Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Season Predictions: NL East

This is the last post in this series and I've saved the best for last. I'm being a little bias but I can't help it because I'm a die hard Mets fan. I predicted the Mets to win their division this year even though I've been having nightmares about the Braves and Phillies lately. The Mets are now led by Johan Santana who is untouchable in the second half of the season. What this means for the Mets is that as long as they stay 5+ games above .500 until the All-Star break Santana will lead them the rest of the way. Also, right now the Mets are pretty much slumping and they're still 2 games above .500, Moises Alou is due to come back soon and their hitters should be coming out soon.

The Mets have created what I like to call a "Pitchers Haven". What this means is that Omar has assembled the best defense in the major leagues along with the best pitching coach, the best defensive catcher and an extreme pitcher's ballpark. So, the Mets don't really need to acquire so much proven pitching but rather rough, unfinished guys with filthy stuff. All these factors along with playing in the NL gives the Mets a great rotation and bullpen which is the key to winning the World Series. On another note if you look at Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey and the bullpen's numbers with and without Schneider(best defensive catcher) you'll see a HUGE difference. The Mets also have Pedro and El Duque on the DL.

The Braves are an excellent young team with a great core but have sustained many injuries to their pitching staff thus far. Their closer, setup men(top 3 in their pen), John Smoltz(their Ace), Mike Hampton. This leaves them with the worst bullpen in the league and a thin rotation led by Tim Hudson and Tommy Glavine along with prospects Jair Jurrjens(the best of them), Jo-Jo Reyes and Chuck James. Their hitting is just fantastic with Mark Teixeira, Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur. They have more coming, so Mets fans look out.

The Phillies are very overrated! The Marlins have a great young team but have NO pitching and the Nationals are extremely talented and will be the Mets main competition along with the Braves in years to come.

The Rest of the Division Goes as follows:
1. New York Mets(I'm being very bias, but can't pick against them)
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Philadelphia Phillies(extremely overrated)
4. Washington Nationals
5. Florida Marlins(the last three teams will be very close together)

Season Predictions: NL Central

I predicted the Brewers to win the central this year because they have amazing hitters great young hurlers and a decent bullpen. The Brewers are an excellent young team with a great combination of vets and young'uns. The one thing this team is terrible at is fielding. They have some of the best young hitters that are the worst fielders in the game like Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. They have one of the best batting orders in the NL with Rickie Weeks(draws tons of walks, gets on base, fast), Mike Cameron(has speed, strikes out a ton but they got him for his fielding), Ryan Braun(young power hitter with some speed, anemic defense), Prince Fielder(extreme power hitter), Corey Hart(a five tool player), Bill Hall(good glove, decent bat great speed), JJ Hardy(fine young shortstop), the pitcher(power bat....just kidding) and Jason Kendall(their "2nd leadoff hitter" scrappy player who gets on base).

Ned Yost has his pitcher batting 8th because he wants the most guys on base as possible for Fielder, Braun, Hart. What he doesn't realize is that pitchers kill rallies and that he's giving 18 more at bats to the pitcher. Another good thing about this, is that JJ Hardy is batting 7th AND in front of the pitcher. Why does this matter? Because proven in recent studies that the batter before the pitcher sees more pitches and draws more walks which is very good for JJ.

Their team is stocked with pitching headed by ace Ben Sheets, a solid veteran in Jeff Suppan and a bunch of young guys like Yovani Gallardo(a future stud), Carlos Villanueva, Manny Parra(another excellent pitcher) and Dave Bush rounding out the rotation. Why have so many analysts picked the Cubs to win this division if I just showed you how good the Brewers are? Because the Cubs have a better rotation, a much better bullpen, better defense and also have a great lineup(although not as good as the Brewers). The third team that has talent in this division are the Reds. The Reds have a dream lineup with a dream pitching rotation but are very inconsistent. If everything starts clicking for them at the same time they could be this year's Rockies. All the other teams in this division are pretty junkie but out of the bunch the Cards are the best.

The Rest of the Division goes as follows:
1. Milwaukee Brewers(late run wins it)
2. Chicago Cubs(very close second)
3. Cincinnati Reds(on the brink of being great)
4. St. Louis Cardinals(keep falling further and further from the 06 WS)
5. Pittsburgh Pirates(they'll start turning things around)
6. Houston Astros(one of the worst run teams in the game)

Breaking News: Jason Botts DFA'd

Jason Botts, the Texas Rangers' backup first basemen, was designated for assignment yesterday in order to clear a roster spot for someone totally irrelevant to this post.  What does it mean to be DFA'd?  This means that the team takes you of of their 40 man roster and has ten days to either trade you or release you.  If these ten days have passed and you haven't been traded, the team can either send you to AAA or grant you free agency.  In Jason Botts' case , he'll probably be traded or released.  

