Champaign. I think this prediction is conservative though, and still believe there's a chance Brandon Paul finally puts it all together.
Projected Starters:
G Brandon Paul (Sr)
G Tracy Abrams (So)
DJ Richardson (Sr)
F Tyler Griffey (Sr)
Nnanna Egwu (So)
Bench: F Mike Shaw (So), F Myke Henry (So), F Ibrahima Djimde (So), Devin Langford (RS Fr)

10. Penn St.
Last Season: 12-20, tied for 11th in Big Ten
Graduated: G Cammeron Woodyard, G Trey Lewis (transfer), G Matt Glover (transfer), C Peter Alexis (retired)
Rumors are Penn St. is challenging the NCAAs anti-cloning
rule regarding Tim Frazier. Five of him would be fun to watch!
New Faces: Brandon Taylor, Donovan Jack, Akosa Maduegbunamm
Outlook: Penn State has an excellent backcourt led by All Big Ten selection Tim Frazier.  The frontcourt, however, is a big question mark. Their lack of experience and talent will be exploited by teams with skilled big men.  This will be a fun team to watch and if the young bigs develop an NIT berth isn't out of the question.
Projected Starters:
G Tim Frazier (Sr)
G DJ Newbill (RS So)
Jermaine Marshall (Sr)
F Ross Travis (So)
Sasa Borovnjak (Jr)
Bench: G Nick Colella (Sr), F Patrick Ackerman (So), F Jon Graham (So), F Brandon Taylor (Fr), F Donovan Jack (Fr), G Akosa Maduegbunamm (Fr)

9. Northwestern
Last Season: 19-14, tied for 7th in Big Ten, NIT appearance
Graduated: F John Shurna, F Luka Mirkovic
In a loaded Big Ten, it will take a career year
from Drew Crawford to give Northwestern
some excited high fives post buzzer.
New Faces: Jared Swopshire (transfer), Nikola Cerina (transfer), Tre Demps (redshirt), Michael Turner (redshirt), Alex Olah, Kale Abrahamson, Sanjay Lumpkin, Chier Ajou
Outlook: Last year Northwestern became the only Big Ten school ever to go to the NIT four straight years. Sadly, 2012-13 looks like it will be a fifth.  The young talent on this team is real and just like the last two seasons, there will be a point during the season where people think this team has a shot to earn their elusive NCAA bid.  However, I'm bearish on a defense that was twelfth in the conference last season. Once the young guns get a season under their belts this team can really take off.  If the Wildcats don't make the NCAAs in 2013-14 then I'll be surprised.
Projected Starters:
G Drew Crawford (Sr)
G JerShon Cobb (Jr)
David Sobolewski (So)
Jared Swopshire (Sr)
Alex Olah (Fr)
Bench: G Tre Demps (Sr), G Alex Marcotullio (Sr), F Kale Abrahamson (Fr), G Reggie Hearn (Sr), C Aaron Liberman (Fr), F Chier Ajou (Fr), F Sanjay Lumpkin, G Nikola Cerina (Jr)

8. Iowa
Last Season: 18-17, tied for 7th in Big Ten, lost in second round of CBI tournament
Graduated: G Matt Gatens, F Andrew Brommer, G Bryce Cartwright
Basabe might want to start practicing against
adults if he's to lead Iowa back to the NCAAs.
New Faces: Adam Woodbury, Mike Gesell, Kyle Meyer
Outlook: Iowa made huge strides last season under Fran McCaffery.  The fast pace the Hawkeyes play is a bit refreshing in the grind-it-out Big Ten.  This team could finish anywhere from fifth to tenth. Much of that depends on the incoming freshmen and the improvements made by last year's freshmen. Either way this is a team who should be knocking on an NCAA berth this season.
Projected Starters:
G Mike Gesell (Fr)
G Roy Devyn Marble (Jr)
G Josh Oglesby (So)
Aaron White (So)
Melsahn Basabe (Jr)
Bench: F Eric May (Sr), F Zach McCabe (Jr), C Adam Woodbury (Fr), F Gabe Olaseni (So), F Kyle Myer (Fr)

7. Minnesota
Last Season: 23-15, tied for 9th in Big Ten, lost in NIT championship
Graduated: F Ralph Sampson, Chip Armelin (transfer)
Here's to hoping Trevor Mbakwe can be the same player
he was before he tore his ACL. The man was a beast in the paint!
New Faces: Charles Buggs, Wally Ellenson
Outlook: Minnesota must wonder what they've done to upset the basketball gods. Each year they look like a contender only to have injuries severely hamper their roster. Last season was no exception and it took until late in the year for the team to come together. If this team can just stay healthy they can compete with anyone in the conference. I'm not one to bet against history hence my prediction that the Gophers finish in the middle of the pack. That shouldn't prevent this team from qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
Projected Starters:
G Andre Hollns (So)
G Austin Hollins (Jr)
G Joe Coleman (So)
Rodney Williams (Sr)
F Trevor Mbakwe (RS Sr)
Bench: F Elliott Eliason (RS So), G Charles Buggs (Fr), G Julian Welch (Sr), G Maverick Ahanmisi (Jr), G Wally Ellenson (Fr), F Andre Ingram (Sr), F Oto Osenieks (So),

6. Purdue
Last Season: 22-13, 6th in Big Ten, lost in Round of 32 to Kansas
Graduated: F Robbie Hummel, G Ryne Smith, PG Lewis Jackson, G/F Kelsey Barlow (dismissed)
Purdue fans held many candlelight vigils in an attempt
to rectify Terone's embarrassing .435 FT%.
New Faces: Ronnie Johnson, Donnie Hale (redshirt), AJ Hammons, Raphael Davis, Jay Simpson
Outlook: The Boilermakers are a team in transition. The Baby Boilers are officially gone and are replaced by one of the nation's top recruiting classes. Led by guard Terone Johnson and seven footer AJ Hammons, Purdue will look to clamp down on defense and make the lane a place opponents avoid .  There will be struggles for this team but head coach Matt Painter has only failed to win twenty-two games once in his career as a head coach.
Projected Starters:
G Ronnie Johnson (Fr)
G Terone Johnson (Jr)
DJ Byrd (Sr)
Donnie Hale (RS Fr)
C Sandi Marcius (RS Jr)
Bench: G Raphael Davis (Fr), G Anthony Johnson (RS So), C AJ Hammons (Fr), F Jacob Lawson (So), F Jay Simpson (Fr), F Travis Carroll (Jr), F Dru Anthrop (Sr)

