Thursday, April 30, 2009

Monthly Predictions, May 1

We thought it could be fun to do a monthly revisit of our season predictions. (Not to mention that gimmicks like these are some of the easier ways to get columns started.)

For the record, we will stick with our Opening Day predictions, when it comes to evaluating
how we did at the end of the year. This is more or less a "fun" exercise to check the pulse of the league and see what we believe at different points throughout the season.

April has had its share of surprises, disappointments, inspirational moments, and a bevy of
fresh faced debuts. As we did a month ago, we'll break it down by division.

AL East
Current Standings
Boston Red Sox (14-8)
Toronto Blue Jays (15-9)

NY Yankees (12-10)
Baltimore Orioles (9-13)
Tampa Bay Rays (9-14)

Updated Prediction...
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles

Boston still looks rock solid. What a pitching staff. In fact, they could handle losing Dice-K, Brad Penny, and even Josh Beckett (who suddenly forgot how to pitch) because Bowden & Bucholz are wasting bullets in Pawtucket, while John Smoltz is resting his arm at extended spring training. I think that Michael Bowden is one of the best young pitchers in all of baseball because of the speed, movement, and location of his stuff, combined with the deceptive delivery and obvious physical tools. Frankly, I'm not sure he gets much more of an opportunity than Masterson got last year, which seems odd since at least 29 other teams in baseball are starving for pitching. Just three days ago, I told a friend that I was glad I had picked the Yankees to finish 3rd because "they stink". They really were stinking it up, with a 9-10 record, but that was before they got back-to-back quality performances from Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. If they can get solid innings from those two young guys, along with in-their-prime Sabathia & Burnett, and the unflappable veteran, Andy Pettite, they will make the playoffs. The real questions in this division are if the Blue Jays are for real, and if the Rays are in line for a disappointing year in between where they finished the last two years. I'm sticking with the Rays at least through May, but wouldn't be surprised if the Jays leapfrog over them in my June 1 predictions.

AL Central
Current Standings

Kansas City Royals (12-10)
Detroit Tigers (11-10)
Chicago White Sox (11-10)
Minnesota Twins (11-11)

Cleveland Indians (8-14)
Updated Prediction...

Minnesota Twins
Detroit Tigers
Cleveland Indians
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox

- Here we go again. I still do not feel confident picking anyone in this division. On Opening Day, we thought the Twins had a chance, but they could suffer too much from missing Joe Mauer. Well, Mauer is scheduled to come back today and
they are only one game out of first place. So, I'm going with Gardenhire's boys to get to the top of the division. I like Detroit for 2nd because it looks like Verlander is back, they got the better end of the Matt Joyce for Edwin Jackson trade, Porcello still looks like he belongs, the bullpen is starting to come together, and Miguel Cabrera really is the Pujols of the American League. The Royals have been a great surprise and have heard whispers that they are "the next Tampa Bay". I don't really see that because they don't have anything near the lineup that the Rays had last year.

AL West

Current Standings
Seattle Mariners (13-9)

Texas Rangers (10-11)
LA Angels (9-12)

Oakland A's (8-11)
Updated Prediction...
Seattle Mariners
Oakland A’s
Los Angeles Angels

Texas Rangers

- This division has become a complete cluster ____. I think each of these teams is going to have a better 2010 than 2009, but someone has to finish on top this year. Am I really picking the Mariners? Am I that gullible that about 20 games are going to skew my beliefs so much? I guess so. The reasons I feel okay about this updated prediction is that King Felix and Erik Bedard look like the best 1-2 punch in the division, their outfield defense is the best in the game, Rob Johnson behind the plate throws out a lot of baserunners, and they have the
financial ability to make trades and bring in more help if they are competitive before the trade deadline.

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
AL R.O.Y.: Matt Wieters, Orioles
AL Manager: Don Wakamatsu, Mariners

NL East

Current Standings
Florida Marlins (14-8)
Philadelphia Phillies (11-9)
Atlanta (10-11)
NY Mets (9-12)
Washington Nationals (5-16)
Updated Prediction...