Why is this so important?  It's important because I believe this guy could become the next Travis Hafner, a guy that's let go of but has insane power and eventually latches on somewhere and hits 40 dingers.  Who the hell is Jason Botts?  He's a 27 year old backup 1B,DH,LF for the Rangers but for some idiotic reason, even after raking in the minors, he hasn't been given a fair chance.  Why am I writing about Jason Botts and not any other recent player that was DFA'd?  Because earlier in the month I wrote about Botts in depth and how he'd make an immediate impact for plenty major league teams.  Here's the link to the post:
Lets keep an eye out for this guy to see if he ever lives up to his potential and first lets see where he lands in the near future, my guess is the Orioles.  Where do you think he'll land?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Breaking News: Wayne Krivsky Fired

Wayne Krivsky, the GM of the Reds was fired today in a very shocking event.  Many people cannot figure out the reasoning of this move for Wayne Krivsky has made some excellent moves in his tenure as GM.  He has acquired Josh Hamilton, Brandon Phillips, Bronson Arroyo and David Ross for virtually nothing.  He also signed Scott Hatteberg, signed Adam Dunn, Brandon Phillips, Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo to excellent contract extensions and traded Josh Hamilton for Edinson Volquez, a pitcher with electric stuff.

People say that this move only had to do with the fact that the Reds owner and their new GM, Walt Jocketty, go way way back.  It doesn't make sense if Wayne Krivsky was fired on the consensus of making mistakes for he barely has made any.  I think this was just the Reds idiotic ownership realizing that the team is on the verge of making the playoffs so therefore wanting a guy to push them over the top but in the end destroys the whole team.  This is how you screw up a teams dynamics.  Owners that are too involved in Baseball Operations tend to hire new GM's every few years.  The Reds' owner is like this and so is the Dodgers' owner.  This is by far the worst thing to do.  Like Yogi Berra once said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

No Starting Gig: Red Sox Blocked Prospects

The Red Sox have compiled tons of young valuable talent thanks to Theo Epstien and Ben Cherington(Director of Player Development) over the years but have also improved their team via trade and free agency.  What this will do to a team isn't a bad thing it's called creating a surplus.  I'm not saying I agree with what Theo Epstien is doing(Developing these guys and then blocking them with high priced free agents) but that's not the point of this article.  The point of this article is Epstien's byproduct, his minor league talent pool.  He currently has Jed Lowrie playing SS for the Pawsox(the Red Sox AAA team) blocked by Mike Lowell-3 year $37.5M and Julio Lugo-3 year $27M.  This guy can play all infield positions really well, is an above average fielder, has an above average arm and hits well.  In AA-AAA last year Jed hit 13 homers with an OPS of .928 which is outstanding.  He has decent power, decent speed and hits for a high average.  He's also very versatile being able to play 2B,SS,3B and CF.

Ryan Kalish is on the Red Sox AA affiliate after ripping apart the NYPL in his first full season with an 1.011 OPS last year. He plays LF,RF and 1B but mostly LF.  He's a power hitter that walks and strikes out a lot but is still extremely young and bats left handed.  The one thing that he's great at is hitting.  He has a special swing and can really rake.

Chris Carter is a 25 year old in AAA.  Every level he's been at he's hit very well.  Although many people aren't high on him, I think he could make a solid type player.  He walks a lot, hits for average, cranks a few homers and rarely strikes out.  He isn't the best defensive player but can play LF and 1B.  He has a good bat so they just try to stick him in at any position although he'd really be an ideal DH.  Has league average speed, not an athlete but plays the game right, sees a lot of pitches per plate appearance, works the count and has a great eye.  One of his top comparables are Raul Ibanez who's always been a solid hitter and player.  He has the makeup to be a successful major leaguer and I think he'd be able to help out a few teams right now(Mets, Yankees, Orioles). 

Last but not least, actually the best, Brandon Moss.  This guy is going to be an above average corner outfielder/first basemen in the mold of Adam Dunn.  He has extreme power shown by his 189 ISO at AAA last year.  Has great speed for a corner outfielder/first basemen and has a great glove.  He walks and strikes out a ton but also hits a lot of homers.  He fits the classic first basemen mold that we've been talking about lately.  He's a left handed hitter and is going to peak sometime in the next 2-4 years so I'd advise any team that likes this guy to start him immediately.  