5. Wisconsin
Last Season: 26-10, 4th in Big Ten, lost in Sweet 16 to Syracuse
Graduated: PG Jordan Taylor, G Rob Wilson
By channeling his inner Manute Bol,
(draining 3's, blocking shots), this string bean
has become a very good player.
New Faces: Sam Dekker, Zak Showalter
Outlook: The Badgers lost All-American candidate point guard Jordan Taylor and their top perimeter player Josh Gasser will miss the season after tearing his ACL.  Things may seem dark but haven't we learned not to count Bo Ryan out? Wisconsin has never finished worse than fourth in his eleven years with the program.  I'm picking them fifth here but that's no slouch in the country's top conference. Also, I expect them to make the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in the last eleven years. This is a solid program.
Projected Starters:
G George Marshall (RS Fr)
G Ben Brust (Jr)
F Ryan Evans (R Sr)
Mike Bruesewitz (Sr)
Jared Berggren (R So)
Bench: G Sam Dekker (Fr), C Frank Kaminsky (So), G Traevon Jackson (So), C Evan Anderson (RS So), F Duje Dukan (Jr), G Jordan Smith (So), G Zak Showalter (Fr), F Zach Bohannon (RS Jr)

4. Michigan
Last Season: 24-10, tied for 1st in Big Ten, lost in first round to Ohio
Graduated: F Zack Novak, G Stu Douglass
Trey Burke is flipping awesome. The Wolverines
might want to win some tournament games this year
because I doubt he's back for his junior season.
New Faces: Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, Max Biefeldt, Spike Albrecht, Caris Levert
Outlook: The Wolverines surprised many by winning a share of the Big Ten last season but followed that up with a very disappointing loss in the first round of the NCAAs. This season they're bringing in the conference's top recruiting class and look to reclaim a share of the title.  While their starting lineup may be the best outside Bloomington, their depth remains questionable. Still, this is a team that should earn a top four or five seed in the Big Dance come April.
Projected Starters:
G Trey Burke (So)
G Tim Hardaway (Jr)
Glenn Robinson III (Fr)
Mitch McGary (Fr)
Jordan Morgan (Jr)
Bench: F John Horford (RS So), G Matt Vogrich (Sr), G Eso Akunne (Sr), C Blake McLimans (Sr), G Nik Stauskas (Fr), F Max Biefeldt (RS Fr), G Spike Albrecht (Fr), G Caris Levert (Fr)

3. Ohio St.
Last Season: 31-8, tied for 1st in Big Ten, lost in Final 4 to Kansas
Graduated/Went Pro: F Jared Sullinger, G William Buford, Jd Weatherspoon (transfer), Jordan Sibert (transfer)
Sure Craft fouls on every play, but that's more a knock on
officials than him.  Expect him to lead the BIG in steals again.
New Faces: G Amedeo Della Valle
Outlook: Ohio St. may have lost its two best players last season but that is no reason to expect them to fall down the Big Ten standings. Aaron Craft is possibly the most tenacious defender in the college ranks while DeShaun Thomas is still an underrated scorer.  Though many people may not recognize the names on the roster, everyone should remember Thad Matta doesn't rebuild. He just reloads.
Projected Starters:
G Aaron Craft (Jr)
G Lenzelle Smith (Jr)
DeShaun Thomas (Jr)
Sam Thompson (So)
Amir Williams (So)
Bench: PG Shannon Scott (So), F Evan Ravenel (Jr), F LaQuinton Ross (So), G Alex Rogers (Jr), G Amedeo Della Valle (Fr)

2. Michigan St.
Last Season: 29-8, tied for 1st in Big Ten, lost in Sweet 16 to Louisville
Graduated: F Draymond Green, G Brandon Wood, F Austin Thornton
Some may say this was Branden Dawson's date
with Karma for the way he spurned Purdue.
New Faces: Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine, Matt Costello, Kenny Kaminski
Outlook: The Spartans again have loaded up their non-conference schedule in an attempt to prepare for the NCAA tournament.  Izzo knows they may struggle early but as Branden Dawson continues to improve (torn ACL) and the team gels they'll be right there in Big Ten play. I'm calling an Elite 8 appearance for this team.
Projected Starters:
G Keith Appling (Jr)
G Gary Harris (Fr)
Branden Dawson (So)
F Adreian Payne (Jr)
Derrick Nix (Sr)
Bench: PG Travis Trice (So), F Denzel Valentine (Fr), G Brandon Kearney (So), F Alex Gauna (So), G Kennan Wetzel (So), F Matt Costello (Fr), G Kenny Kaminski (Fr)

1. Indiana
Last Season: 27-9, 5th in Big Ten, lost in Sweet 16 to Kentucky
Graduated: G Verdell Jones, F Tom Pritchard, G Matt Roth
I feel you, Oladipo. You're the most under-
rated player in the BIG. Hello NBA.
New Faces: Yogi Ferrell, Peter Jurkin, Jeremy Hollowell
Outlook: Want to know why IU is the consensus #1 team in the country? Last year they ranked fourth in the nation in offensive efficiency and the entire starting lineup is returning. The top bench players are also coming back and IU landed a top five recruiting class. The defense may still be bad but with this offense that shouldn't be a problem.  This team should win the conference and go to the Final Four.
Projected Starters:
G Yogi Ferrell (Fr)
G Victor Oladipo (Jr)
Will Sheehey (Jr)
Christian Watford (Sr)
Cody Zeller (So)
Bench: F Derek Elston (Jr), G Jordan Hulls (Sr), G Remy Abell (So), Maurice Creek (RS Jr), F Austin Etherington (So), F Jeremy Hollowell (Fr), C Peter Jurkin (Fr)

All Big Ten First Team
C Cody Zeller
G Victor Oladipo
G Aaron Craft
G Trey Burke
F DeShaun Thomas

All Big Ten Second Team
G Terone Johnson
G Brandon Paul
G Tim Frazier
C Jared Berggren
F Trevor Mbakwe

Friday, May 18, 2012

Who will be the next 300 game winner?