Philadelphia Phillies

New York Mets
Atlanta Braves
Florida Marlins
Washington Nationals

- This is the only division where our predictions didn't change from opening day. Some subtle differences in our opinions include the fact that the Phillies have been disappointing, the Mets have been almost awful, and the Marlins have been streaky, with flashes of brilliance. Jimmy Rollins has yet to get going for the Phillies, but that is only a matter of time. The Mets, besides Santana, cannot pitch which is not conducive with winning a division. However, I think the Wilpons desperately want to have a good product on the field, so they'll make changes in a few weeks if they have to. I could still see Bobby Cox and the Braves make a run, especially after Tommy Hanson joins the rotation. Josh Johnson looks like a very strong Cy Young candidate for the Marlins, and if they can get some more help in the bullpen to go along with improved offense from guys like Jeremy Hermida, Cameron Maybin, and the impressively powerful Jorge Cantu, anything can happen.

NL Central

Current Standings
St. Louis Cardinals (16-7)
Milwaukee Brewers (12-10)
Pittsburgh Pirates (11-10)
Cincinnati Reds (11-10)
Chicago Cubs (10-11)

Houston Astros (9-13)
Updated Prediction...
Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals
Milwaukee Brewers
Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates
Houston Astros

- My opinions here haven't changed much, except for the fact that the Cardinals are actually
good and the Cubs, right now, are terrible. They do not look like a winning club. Sure, they have some thunder in the lineup and some solid arms in the rotation, but the bullpen and depth are humongous question marks. Let me take that back. Depth is a question mark, but the bullpen is a disaster. I cannot even stand the sight of Kevin Gregg. With all of these problems, why do we still have the Cubs at the top? I think things can change. They can certainly get hot. Their MVP, Aramis Ramirez, has been out for quite a few games this year, but when he plays, he rakes. They can still trade for more pitchers. Another starter would really help the bullpen by getting Sean Marshall in there and hopefully moving Neal Cotts as far away from the team as possible.

The rest of the division screams .500 at best, and it pains me to put the Astros in last place since some of our more loyal readers are Astros fans. That being said, I reserve the right to not be surprised if they are in contention after winning 35 out of 40 games in August/September.

NL West
Current Standings
Los Angeles Dodgers (15-8)
San Diego Padres (11-11)
San Francisco Giants (10-10)
Arizona Diamondbacks (9-13)
Colorado Rockies (8-12)
Updated Prediction...
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres

- I've learned in the past four weeks to remember that Sandy Alderson, Kevin Towers, and Grady Fuson know much more about this game than I ever will
. The Padres are much better that what I called "the worst team in baseball". Still, I think this month could have been the aberration and they will still finish in last place; we'll see. The Rockies and D'backs look flawed and unhealthy losing Jeff Francis and Brandon Webb, respectively, for some time. The Giants look much improved and can definitely pitch, but I think this will be a division that is settled early because the Dodgers will run away with it.

NL MVP: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
NL Cy Young: Johan Santana, Mets
NL R.O.Y.: Dexter Fowler, Rockies
NL Manager: Tony La Russa, Cardinals (yuck!)

Postseason Predictions

Phillies over Cubs
Dodgers over Cardinals
Dodgers over Phillies
Red Sox over Mariners
Yankees over Twins
Red Sox over Yankees

2009 World Series
Red Sox over Dodgers

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Getaway Day Afternoon Notes

As a quick summary of the rest of last night's game... the Cubs cruised to an 11-3 win... Zambrano hit the 17th home run of his career... Tom Gordon pitched a perfect Top of the 9th, retiring the Cubs on 9 pitches. I didn't know he was on the Diamondbacks. Heck, I didn't know he was still in the league.

I'm currently watching the Tigers and Yankees, with a wonderful pitching matchup. Our darling, Rick Porcello, is facing off against Joba Chamberlain.

With this being getaway day around the league, there have already been several afternoon results of note...

In another really good matchup, Johan Santana and the Mets hosted Josh Johnson and the Marlins. Johan outpitched Johnson a little and left with a 3 - 2 lead. Unfortunately, for the Mets, JJ Putz did his best Aaron Heilman impersonation by walking the first two batters, leading to a 4 - 3 Marlins win.

The Diamondbacks exacted their revenge on the Cubs with a 10 - 0 shellacking. Doug Davis threw 7 innings of 2-hit ball, as Ryan Dempster, Carlos Marmol, and Kevin Gregg were charged with 10 earned runs. Coming back from a few days off due to injury, Carlos Marmol had an absolutely debilitating day for any fantasy owners who activated him. He pitched 1/3 of an inning, walked 4 guys, and they all scored. His season ERA is now 6.75. I really hope he's going to be okay because he's the only "good" reliever the Cubs have. This is starting to be a very big concern. Seriously, no-one in that bullpen has been any good. How can you win 90-something games with that bullpen? You probably can't.