These four players are only some of the Red Sox surplus.  They also have a problem in CF with Jacoby Ellsbury and Coco Crisp, but they'll probably end up trading Crisp.  Don't be surprised to see any of these guys traded for more pitching over the course of the season.  Any team that would pick up Carter or Moss I consider lucky because I really think that they will be excellent ballplayers.  Jed Lowrie will cost a boatload and Ryan Kalish is only in A-AA so they don't need to trade him anytime soon.  

Around The Diamond: First Base

In todays game of baseball a 1st basemen's job is to hit for power.  Teams don't care if their first basemen lacks in other areas such as; fielding, running or throwing.  Most first basemen hit for average, know how to get on base and draw walks.  Also, a lot of first basemen strike out a lot. Am I saying that it's wrong to only have power hitters at first and not athletes like Keith Hernandez?  Not really.  This makes sense because the best play in baseball is the home run so power hitters will always find a position.  Why first base? Because first base is the least demanding position on defense.  

If you look around baseball almost all first basemen walk a lot, hit a lot of  homers, have a high ISO(isolated slugging=SLG-AVG), walk a lot and play crappy defense.  This is why first basemen like Mark Teixeira are so valuable.  Because he doesn't only walk and hit homers, he also has a great eye, hits for average and has many gold gloves while playing 1st base.  

This is why I don't understand the reason teams give huge contracts to the Adam Dunns, Carlos Delgados and Jason Giambis of the world.  There are so many other power hitters with the same skill set for so much cheaper out there(like in the minors or on waivers) that don't get recognized.  Remember how I wrote in my last post that power hitters peak at 26, well this proves that teams like the Yankees, Mets and the team that'll sign Ryan Howard are doing the wrong thing because they are investing so much cash into a guy who has 1-2 years left in the tank.  These guys were great in their prime but after the age of 31 they have nothing left because they only hit for power and the less tools you have the faster you decline.  Also players reach free agency at about age 27-29 so therefore only have a few years left.

So if you could get a guy like Mark Teixeira that's fine but if not don't go out and get some older guy that in a few years will be done.  Instead bring up a young guy(i.e. Brandon Moss, Chris Carter, Shelley Duncan) that can rake(hit for power) and he'll be hitting for you for the next 5-8 years, then you let him go in free agency and pickup a couple of draft picks.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Why Ryan Howard will be the next Big Free Agent Bust

Ryan Howard is a 28 year old slugger who only walks, strikes out and hits for power.  He doesn't run so well, he's plays replacement level defense at 1st base having only 2 FRAR(Fielding Runs Above Replacement) and strikes out a ton correlating to a low AVG.  This guy becomes a free agent in the 2010-11 offseason when he turns 31.  Hitters with "old player"(a Bill James term for a player that only hits for power and walks/one dimensional) skills, show decline much earlier in their careers than other kinds of players(i.e. speed+power, power+average and a good eye+average).  

These different categories of players have to do with predicting their future and proven that when a hitter has more than one asset, they prove to decline later and at a slower pace than a one tool player.  A power hitter that walks a lot and strikes out a lot, an "old player", peaks on average at the age of 26(roughly two years before other players) and stay pretty steady until the age of 31.  After 31 they are truly done.  This is what is happening to Carlos Delgado, this is what happened to Mo Vaugn and this is what's happening to Jason Giambi.  You could say, but these guys have hit for high average!  But this doesn't matter because average has a 43% chance of staying the same from year to year and also since there is such a high correlation between strikeouts and AVG, players that strike out a lot tend to never recuperate their average once their batting average starts to plummet.

So, you can see two things from the facts I've laid in front of you.  
1) Players with "old player" skills tend to decline at a faster pace than an average player would
2) Ryan Howard and therefore all "old player" skilled players should be avoided in Free Agency and not given the big bucks

As many of us can see Ryan Howard will get the big money contract and long term security similar to what A-Rod got, so I'm just priming you for the 2010-11 offseason where a team in baseball will loose close to $200M to a bad "old player" skilled player.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Season Predictions: NL West

I predicted the Arizona Diamondbacks to win the West this year just like I did last year.  The difference is, last year the D-Backs were a group of extremely young talented players that everyone thought were too raw to make it to the playoffs but in the end they did and I was right. This year almost everyone is predicting the Diamondbacks to take their division.  

A lot of people are making the mistake that the Rockies are here to stay and were not a fluke. This is not true because  their rotation has many flaws and their bullpen is pretty weak.  Last year they got lucky and their hitting, pitching and fielding all had their high points in the last 5 weeks of the season together and they still only tied for 2nd place in the West.  The Rockies are a solid 2nd-3rd place team, but don't kid yourself they aren't so good.  The Padres have one of the best rotations in the majors partly because they have the best pitchers park in the league and also their manager was an ace pitching coach.  Kevin Towers knows how to work the waivers for terrific pickups like Paul McAnulty, Scott Hairston and Justin Huber who are all sharing time in LF right now and putting up solid numbers.  Their bullpen is also terrific because of the same factors and also KT has a talent for picking up good arms on the cheap.