Recently I was listening to a Phillies game on the radio and I heard the announcers talking about how Roy Halladay stands a good shot at winning 300 games and if he does how he'll possibly be the last to do so for a long time. Later Dave Schoenfield of ESPN.com blogged about the statement too.  They were right in acknowledging that he's had great durability and that durability will need to continue as he ages if he's to have any chance.  Pitching for the Phillies right now doesn't hurt either since they've been one of baseball's most consistently good teams in the past half decade.

As much as I'm impressed by him I don't believe Roy Halladay has the best chance of winning 300 games of active pitchers. I do believe the next 300 game winner is active, however.  I've often mentioned to friends that I thought CC Sabathia had a real shot of winning 300 after he signed with the Yankees three years ago and this little exercise will give me the opportunity to compare him side by side with Halladay.

First off, here's a little breakdown of every pitcher who's had a shot of winning 300 games since 1980:

Total Wins Wins before turning 30 Wins after 30 Age at 300th Win Age of Final Win Date of 300th Win
Randy Johnson 303 64 239 45 46 6/4/09
Tom Glavine 305 124 181 41 42 8/5/07
Greg Maddux 355 151 204 38 42 8/7/04
Roger Clemens 354 146 208 40 44 6/13/03
Nolan Ryan 324 122 202 43 46 7/31/90
Tom Seaver 311 146 165 40 41 8/4/85
Don Sutton 324 139 185 41 43 6/18/86
Phil Niekro 318 31 287 46 48 10/6/85
Steve Carlton 329 133 196 38 43 9/23/83
Gaylord Perry 314 58 256 43 44 5/6/82
Tommy John 297 98 199 N/A 46 N/A
Bert Blyleven 287 156 131 N/A 41 N/A
Ferguson Jenkins 284 135 149 N/A 40 N/A


The first thing that stands out is that every 300 game winner has pitched into their 40's and with the exceptions of Steve Carlton and Greg Maddux they've needed to in order to get the milestone.  Another important thing to note is how important it is to be successful in your twenties.  Unless a pitcher can continue pitching until he's 45 he'll need to earn about 120 wins in his twenties to have a realistic shot.  One thing that's not noted in the chart but should be pointed out is that durability is extremely important.  Missing a season can easily set you back enough so that 300 wins is just enough out of reach that a team won't be willing to sign an aging hurler with fading skills.  With that being said here are the best candidates among active pitchers for reaching 300 wins:

Age Wins Wins/Yr Wins before 30 Wins Needed Wins/Yr Until 41*
Jamie Moyer 49 269 14 34 31 N/A
Roy Halladay 35 192 17 99 108 18.0
Tim Hudson 36 183 16 101 117 23.4
CC Sabathia 31 181 17 172 119 11.9
Mark Buehrle 33 164 14 122 136 17.0
Roy Oswalt 34 159 16 111 141 20.1
J. Verlander 29 111 18 111 189 15.8
Dan Haren 31 108 14 101 192 19.2
F. Hernandez 26 88 14 88 212 14.1
Jered Weaver 29 87 16 87 213 17.8
Zack Greinke 28 80 12 80 220 16.9
Cole Hamels 28 79 14 79 221 17.0
Tim Lincecum 28 71 15 71 229 17.6
C. Kershaw 24 50 14 50 250 14.7

*Note: I'm using the age of 41 because the average age of players earning their 300th win in the first table is 41.5

Injury and crappy bullpens have cost Tim Hudson more wins than I care to count.
  • How amazing is Jamie Moyer?  He only earned 34 wins prior to his 30th birthday and now has 269 on his resume.  Sure he's 49 but what a remarkable career.  This may be his final season as he's coming off Tommy John surgery and is not as effective as he was pre-surgery (when he was 47).  
  • Roy Halladay is second on the list with 192 career victories.  If he's to get 300 wins he'll need to average 18 wins a year over the next six seasons.  That's tough but not impossible, especially with the way he's been pitching the last few seasons.
  • Tim Hudson is hurt here thanks to losing half of 2008 and all but seven starts worth of 2009 to injury.  I don't have data available but I willing to bet he led the majors in wins blown by bullpen from 2000-2010.  
  • Mark Buehrle and Roy Oswalt have roughly the same shot in my opinion. Buehrle's been plagued by slipping effectiveness while Oswalt has trouble staying healthy.  The odds are stacked against them.
  • Justin Verlander is a tricky one to put odds on.  He is absolutely the best pitcher in the American League right now and is extremely durable (look at those innings pitched numbers over the past five seasons: 201, 201, 240, 224, 250).  I'd like his odds better if I believed he'll still be pitching when he's 40.
  • Haren is a bit of a late bloomer. He's just now entering his prime and his odds can really improve with a couple more good seasons.
  • Weaver, Lincecum, Greinke, and Hamels are all in the same boat. They're young and have a long way to go.  Six years ago Barry Zito would have been in their age group but he had 102 wins so be careful when making projections.
  • Clayton Kershaw is a really interesting case.  At just 24 years old he's already 16% of the way there.  Last year's Cy Young Award winner is just too far away to project with any certainty.  An injury could derail him but he's so good that if he doesn't lose too much effectiveness it would only be a minor setback.  He's a fun one to watch.