The Angels won at Baltimore. We were pleased to see Kendry Morales hit a big homerun for the halos. One of my most memorable experiences in Portland was when Kendry Morales came to town. Being the son of a Cuban immigrant makes it so I always check out the Cuban ballplayers, Alexei, Yunel, Kendry, Dayan Viciedo, etc. Anyway, in this game between the Portland Beavers and the Salt Lake Bees, Morales hit a home run from both sides of the plate. The second one came from the right handed side and bounced back into left field. I - becoming a fan for a moment - yelled at Beavers' left fielder, Termell Sledge, to toss me the ball, which he did. Once I came to my senses, the ball ended up going to the child of one of our corporate sponsors, so at least there was a happy ending.

Yovani Gallardo really won a pitching battle. Not only did he pitch eight sparkling innings, with 2 hits, 1 walk, and 11 strikeouts, but he also hit a solo home run in a game that ended with a 1 to 0 final score. Incredible.

Huston Street got his second save of the season as the Rockies beat the Padres. We were pleased to see Todd Helton and Henry Blanco hit home runs.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cubs Live Bloggin

I’ve always enjoyed a running diary of live games from writers like Bill Simmons and the guys. So, as I get ready to watch my first Cubs’ game in over a week, here is my attempt to be a homeless person’s Ken Tremendous.


Pitching matchup: Carlos Zambrano vs Yusmeiro Petit

Bob Brenly just called Petit a 5-inning pitcher. I respectfully disagree. In fact, I had a backup waiver claim to pick up Petit for today’s game because I think he’ll do well against the depleted Cubs lineup. They don’t have Aramis or Derek Lee. I didn’t get him because a higher priority claim was executed, for David Aardsma. I’m dropping Aardsma tonight, but not sure whom I’m getting as we have two or three waiver requests. (More information available, upon request.)

I didn’t know how bad the lineup would look, but it is horrible:

Alfonso Soriano, LF

Ryan Theriot, SS

Kosuke Fukudome, CF

Micah Hoffpauir, 1b

Milton Bradley, RF

Mike Fontenot, 3b

Koyie Hill, C

Aaron Miles, 2b

Carlos Zambrano, P

I think Zambrano should be batting in the top four of this lineup, and I would like to predict right now that Bradley will go 0 for 3, with a walk.

Top of 1st

Soriano swings at the first pitch. Ugh. Sometimes, he’s so infuriating. He almost hit it out, but as someone in

my life likes to say, “Almost doesn’t count”.

Fukudome draws a walk, getting cheers from the Tabata’s Cougars faithful.

Len Kasper just announced that Aramis will not play this series, but Carlos Marmol is available after sitting out a few games.

Fukudome tried to steal second and was thrown out by about five steps and a slide. Boo.

Bottom of 1st

The camera focused on Bradley, while they showed the Cubs defensive alignment. He looked focused; maybe he’ll play well.

Felipe Lopez drives a 3-1 pitch over Fukudome in deep Center, for a leadoff double.

Former Cub, Augie Ojeda is up with no-one out and Lopez on second. This guy’s never been much of a hitter, but that is typical for a former Cub who could turn into a Cub killer. Ojeda made Big Z throw at least seven pitches, grounded out to Theriot, and moved the runner to 3rd.

Zambrano stinks right now. He just walked Chad Tracy to put runners on the corners.

Kasper called the next batter, Mark Reynolds, a strikeout candidate. Bob Brenly followed up saying that he likes Zambrano’s “pace”. Yeah, Carlos, keep working at a good pace while you allow base runners and get your pitch count up. Jeeze.

Carlos goes 3-1 on Reynolds and has now gone 3-0 or 3-1 on every batter. Good pace, though.

On a full count, the Cubs barely were able to turn a 6-4-3 double play. Awesome! Now, I “hate” Aaron Miles, but if there is one thing I’ve seen him do well, it’s turn the double play. That’s the second time I’ve seen him do it well this year, which is also the second time I’ve been pleased with him.

Top of 2nd

Hoffpauir gets a new life, as he was up last inning with an 0-2 count, when Fukudome got thrown out stealing. This time, on an 0-2 count, he hits the ball about 401 feet to deep center field, in front of the 407 ft sign; one out.

Milton Bradley is Yusmeiro Petit’s first strikeout victim, missing a breaking ball by about a foot. He’s 0 for 1.

To end a quick inning, Petit gets Mike Fontenot to fly out to the left field warning track.

Bottom of 2nd

The warning track is getting a workout, as Conor Jackson drives a deep fly out to center.