Now to get to the D-Backs.  The D-Backs are the second best team in the NL partly because of their amazing young hitting and partially because of their outstanding pitching.  They have, not one but two aces atop their rotation and a Cy Young award winner as their number 3 in Randy Johnson and have one of the best backs of the rotation with Doug Davis who has wicked stuff and also Micah Owings the young guy who keeps getting better.  Their bullpen has three closers(bullpen aces) in Tony Pena, Brandon Lyon and Chad Qualls.  They also have a top prospect in Max Sherzer who has a 99 MPH fastball a  devastating two-plane slider and a league average changeup with an occasional knee buckling curve.  He's ready for the bigs as well as Billy Buckner and Yusmeiro Petit are, who were both aces in the minors but will be in the D-Backs bullpen in the majors. They also have a terrific batting order with Chris Young(a five tool player) leading off followed by Orlando Hudson(a terrific fielder), Mark Reynolds(a young guy tearing up the league right now), Conor Jackson(a classic first basemen), Justin Upton(a future 40/40 guy), Eric Byrnes(hard nosed), Stephen Drew(terrific defense with a great bat) and Miguel Montero their catching prospect who is now on the DL.

All these reasons equal a playoff berth and might equal a dynasty, you never know.  They always say, "hitting wins ball games but pitching wins pennants.  So in the Diamondbacks case they will win many ball games and many pennants with 2 CY's in their rotation.     

The Rest of the Division Goes as Follows:
1. Arizona Diamondbacks
2. San Diego Padres
3. Colorado Rockies
4. LA Dodgers
5. San Francisco Giants(The worst team in baseball)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

No Starting Gig: Brent Lillibridge

The Braves AAA affiliate shortstop has everything you want out of a major league shortstop. So then why is he not in the majors?  Because the Braves have a superb young shortstop in Yunel Escobar.  The Braves, of course want to get Brent Lillibridge a full time major league job but don't have room for him.  They want him to learn how to play more positions to become more versatile, so right now in AAA he's playing SS,2B,CF and 3B.  He's fast, plays great defense and has an .813 minor league OPS which is similar to Derek Jeter's lifetime OPS.  He can field well, has a great arm, hits for power and average and runs extremely well.  All this means that he's a five tool player.

If the Braves didn't have Chipper Jones at 3rd base, Yunel at short, Kelly Johnson at 2nd base and Mark Kotsay in center, he would be in the bigs.  The good news for him is that Teixeira and Kotsay will be free agents at season's end, meaning that Chipper could shift over to first and then Lillibridge would be able to compete for the 3rd base or CF job.  The bad news is that the Braves top prospects are in CF and 1B.  This guy is probably the least likely trade candidate out of all the guys I've wrote about so far but he's highly coveted all through the majors.  He would cost a lot to acquire but is very worth it.  He's only 24 and has proven to everyone that he's MLB ready and is a five tool player.  The Braves have tremendous holes in their rotation now with the injury to Tommy "lets screw the Mets over in the last game of the season because I'm a die hard Brave" Glavine and in their bullpen with the injury to Rafael Soriano and their biggest asset is Lillibridge so possibly he'll be traded by the trade deadline in late July. 

Possible Suiters:
Any major league team would take this guy because he's a five tool player and is extremely versatile being able to play SS,2B,3B,OF.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Season Predictions: AL West

I predicted the LA Angels of Anaheim to win their division for 3 very simple reasons.  They have the best bullpen, the best hitting and arguably the best pitching in their division.  A lot of people argue that the Mariners will win this division but I say they were just a fluke last year.  I'm not nearly as interested in the reasons the Angels will win their division but of the reasons the Mariners are a fluke and the reason they'll finish in 3rd place.

First, You can't win in the AL with Jose Vidro(a natural 2nd basemen) as your DH.  Richie Sexson can't hit anymore and neither can Johjima or Beltre.  This means that out of the two most important positions to have power(DH,1B) they have little to none, especially compared to the Angels who have Vlad.  Their pitching staff is admirable and is led by Erik Bedard(who I think was a fluke last year) and Felix Hernandez(the 21 year old sensation).  Other than that they have Miguel Batista who's old and mediocre, Carlos Silva who last year had a career year and Jarrod Washburn another mediocre pitcher.  They have a decent bullpen headed by JJ Putz(pronounced puts) and Brandon Morrow.  Other than that they're fairly thin.