After factoring in age and career wins presented in the table above, it's clear to me CC Sabathia has an excellent chance at reaching 300 wins.  Roy Halladay is the guy closest with a reasonable chance which is probably why he's the one being talked about most. After CC and Hallday, Felix Hernandez has probably a one in three shot since he's still only 26 and may have 100 career victories by the end of this season.  Everyone else is still too young or too far away to take seriously.  When some of these guys reach 200 wins then we can talk.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Josh Hamilton's 4 HR game

Josh Hamilton is good. We all know this.  In fact, in mid-April ESPN blogger Dave Schoenfield had a post demonstrating how no one should ever throw a strike to Hamilton.  Part of this is because as of today he's walked only 13 times in 138 plate appearances with five of those coming intentionally.  Eight walks in his other 133 appearances gives him a 6% walk rate meaning he'd draw around 50 unintentional passes in an entire season.  While that's not exactly Mariano Duncan* he's no Adam Dunn either.  Last Wednesday Hamilton set an American League record by accumulating 18 total bases in one game.  Let's take a look and see where these pitches were located in each of his at-bats.

*Sidenote: Duncan's career high in walks was 38 and it came in 1985, his rookie season. He would walk 30 times the following season but never again walk more than 24 times in his 12 year career. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: My mock

The NFL Draft is probably my favorite non-competition sporting event of the year and it begins this Thursday.  As you're probably aware the format changed two years ago when the league decided to break up the draft from a two day format to it's current three day format.  This new format has earned it's own spot on prime time and even spurned some creativity in the war room as trades are more prevalent now than ever.
The first round of the draft may now be second only to the playoffs in the interest it receives. It doesn't hurt that there's months of talk and speculation building up to this day (got to give the NFL credit for capitalizing on the marketing potential here).  So, in the months weeks leading up to the draft you're sure to come across someone talking about their mock draft. There are plenty of well known people who make them like Peter King, ESPN's Todd McShay and Mel Kiper, as well as thousands of unknowns at sites like www.draftdebacled.com and www.mockingthedraft.com. With all that as a preface, I'd like to take my first shot at creating a mock draft.  Please keep in mind that this draft will NOT be close to what actually happens. Correctly predicting the first five picks is hard but predicting picks from 15-32 is futile. Still, it's a lot of fun.  Here I go...
The Colts have made it clear Luck is going to be #1
  1. Indianapolis: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford - We know this is the pick.  Andrew Luck is the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning and some even say since John Elway.  He's the third quarterback I saw in college that convinced me there's no way he won't be an elite NFL player. I've already mentioned the first was Manning. The second? Matt Leinart.  Oof. Moving on...
  2. Washington: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor - The Heisman Trophy winner would go number one in any normal draft year.  He's got incredible mobility, is accurate, and just seems like a good guy. The Redskins are dying for a franchise QB and they paid a pretty penny to move up, but if he works out it's worth the cost.
  3. Vikings trade #3 overall to Rams for #6 overall and additional picks. St. Louis: Matt Kalil, OT, USC - I think the Vikings realize they can get a great player at 6 and will trade out of this spot and St. Louis now has picks to trade after getting extra firsts and a second from Washington. The Rams know Sam Bradford can't become a superstar playing behind this offensive line and will move up in order to get the best tackle in the draft.
  4. Cleveland: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama - It seems the Browns aren't quite sold on Tannehill and a deeper wide receiver class means there's value to be found later.  Former Colts GM Bill Polian is on record saying Richardson is the best player in the draft.  With the departure of RB Peyton Hillis, the Browns are on the lookout for a top runner and Richardson is not only that but he should be able to play every down.  
  5. Tampa Bay: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU - The Bucs need a long term answer at defensive back since Aquib Talib has legal issues and Ronde Barber is 53 years old. Morris Claiborne is a stud, no doubt about it. This pick will do wonders for the defense in a couple of years. 
  6. Minnesota: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame - Claiborne is probably their top rated player but he won't be available after the trade.  A lot of teams have Floyd rated as the #1 reciever in this class thanks to his speed and playmaking ability. Despite signing Jerome Simpson, the team is still looking at starting Michael Jenkins. Not good.  They'll have two second rounders after trading with St. Louis where they can look for a corner and another offensive lineman.
  7. Jaguars trade #7 overall to Chiefs for #11 overall and additional picks.  Kansas City: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M - The Chiefs move up to #7 in an effort to snag Tannehill ahead of Miami.  Tannehill is clearly the third best QB in the class but he's a good prospect nonetheless.  The majority of his flaws are correctable with coaching and experience.  Chiefs fans will be thankful to see there's only one more year of the Checkdown Cassel.
  8. Miami: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St. - The Tannehill trade takes them by surprise leaving the team to decided between an offensive player or a pass rusher.  Brandon Marshall is no longer around which makes Devon Bess the team's de facto #1 wideout. That adis the decision making process  allowing Miami to take the other receiver scouts say is the best in the class.
  9. Carlina: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi St. - The team's greatest weakness is in stopping the run. Cox is a perfect fit for the 4-3 and excels at making plays in the backfield.  While he's no Suh, he'll be an excellent player sooner than later.
  10. Buffalo: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina - Buffalo addressed the D-line in free agency and now they're fixing the secondary. Gilmore is a heck of an athlete at a position where the Bills are soon to be thin.  McKelvin and Florence are in the last year of their deals while the other CBs on the roster have more questions than answers. 
  11. Jacksonville: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina - The Jaguars are big winners here. They move down four spots and still grab the guy they wanted.  The team has whiffed on first round pass rushers in the past but Ingram seems too good to be true.
  12. Seattle trades #12 overall to Dallas for #14 overall and a third rounder. Dallas: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama - There's been a lot of momentum gathering for Barron so when Dallas sees him available at #12 they take no chances by trading up. Barron is a physical player who might remind Cowboy fans of Roy Williams with his big hits and presence in the run game. He very well may become a playmaker in the passing game also.  His skill set and potential to improve explain why he's rated so highly.