The real team I'd like to talk about in this post is the Oakland A's, my predicted surprise team.  Even though Billy Beane is "rebuilding" he can't help it but to field a good team every year.  What's a good team according to Billy?  A team that competes for a playoff spot.  I think with the Tigers doing atrociously so far this season the only competition the A's will have for the Wild Card and the Division are the Angels, Mariners, Rays and Yankees(maybe even the Royals).  Why are the A's so good?  Because Billy Beane trades away his players at peak value for cheaper blue chip prospects, lots and lots of prospects.  Now they have a more potent lineup than the Mariners with a middle of the order of Daric Barton, a crazy power hitter that can get on base and Jack Cust, another guy with extreme power that walks a ton.  New additions like Jack Hannahan will also contribute.  This guy is a typical Billy guy, a guy that is 27 and was seeing 4.2 pitches per at-bat and has a knack for gettting on-base and is a pretty good fielder but can't hit for power, doesn't have a good arm, isn't fast and most importantly isn't athletic.  This guy although not athletic, knows how to play the game of baseball.  So far he's walking in 13% of his pa's, a ridiculous number and should improve over time in the MLB.  Oakland also has a great core of young talent that will be around for another few years before being traded and repeating this process again.

The Rest of the Division Goes as Follows:
1. LA Angels
2. Oakland A's(my surprise team)
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Texas Rangers

Friday, April 11, 2008

Around The Diamond: Catcher

The catcher position is the most demanding position on defense.  Therefore many of todays catchers are not good hitters, they're decent but not good.  This makes total sense, if a position demands that you be great on defense you can lack a little on offense and your team wouldn't care because your defense is more valuable.  A catcher doesn't only have to play defense he has TEN ways to influence the defensive output in a game.

1. He studies the batters therefore calling for the right pitches in the right situation
2. He can use his glove to frame a pitch therefore influencing the umpires call on the pitch
3. He can keep his pitcher comfortable by calling for the pitches his pitcher is throwing well that day
4. He controls the tempo of the game, going at a fast pace when his pitcher's in a groove or slowing things down by going out to the mound to chat with him
5. He can use leadership and psychological skills to keep the pitcher focused
6. He can be skilled at blocking balls therefore letting a pitcher throw low in the zone without having to worry about a passed ball 
7. He can recognize tiredness and fatigue and tell the manager to pull the pitcher before the game gets out of hand
8. He can distract the batter without violating any MLB rules
9. He can call an unexpected pitch, gaining the element of surprise
10. He can prevent baserunners from stealing by throwing them out or keeping them from trying to steal

All these things can be split into four different categories
1. Pitching Management
2. Fielding the Pitch/Fielding Hits
3. Calling the Game
4. Arm Strength/Keeping the Runners in Check

Along with hitting and baserunning this position is the hardest, most fatiguing, most complex and most taxing physically and mentally position to play on the diamond.  Now we can get into discussions about whether it's better to have a catcher like Mike Piazza or a catcher like Brian Schneider.  The former is arguably the best hitting catcher in baseball history but cannot field if his life depended on it and the latter is a .230 hitter but is outstanding on defense.  I, personally don't know but from a fan's point of view I'd rather have Piazza.  This means that a catcher that can hit is a rare commodity and a gift to whatever team wants the extra runs.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Top Ten GM's in the MLB

1. Theo Epstein
2. Billy Beane
3. Kevin Towers
4. Mark Shapiro
5. Josh Byrnes
6. Brian Cashmen
7. Dave Dombrowski
8. Doug Melvin
9. Omar Minaya
10. Pat Gillick

Bottom Five
26. JP Ricciardi-He's a smart guy but has made to many mistakes!
27. Bill Bavasi-One of the most overrated GM's in the game
28. Mike Flanagan-Horrid GM but had all his power stripped when the O's got Andy MacPhail to be their COO and President of Baseball Operations
29. Ned Colletti-As you've seen from my previous post I absolutely despise this guy, also he was hired after being the Asst. GM of the worst GM in baseball for 8 season(very smart move Mr. McCourt)
30. And the Winner is.....Brian Sabean-By far the worst in baseball has a high priced veteran team with no young talent or prospects and the worst Major League team.

Young Gm's on the Rise
1. Andrew Friedman-He's built a terrific team down by the bay for the first time.  He's 29 and a Jew. 
2. Wayne Krivsky-He's picked up all theses very talented underachieving players in trades and they've bloomed into stars (i.e. Brandon Phillips, Jeff Keppinger)
3. Dayton Moore-Quietly building up a very solid team in KC with a core of young superstars in Alex Gordon and Billy Butler.
4. Jon Daniels-Has been doing an excellent job of stocking his farm system realizing he doesn't have a chance at the division now but does down the road
5. John Mozeliak-A Rookie with a great baseball mind.

Top GM Prospects 
1. Jack Zduriencik-He should be the guy to get the credit for building up Milwaukee
2. Paul DePodesta-A former Billy Beane guy, learns from the best.  First Billy now Kevin Towers and is a stat head. (Padres)
3. Ben Cherington, Jed Hoyer-Theo Epstein protege.  Should be great GM's some day just like Josh Byrnes in Arizona. (Red Sox)
4. Tony LaCava-Great baseball guy, will turn your franchise around in seconds. (Blue Jays)
5. Ruben Amaro Jr.-Would be the most sought after, but since Pat Gillick is retiring after the season and he's his top assistant so he's the leading candidate for the Phillies GM job.

No Starting Gig: Delwyn Young

Delwyn Young is an extremely talented hitter in the LA Dodgers organization.  It's not his fault that he's not starting for the Dodgers this year, it's Ned Colletti's(He's in the worst 5 GM's in baseball list).  Ned Colletti and Frank McCourt make up the stupidest GM/Owner tandem ever. Every player that is good on the Dodgers was either drafted during Dan Evans two years with the team but after not making the playoffs in two years was fired(but in the meantime probably built one of the best core of prospects ever in baseball history).  Or was drafted or traded for nothing in Paul DePodesta's two year run with the team.  In the first year he made the playoffs and in the second he traded Paul LoDuca who was a fan favorite, but really had nothing left for Brad Penny(the number five starter.....oops I mean ACE!) and finished the year 20 games under .500. What has Colletti done so far?  Block all his prospects with crappy veterans that are costly in cash and draft picks like: Kenny Lofton, Nomar, Juan Pierre and Rafael Furcal.  He's also blocked Andre Ethier this year when he signed Andruw Jones.  

He proved that he could hit at every level so the Dodgers challenged him and brought him up to a higher level of the Minors and every time he still smoked the ball.  Last year at AAA he had a .955 OPS, that's what Mark Teixeira had!!!  So the Dodgers brought him up to the bigs.  Right now he's sitting on the Dodgers bench as their 5th outfielder and can also play 2nd and a little 3rd base.  He's very versatile and athletic and knows how to play the game right.  He's a switch hitter a little undersized at 5"10 but can really rake and hasn't been given a real chance to succeed at the MLB level with only 44 ab's.  His only flaws are not being the greatest defender al bight being solid and he has to develop more plate discipline because he draws very few walks.  

He's a major league hitter and despite being small has tremendous power.  Might be a better fit at 2nd base or centerfield for the long run.  This guy needs a change of scenery desperately and the team that picks this guy up will be extremely lucky with what they've found. 

Possible Suiters:
Rays(RF), Yankees(1B), Orioles(DH), Royals, Twins(2B), Mariners(DH), Braves(they just love stockpiling young cheap talent), Nationals(solid fit team wise), Cardinals(2B), Cubs(IF), Reds(Future OF), Giants and Padres(LF,CF).  Quite frankly, any MLB team could use him. Everyone could use a superb bat on their team.  He would be a cheap terrific pickup for anyone. 

Monday, April 7, 2008

Season Predictions: AL Central

Yes, I know unlike the Red Sox not everyone has picked the Indians to win the Central.  Most people picked the Tigers.  The Tigers probably have the best lineup in all of baseball but most of their starters are injury prone or old(i.e. Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, Ivan Rodriguez etc.)  and Gary Sheffield and Curtis Granderson are already injured.  The Tigers also probably have the most overrated rotation in the Major Leagues.  Verlander is an ace, Willis had an ERA of 5.17 last year, Bonderman is a solid number 3 guy, Robertson is a little below or might be at league average but has been having arm problems as of late and Kenny Rogers barely has anything left in the tank at 43.  Those two areas have been talked about as the Tigers strengths but both can easily fall apart.  Now talking about their "only" weakness, the bullpen.  They used to have a solid bullpen, but when Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, their setup men, got injured that was it.  They have no talent in their bullpen whatsoever and even more so after their only young pitcher left in the bullpen and minot leagues, Jordan Tata, got injured.

Now, to talk about why the Cleveland Indians will win their division and not why the Tigers will lose it.  The Indians rotation is stocked.  They have a bona fide ace in CC Sabathia, a groundball specialist whose drastically improved from last year in Jake Westbrook, a young guy with tons of upside and the stuff of an ace in Fausto Carmona, the classy veteran in Paul Byrd who always gives you a chance to win and Cliff Lee the veteran that will be replaced soon by their young pitching prospects.  But that's not it, they have a top tier minor league system and have four other starters that are all major league ready and under 24 years of age.  Jeremy Sowers, being the oldest and has the least upside will be a future number 4-5 guy but the rest of them, Chuck Lofgren, Aaron Laffey and Adam Miller will all be 1-3 material in the bigs and all have great stuff.  