  13. Arizona: Cordy Glenn, OT/G, Georgia - The Cardinals are in a bit of a tough spot here.  It will be hard for them to trade down at this point and it's hard to diagnose how the draft will develop behind them.  Glenn is rated anywhere from the second to fifth best tackle in this draft but he showed marked improvement at the position as a senior after proving himself as an All-American candidate at guard. He's a solid if unspectacular choice.
  14. Seattle: Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama - Pete Carroll has been pretty open about his desire to improve the pass rush. Upshaw can play both standing up and with his hand on the ground which is important in the Seahawks hybrid scheme. Coming from an elite college program only enhances his value in Carroll's eyes.
  15. Philadelphia: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College - Kuechly is probably one of the top 10 players in the draft but middle linebackers are known to slip. The Eagles' patience pays off as they nab a guy who makes their defense instantly better in a number of ways
  16. NY Jets: Quintin Coples, DE, North Carolina - Coples desire, or lack thereof, cause him to drop despite putting up good numbers.  The Jets are disappointed to not land Ingram or Upshaw but will be pleasantly surprised to land Coples. The pass rush stunk last year and Coples is the no-brainer pick to help fix it.
  17. Cincinnati: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: The Bengals are looking for another lockdown CB after losing Jonathan Joseph a year ago to free agency.  While Kirkpatrick hasn't proven to be much of a playmaker he can still lockdown guys and prevent them from getting open.
  18. San Diego: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford - I'm not good at grading offensive lineman but by all accounts DeCastro is a can't miss guy.  What drops him so low is his position; offensive guards and centers rarely go in the top half of the draft.  The Chargers are desperate for help on the interior line so this is a match made in heaven.
  19. Chicago: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa - The Bears have neglected their line in the draft far too often.  They're likely very disappointed DeCastro didn't make it one more spot but they can't afford to give up picks just to jump around in the draft.  Reiff is a mauler but drops because of concerns of having "short" arms. At worst he'll be an excellent right tackle.
  20. Tennessee: Devon Still, DT, Penn St. - Still says he can play anywhere on the line and is really quick off the line.  The Titans need depth at all defensive line spots so this is a value pick more than anything. Still will be a good player in the right system.
  21. Cincinnati: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU - The Bengals go best player available here. Brockers is an excellent fit for a team that wants to run the ball and stop the run. Brockers may be the best DT in the draft so falling here is quite a steal for the Bengals.
  22. Cleveland trades the #22 overall pick to Denver for #25 overall and an additional pick. Denver: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis - The selection of Brockers at #21 motivates Denver to move up and grab the last big name tackle - probably their biggest weakness right now. Last season the Broncos proved they can rush the passer with Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil and the team upgraded the offense immensely by signing of Peyton Manning. Now they need to focus on stopping the run and creating pressure up the middle. 
  23. Detroit: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama - Despite character concerns, Jenkins is a first round talent and will be taken somewhere in the first round.  The loss of Eric Wright depletes an already questionable secondary making this pick somewhat justified. The Lions have a few players with off the field troubles already so this pick does carry some risk.
  24. Pittsburgh: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama - Hightower was the player that stood out the most on the Alabama defense last season. He's an excellent run defender and is likely to become a defensive captain. The Steelers have a knack for finding these guys.
  25. Cleveland: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse - With a deep receiving class Cleveland knows they can wait a bit longer before grabbing some talented players instead of reaching for someone here.  The Browns do not have a strong pass rush and Jones will be a nice addition to their 4-3 scheme.
  26. Houston: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor - Houston needs to get at least two receivers in this draft and so they take the highest rated one available here. Wright will complement Andre Johnson (who just turned 30) and could one day become a #1 himself. This is a team that needs an immediate impact player to be that one missing piece to a Super Bowl contender.
  27. New England: Nick Perry, OLB/DE, California - The Patriots have never shied away from taking players who rate high on their board despite how other teams view them.  Nick Perry seems a good fit in this case, as he can take the departed Mark Anderson's spot. He'll need to become better at defending the run though if he's to become a more complete player.
  28. Green Bay: Whitney Mercilius, DE, Illinois - Finding a bookend pass rusher to Clay Matthews seems to be the team's #1 priority in the draft. Taking Mercilus fits that need and probably spoils New England's next pick.
  29. Baltimore: Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin - A lot of people have mocked Peter Konz here but I don't think it's a good fit. Konz is a finesse blocker whereas Zeitler uses power (he led the nation with 142 knockdown blocks this season) which is perfect for the Ravens run oriented offense.
  30. San Francisco: Reuben Randle, WR, LSU - The 49ers could lose Michael Crabtree after this season and while he hasn't lived up to expectations, he is the teams' best receiver. Randle is a developmental talent who's freaky athletic and could turn into a solid player under Jim Harbaugh's tutelage. 
  31. New England: Shea McClelland, DE, Boise St. - McClellan is another player who will fit in nicely at linebacker in the Patriot system similar to Rob Ninkovich. Some may question his on field athleticism but that didn't stop the Patriots from taking Brandon Spikes either. The Pats are dying for pass rush so they'll use the first two picks to shore it up.
  32. What character concerns? At the ripe old age of 21 Jenkins already has
    four children and multiple marijuana arrests.  But he's a great dad!
  33. NY Giants: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin - When you're the defending champs there's a lot of different directions you can go with your first pick. The Giants need a good interior lineman and while Konz isn't necessarily a guard, he should be able to slide over and do quite well until it's time to become the Giants full time center. Running back was a consideration here as well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: Predictions

It's a little late but I've decided to publish my preseason predictions anyway.