The Indians bullpen is probably the best in the MLB, compared with the Tigers who have the worst in the league.  Their closer is their only weak link.  You may ask so then why is he their closer?  The answer is because he's getting paid too much not to be and also Mark Shapiro, the Indians GM, figured out that your closer isn't the most important part of your bullpen.  Last year they had the best setup-man duo in the majors with Rafael Perez in the 7th and Rafael Betancourt in the 8th.  This year they added Masahide Koboyashi from Japan to form a trio of great relievers all with completely different stuff.

Their lineup is also one of the best in the majors, yet very young and underrated.  Their leadoff hitter is arguably the best center-fielder in baseball in Grady Sizemore.  Then the young guy with a ton of upside that Shapiro plucked from the the Mariners for nada, Asdrubal Cabrera. Following is their best hitter and also a great Shapiro pickup(as was Grady Sizemore), Travis Hafner.  Victor Martinez bats cleanup and you can guess why.  Ryan Garko, the kid, is a great hitter that will end up mashing 40 homers and a 900+ OPS. per season.  Following him are Jhonny Peralta, Casey Blake who never seems to get old, David Delluci and the platoon of Jason Michael and Franklin Gutierrez.  Their 6-9 hitters are better than the Pirates 1-4 hitters(that's how good this lineup is!). They also have top prospects in CF, LF, 1B and 3B in Trevor Crowe, Ben Francisco, Beau Mills and Wes Hodges in that order.

The Rest of the Division Goes as Follows:
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Minnesota Twins


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Around The Diamond: Manager

In this day and age managers have barely any influence on their teams.  This doesn't mean that you and I can just become managers and lead a World Series caliber team to the World Series. What this means is that the difference between major league managers and regular coaches, like bench coaches, 1st and 3rd base coaches and pitching coaches are minimal.  The reasons for this are:

1. All managers use a five man rotation
2. All managers use preset bullpens
3. Most managers set their batting order up like this
1-Fast if possible also gets on base
2-gets on base, can move the runner over,slap hitter
3-best pure hitter (like david Wright)
4-most power
5-great hitter, but strikes out a ton (like Adam Dunn)
6-usually a platoon spot or someone who only hits lefties or righties and not both (like Geoff Jenkins)
7-plays a hard defensive position and therefore doesn't need to hit as well
8-worst hitter
4. All managers use their bullpen aces(closers) in the 9th inning 
5. There are probably a lot more tendencies that managers have that I don't know or can't think of

I'm trying to say three things here.  First, managers aren't hired because of their strategy any more, rather they're hired if they know how to work with a team and take care of all their off field issues while being the team's frontman in the media.  Second, good managers don't make great teams, great teams make good managers.  Third and most importantly all managers might be using the same basic ideas to manage their teams and therefore a "bad" manager doesn't cost his team wins but, is this the optimal way of managing your baseball team?According to many this isn't.  In the 1900's baseball managers ideas varied, whether to use a 3 or 4 man rotation whether to have more than one man in the bullpen and so on.  Now, everyone has the same ideas and a lot of them aren't optimal.  

One of them the 5-man rotation.  The 4-man rotation is much better because proven many times even in recent years, that a 4-man rotation actually holds up better during the course of a season than a 5-man rotation does.  The only tricky part is that a manager needs to know when his pitcher is done and not let him exceed 100 pitches often.  A 4-man rotation is better for many reasons and here are three of them:

1. You give all your number five guy's starts to your first four guys therefore getting more wins
2. They hold up better during the course of the season, proven that the fourth day of rest doesn't do anything and might even set the pitcher back
3. Since it's the teams first four starters, they'll be able to pitch longer into games and therefore not have to use the bullpen as much

Talking about the bullpen now, it was shown in recent studies that a bullpen by committee is better than a preset bullpen because you put each pitcher into an ideal situation for them to succeed in.  So what is the difference between these two kinds of bullpens?  A preset bullpen tells the pitchers what their task is in the bullpen giving them an idea of when they will pitch (i.e. Long Reliever, Lefty Specialist, Setup Man, Closer).  But with a bullpen by committee, any pitcher can pitch at any time given the most appropriate situation.  Another bullpen problem is the closer or ace reliever.  This guy is your best pitcher out of the bullpen so he needs to be used in the most important situations.  When do you think your best reliever should come into the ball game? A tied game in the 7th inning or up 3 in the 9th inning.  Well, the optimal decision is to pitch your closer in the seventh and not the ninth.

Another mistake managers make is not using an optimal lineup.  For some reason it's so hard for managers, fans, executives, etc. to understand that a lineup spot means that you hit 3rd or 9th in the FIRST INNING!!!  Statisticians have figured out that between each lineup spot are 18 plate-appearances(i.e. if you move form 5th to 3rd you gain 36 pa's over the course of a season). So if you haven't realized yet, the optimal batting order is to give the player with the highest OBP on your team, the leadoff spot.  This idea works if you thing about it, who would you rather give the extra pa's to/leadoff spot; a guy that gets on-base 42% of the time(David Wright) or a guy that gets on-base 36% of the time(Jose Reyes).  How is this optimal?  The more baserunners you have the higher the chances are that you'll score and approximately every 10 runs are equal to a win.

So if baseball listened to me and other smart writers(Baseball Prospectus) teams would be managed properly.  The first team to imply these ideas could get 3-10 more wins on the season. Yes 3-10 more runs, isn't that ridiculous?!  

Thursday, April 3, 2008

No Starting Gig: Jason Botts

Have you heard of Travis Hafner? Of course you have! Have you heard of Jason Botts? Of course you haven't!  They both started(in Jason Botts case he's still there) their careers in Texas and both have tremendous power.  Botts is pretty slow and can't field to well but he's a great hitter.  Also look at all 1st basemen around the league and you'll see that most of them can't field or run either.  Plus He's a switch hitter and he's pretty versatile being able to play LF,RF and 1B. 
What I'm saying is Jason Botts is the next Travis Hafner and any team that'll pick Jason up will luck out.  In Jason's Minor League career he averaged a home run every 7.6 at-bats, that's higher than Travis Hafner's '06 rate of a homer every 10.8 at-bats.  So you may ask, why is this kid still without a starting job at the age of 27?  There are two answers:

1. He's never had a chance to prove himself totaling only 244 major league at-bats.
2. As you see with the Travis Hafner situation(DFA'd by the Rangers) the Rangers aren't the best run team.

So if there are any Major League Executives reading this, my advice to you is to pick Jason up and plug him in at 1st Base and give him a chance to prove himself.

Teams that can use Jason Botts:
Mets, Yankees, Orioles, Rangers, Rays(RF), Mariners(DH), Braves(LF), Giants(He'd be an upgrade anywhere) and Padres(LF) 


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Season Predictions: AL East

Obvious choice for most. Most people have already predicted to repeat, but I don't do playoff predictions until the season's over. The Red Sox have the highest team On-Base Percentage in the whole MLB and their pitching staff is amazing, even without Schilling(their number 2 starter last year).

Josh Beckett is in the top 5 pitchers in baseball, Dice-K is supposed to have figured the MLB 4 day rest system out and everyone's predicting a breakout season for him. That's an amazing 1-2 punch, top 5 in baseball, following them are the knuckleballer that's always tough to hit, Jon Lester a southpaw with great stuff but his development has been slow since he got cancer and last but not least is Clay Buchholz who many predict to win the Rookie of the Year award.

So their you go the perfect team, not to mention their bullpen with Papelbon, Okajima and Delcarmen at the end is great. No wonder why everyone has them repeating especially with their influx of young major league ready talent like: Lester, Delcarmen, Ellsbury, Brandon Moss and Jed Lowrie. This team will be a great one for years. Sorry Yankee fans(NOT REALLY!!!!)

The Rest of the Division Goes as Follows:
1. Red Sox
2. Yankees
3. Rays
4. Blue jays
5. Orioles

New Series'

I'll start writing my pick explanations a little later, but first i'd like to introduce two new series' to Baseball Outlook.

The first one is called "No Starting Gig" and it focuses on very good young players that are either blocked by a major league player or have not impressed at the big league level and therefore they don't have a starting spot.

The second one is called "Around the Diamond" and it will feature my input on every single position on the baseball diamond.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Season Predictions

I'll start off by writing my predictions for the 2008 MLB season.

AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
AL West: LA Angels
AL Wild Card: NY Yankees(Im a huge Mets fan)
AL Surprise Team: Oakland A's

NL East: NY Mets(Sorry)
NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers
NL West: Arizona D'Backs
NL Wild Card: Atlanta Braves
NL Surprise Team: Cincinnati Reds

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
AL CY YOUNG: Justin Verlander
AL ROY: Daric Barton
NL MVP: David Wright
NL CY YOUNG: Johan Santana
NL ROY: Justin Upton

Just Remember you heard it hear first.  (Explanations for picks coming soon!)