American League
East
New York 96 66 Have a solid rotation to match formidable offense
Tampa Bay 92 70 Maybe the best rotation in baseball
Boston 87 75 Lack of depth will cost them
Toronto 85 77 Still building but no playoffs in this division
Baltimore 68 94 Future is bright but rotation is worst in AL
Central
Detroit 91 71 Will lead the league in runs scored, errors
Cleveland 80 82 Need one more starter to be a factor
Chicago 77 85 Rios, Dunn rebound but Peavy, bullpen falter
Kansas City 76 86 Still waiting on young pitching to make impact
Minnesota 62 100 Questions about Mauer, Morneau, Baker linger
West
Texas 95 67 Most well rounded team in AL
LAA 89 73 Still have problems at LF, 3B, C
Seattle 73 89 Back end of rotation no match for AL offenses
Oakland 70 92 Cespedes and Weeks are good but not enough
National League
East
Atlanta 87 75 Heyward bounceback, trade of Lowe is enough
Philadelphia 86 76 Injuries to Howard, Utley hold team back
Miami 84 78 Poor outfield defense really hurts in new park
Washington 82 80 Too many questions on offense
New York 75 87 Not as bad as many expected
Central
Milwaukee 88 74 Greinke, Gallardo, Marcum combine for 54 wins
Cincinnati 87 75 Votto, Bruce lead league in teammate HR
St. Louis 84 78 Berkman, Beltran not as good as 2011
Pittsburgh 76 86 Deadline deals prevent team from reaching .500
Chicago 69 93 Theo's first year will be his worst
Houston 50 112 Have questions everywhere except 2B, LF
West
San Francisco 91 71 Great pitching and good offense takes division
Arizona 90 72 Upton, Young become top NL outfield duo
Colorado 78 84 Tulo accumulates more WAR than any 2 'mates
Los Angeles 77 85 Disgruntled Ethier, Kemp regression hurt team 
San Diego 75 87 Hang tough thanks to home field advantage

Sunday, April 8, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: NL Central

The final division I'm previewing is the National League Central.  This division has seen four different winners in the past four seasons and the last team to repeat as division winner was Chicago who did it in 2007 and 2008.  Three teams haven't finished with a winning record in the same season since 2008 when four teams did it (Cubs, Mil, Hou, Cards).  At first glance this season seems to have three good teams and three not so good teams.  The Cardinals are fresh off a World Series Championship and though they lost the best player in baseball, still have great pitching and a talented offense.  The Brewers lost a star of their own but look to get bounce back years from several players to go along with their own three-headed monster in the rotation.  Cincinnati has the best player in the division and seems poised to make a jump back into the playoffs.  The bottom three teams are a different story. The Pirates flirted with .500 for three and a half months last year before falling apart.  The Cubs are rebuilding and don't expect to contend but are still better than Houston.  Houston had their worst season in franchise history last year and sadly things don't look any better.  With six teams this division is unique; the division won't necessarily be won by who has the best record against the contenders but instead by who has the most success against the Pirates and Cubs.

Chicago Cubs
2011 Record: 71-91
2012 Estimated Team Salary: $88.2 million
Highest Paid Player: Alfonso Soriano - $18 million
Best Player: Starlin Castro led the league with 207 hits last season. I don't think this will be the last time that happens.
Best Pitcher: Even though Dempster's had more success, Matt Garza is the best pitcher on the staff. Last season he struck out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings.  He could break out this year.
Say Hello To: David DeJesus OF, Chris Volstad SP, Anthony Rizzo 1B, Casey Weathers RP, Ian Stewart 3B, Andy Sonnanstine P, Joe Mather OF, Paul Maholm SP
Wave Goodbye: Carlos Zambrano SP (Mia), Carlos Pena 1B (TB), Aramis Ramirez 3B (Mil), John Grabow RP (LA), Ramon Ortiz RP (SF), Tyler Colvin OF (Col)
Biggest Questions:
1. Will Theo bring home a championship?  That's the goal, but it's not going to happen this year. The Cubs minor league system is exhausted preventing them from making improvements to the major league club and they're cutting back on payroll so no marquee free agents will be added. Let's talk again in two years.
2. Is Alfonso Soriano just dead weight? When the Cubs signed Soriano in 2007 he was coming off a 46 home run season.  Since then he's hit 30 homers just once and is averaging 26 homers per year as a Cub.  Never a walker, his OBP dipped to new lows last season (.289) meaning he's now a liability in the lineup. The Cubs will have to pay anyone to take him at this point.
3. Can Jeff Samardzija be successful as a starting pitcher?  Scouting reports indicate Jeff should stick to the pen but he wants to start and the Cubs aren't going anywhere this season so why not give him a try?  Velocity isn't Samardzija's issue, it's movement or rather, lack of movement. With a straight fastball and a flat breaking pitch, any time Samardzija's control isn't pinpoint he runs the risk of getting hit hard. 
Expectations: It's going to be a long year on the Northside.  The Cubs are lucky they're in the same division as Houston or they'd likely finish with the worst record in the National League.
With the loss of Aramis Ramirez and the steady decline of
Soriano, Marlon Byrd is now the second best Cub.
Probable Opening day lineup:
1. DeJesus RF
2. Barney 2B
3. Castro SS
4. Soriano LF
5. Stewart 3B
6. Baker 1B
7. Byrd CF
8. Soto C
Probable Rotation/Closer
1. Dempster
2. Garza
3. Samardzija
4. Volstad
5. Maholm
CL: Marmol

Thursday, April 5, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: AL Central

After emerging as the "mystery team" in the Prince Fielder sweepstakes, the Detroit Tigers now have their sights set on more than just repeating as division champs.  The core of their team already included one of the best positional players in Miguel Cabrera and last year's American League MVP Justin Verlander.  With Prince on board the team hopes they'll be contenders for the next several years. The rest of the division will be fighting for seconds as all of them have serious concerns.  Kansas City is a team on the rise but their young rotation isn't ready to lead them.  Chicago says it's rebuilding but is stuck with some albatross contracts that prevent them from going all-in at anything.  Cleveland is probably one pitcher short of being taken seriously making their performance in the first two months critical for their playoff chances. Minnesota has a little bit of everything from injury concerns to aging players that the team cannot or will not move.  If you like high scoring games with little regard for the team's overall record then this is the division for you.

Chicago White Sox
2011 Record: 79-83
2012 Estimated Team Salary: $98 million
Highest Paid Player: Jake Peavy - $17 million
Best Player: Paul Konerko just keeps on ticking.  He's second all time in franchise history in HR, RBI,  and will be second in total bases by May.
Best Pitcher: John Danks had a bit of a down year in 2011 but some of that may be attributed to injury, Ozzie Guillen, and bad luck.  His peripherals remained strong and he's an excellent bounce back candidate in 2012.
Say Hello To: Simon Castro RP, Delwyn Young UT, Dan Johnson 1B, Kosuke Fukudome OF
Wave Goodbye: Mark Buehrle SP (Mia), Juan Pierre OF (Phi), Omar Vizquel INF (Tor), Sergio Santos CL (Tor), Tony Pena RP (Bos), Jason Frasor RP (Tor), Carlos Quentin OF (SD)
Biggest Questions:
1. Is Adam Dunn done?  Dunn seemed like the perfect fit for the Cell since it's a great home run park, he's a home run hitter, and he can DH. Instead he had one of the worst seasons of all time and despite walking 75 times he managed only 11 home runs and a putrid .159 batting average.  He's looked good in spring training making me optimistic there's still some left but it's clear the Sox aren't getting what they paid for.
2. Who's the next guy to go?  Sox management traded a boatload of players and even manager Ozzie Guillen in the offseason.  Expecting them to continue to dismantle in an effort to rebuild the worst minor league system in baseball would be wise.  John Danks has been rumored to be available but the price remains too high as of now.  Danks, Floyd, and even Peavy if he's pitching well could be moved this summer.
3. How bad is the farm system?  It's really bad.  Baseball Prospectus ranked the top 100 prospects in the minor leagues and the Sox had zero on the list.  On the Up and In podcast, Kevin Goldstein says it's the worst he's ever seen and when he asked other scouts to name a top prospect none came to mind. It's bad but at least it can't get worse. 
Expectations: Realistically this team could finish anywhere from second to fifth.  If Dunn and Rios rebound then this offense can be pretty good.  The bullpen lacks depth and so does the rotation.  While Northsiders will be crying about how bad the Cubs are, at least Sox fans have the potential to be entertained by exciting - albeit not necessarily good - baseball.
Beckham is a great defensive player but
his offense is still lacking.
Probable Opening day lineup:
1. De Aza CF
2. Rios RF
3. Ramirez SS
4. Konerko 1B
5. Dunn DH
6. Fukudome LF
7. Pierzynski C
8. Morel 3B
9. Beckham 2B
Probable Rotation/Closer
1. Danks
2. Peavy
3. Floyd
4. Sale
5. Humber
CL: Thornton

Saturday, March 31, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: NL West

The National League West is the division that seems to get less coverage than any other.  This may be because the Dodgers have been mediocre of late, the Rockies play in a smaller market, the late start times, or all of the above.  This is all too bad because there were some impressive performances in this division last season.  Ian Kennedy and Clayton Kershaw tied for the league lead with 21 wins apiece -Kershaw actually won the triple crown (wins, strikeouts, ERA) title.  Matt Kemp nearly won the hitter's triple crown, failing to win only the batting title where he finished third.  Troy Tulowitzki is one of the most impressive talents in baseball and last season put up his third straight season of 5 wins above replacement. There is a lot of individual talent but the depth of each team's rosters is lacking.  No team should run away from another and whoever finishes in last place may only be 10 games back giving each intradivisional matchup meaning.  That's good for baseball.

Arizona Diamondbacks
2011 Record: 94-68
2012 Estimated Team Salary: $72.9 million
Highest Paid Player: Stephen Drew - $7.75 million
Best Player: Justin Upton was expected to be a superstar when he broke through to the majors at age 19. Last season he seemed to put it together by hitting 31 homers and finishing with a .289/.369/.529 line.
Best Pitcher: Ian Kennedy had his breakthrough season last year going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP.
Say Hello To: Lyle Overbay 1B, Trevor Cahill SP, Craig Breslow RP, Takashi Saito RP, Jason Kubel OF, Mike Jacobs 1B, Cody Ransom 3B, Craig Tatum C
Wave Goodbye: Xavier Nady OF, Jason Marquis SP,  Zach Duke SP (Hou), Collin Cowgill OF (Oak), Jarrod Parker SP (Oak), Ryan Cook RP (Oak), Micah Owings P (SD)
Biggest Questions:
1. Is this team the 2010-11 Padres? Oh no, they're much better than that.  The Padres won the division in 2010 due to an incredible bullpen, defense, and a ton of luck.  The Dbacks have some real talent on the roster and won't collapse like the Padres did last season.
2. Who's the biggest wild card on this team?  Stephen Drew's health is paramount. Willie Bloomquist is not a good enough player to have in the lineup everyday and while Drew may not have lived up to his hype, he's still a solid major league shortstop.  The longer the club is without him the tougher it will be to overtake the Giants.
3. Is Ian Kennedy the type of pitcher to build around long term? It's too soon to say although last season's results were pretty remarkable.  If he performs close to that level again this season Arizona should be working their butts off to keep him around. 
Expectations: The team traded for Oakland's #2 starter in the offseason in an effort to bolster their own rotation and signed Jason Kubel to be the left-handed side of their platoon in left field.  This team should compete and has a very good chance to get back to the playoffs.
Arizona traded for groundball machine Trevor Cahill to
improve a rotation and enhance their attempts to win now.
Probable Opening day lineup:
1. Bloomquist SS
2. Hill 2B
3. Upton RF
4. Montero C
5. Young CF
6. Kubel LF
7. Roberts 3B
8. Goldschmidt 1B
Probable Rotation/Closer
1. Kennedy
2. Hudson
3. Cahill
4. Collmenter
5. Saunders
CL: Putz

Friday, March 30, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: AL East

Every year there is talk about how baseball should approach realignment to make it more fair for the other teams in the American League East division.  "Who can compete when you've got teams tripling the payroll of the other teams?" they say.  The Yankees and Red Sox are two of the most successful teams in baseball right now and it's no coincidence that they're the two big spenders, too. But frugal Tampa Bay has had success right along with them of late and looks to be there again this season as well.  Now Toronto's rebuild is beginning to bear fruit and after finishing with a winning record last season, the team looks to take the next step with some exciting young players.  Baltimore is in the middle of what seems like a never ending rebuilding process but there are beginning to be signs of changes for the positive.  All of these factors make this a division to watch this summer.  The Yankees and Red Sox are not invulnerable meaning maybe it's someone else's time for a change.  This should end all that nonsense about "fairness" and realignment.

Baltimore Orioles
2011 Record: 69-93
2012 Estimated Team Salary: $97 million
Highest Paid Player: Nick Markakis - $12 million
Best Player: Catcher Matt Wieters broke out last season but I believe the best is yet to come.
Best Pitcher: Jake Arrieta gets the nod over Brian Matusz here simply because of how awful Matusz was last season.
Say Hello To: Darren O'Day RP, Taylor Teagarden C, Endy Chavez OF, Jai Miller OF, Wilson Betemit 3B, Armando Galarraga SP, Ronny Paulino C, Jason Hammel SP, Matt Lindstrom RP, Nick Johnson 1B
Wave Goodbye: Craig Tatum RP (Hou), Vladimir Guerrero (Japan), Cesar Izturis SS (Mil), Luke Scott DH (TB), Jo-Jo Reyes SP (Pit), Jeremy Guthrie SP (Col)
Biggest Questions:
1. What is the organizational plan? The team believes by abstaining from big name free agents and allocating that money to player development through the draft and via international signees they'll be able to build a better foundation that will allow for prolonged success.  The only problem with this method is it takes a long time to see results.
2. Is Brian Matusz's career as an effective big leaguer over? That's a little harsh but there are reasons to be concerned. Whispers about work ethic may not be unfounded but the bigger question is why did his velocity and command slip so much last season? If he posts another year like 2011 he'll go from elite prospect to bust in less than two years.
3. What's the latest on Brian Roberts' health?  In May of last season Roberts hit his head sliding into first base and suffered a severe concussion.  He missed the rest of the season and has not participated in live games in spring training.  The team is likely optimistic he'll play soon since they put him on the 15 day DL and not the 60 day DL.
Expectations: It's going to be another losing season thanks to being in a stacked division.  If the young pitchers can take a step forward there will be reason for optimism, otherwise the team will be going backwards - not a good sign when you're already in last place.
Matt Wieters is another example of how it often takes a catcher
 longer than the average hitter to develop his offensive skills.
Probable Opening day lineup:
1. Reimold LF
2. Johnson DH
3. Markakis RF
4. Jones CF
5. Wieters C
6. Hardy SS
7. Reynolds 3B
8. Davis 1B
9. Andino 2B
Probable Rotation/Closer
1. Arrieta
2. Hammel
3. Chen
4. Hunter
5. Matusz
CL: Johnson

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: AL West

Since Opening Day is tomorrow I figured I should hurry up and write my preview of the American League West.  This is a top-heavy division.  Anaheim blew their entire wad of cash on the best available free agents while Texas should remain strong thanks to their core of young players.  Seattle is undergoing a youth movement and has several young players who they hope will be a part of their lineup for years to come.  And then there's Oakland, a team who traded away their top players to reload their farm system in hopes they can compete in three years. For some it's time to win now, for others it's in the future.  This division has a lot of both.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2011 Record: 86-76
2012 Estimated Team Salary: $159.1 million
Highest Paid Player: Vernon Wells - $21 million
Best Player: Albert Pujols might be the best player in baseball.
Best Pitcher: The Angels excellent outfield defense makes Weaver really tough to beat.  Give this team an average outfield and it's Dan Haren. Either way this is a really good staff.
Say Hello To: Albert Pujols 1B, CJ Wilson SP, Chris Iannetta C, Brad Mills RP, Jason Isringhausen RP, Juan Rincon RP, LaTroy Hawkins RP, Eric Hurley RP, Ryan Langerhans OF, Jorge Cantu 1B
Wave Goodbye: Russell Branyan 4C (NYY), Fernando Rodney RP (TB), Joel Pineiro RP (Phi), Tyler Chatwood RP (Col), Jeff Mathis C (Tor),
Biggest Questions:
1. Are the Angels the division favorites? They've got the best rotation, the best player, and the best outfield defense, and maybe the best depth but they're not necessarily the best team.  Expect a dogfight with Texas all summer.
2. When will we see Mike Trout?  Mike Trout is to the Angels what Bryce Harper is to the Nationals.  Trout is an electric player who also happens to be an excellent defensive outfielder.  After Vernon Wells' historically bad 2010, if Trout gets off to a hot start a change may be forced to happen.
3. Is the Pujols contract a mistake?  Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to get your man.  I think Pujols will be worth it the first three years or so but ten years is a long time and these kind of marriages don't always end well.
Expectations: This team forked over more money than any other last season and now sports the third highest payroll in the A.L. With that kind of spending frenzy come playoff expectations.  Winning the World Series should be the goal and this team has the talent to do it.
Perhaps the most underrated pitcher in baseball, Dan Haren
will just keep on keepin' on as this team's true staff ace.
Probable Opening day lineup:
1. Aybar SS
2. Kendrick 2B
3. Pujols 1B
4. Hunter RF
5. Morales DH
6. Wells LF
7. Callapso 3B
8. Iannetta C
9. Bourjos CF
Probable Rotation/Closer
1. Weaver
2. Haren
3. Wilson
4. Santana
5. Williams
Cl: Walden