Tabata’s Cougar, Chris Young, steps into the box and strikes out looking at a hard slider. That was Big Z’s 1,200th strikeout of his career, placing him 7th all time for the Cubs. It’s amazing for me to hear that number because I remember seeing Zambrano come up as a middle reliever.

Top of 3rd

I got kicked out of the bedroom because I guess my typing was a little annoying… can’t blame anyone for feeling that way.

Anyway, with one out, Miles and Zambrano both singled ahead of a 3-run homer by Alfonso Soriano. Bob Brenly showed another example of being a complete company man for the Cubs, as he claimed that the concern of Soriano batting leadoff is “overblown” because after the first inning, he can often come up with runners on base. The problem with this argument is that everyone should know that guys who bat 3rd, 4th, 5th, or even 6th, get to bat with runners on base more often that guys who bat 1st.

Theriot drew a base on balls, and Fukudome is at Aces Wild… so, the Cubs have something going. On a 2-1 count, Fukudome drops a pop up into the Bermuda Triangle of CF, RF, and 2b. I tell ya, Steve, these Cubs could surely win the Pacific Coast League title, if they were all in Iowa.

Speaking of Iowa, our cleanup hitter, Micah Hoffpauir, comes up and as a typed the beginning of this sentence, he grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Bottom of 3rd

I’m usually a big believer that long innings and running the bases can take a lot out of a pitcher. I’m actually not worried about Zambrano right now because he was on the bases early in the inning, had plenty of time to rest during the latter part of the inning, and he didn’t really run because he singled and was promptly knocked in with Soriano’s homer.

Future phenom, Justin Upton, comes to the plate. I think he’s going to be incredible. He has some flaws in his game, but it looks like he will eventually do everything really, really well.

Yusmeiro Petit is 2 for 37 in his career. Make that 2 for 38, as he flares out to Aaron Miles.

A 2-out rally has started as Lopez and Ojeda hit back-to-back 2-out singles, runners on 1st and 2nd. Brenly and Kasper are trying to put everyone in Chicago to sleep by talking about how some pitchers are quick to home, with a runner on first, while other pitchers have a high leg kick and take longer.

Threat over: Chad Tracy weakly grounds into a fielder’s choice.

Top of 4th

Hey, Milton Bradley has exceeded my expectations with a leadoff single to right field. As Bob Brenly puts it, “he golfed it out to right field. Sometimes you just have to go down and get it.”

Hey Hey! Mike Fontenot hammers a pitch into the Bank One Ballpark swimming pool area, for a 2-run home run. 5 – 0 Cubbies. This is extremely irresponsible, and I do not mean to slander, but I think Fontenot is a candidate for a 50-game suspension. (Shhhh)

Koyie Hill lines the Cubs’ seventh base hit into center field. Maybe Bob Brenly was right that Petit is a five inning pitcher. I’m glad that I didn’t pick him up. Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make, phew.

I’m sorry. Aaron Miles just looks horrible. I guess I shouldn’t apologize; Jim Hendry should, because Miles’ career numbers look horrible, too.

Jon Rauch is warming up in the bullpen, for the D’backs. I did not realize that he was a long reliever. What I do remember about him is how Kenny Williams cut him from the White Sox because he left a game early, taking his own form of transportation, when he didn’t want to remain with the club. Kenny Williams made a wonderful statement that even though this kid was talented, the Sox were not going to put up with an attitude like that. The White Sox went on the win the World Series, and Rauch wound up being a National and Diamondback, advantage Kenny Williams.

As Carlos Zambrano digs into the batter’s box, Kasper predicts that he’s going to try to hit a ball one thousand feet. Can we please get Dewayne Staats back? Zambrano proceeded to roll out to second base, as he jogged to first.

Soriano was pitched around, until he walked, and Theriot knocked in the Cubs’ sixth run on a single to center. Petit’s night is done, and we will see MLB’s tallest player of all time in 6’ 11’’ Jon Rauch.

Fukudome is up, with Deuces Wild, and a chance to do some damage for Tabata’s Cougars. Remember, it’s never a blowout in fantasy. (Sorry!) Okay, full count, runners on the corners… and… foul ball… and Ball 4! Alright, bases loaded for the ninth Cub to bat this inning, Micah Hoffpauir.

I don’t mean to make fun of Hoffpauir. He’s just unproven. Sadly, I do happen to believe that he is actually a better hitter than Derek Lee. On the seventh pitch of the at bat (at least), Hoffpauir hooks the ball into right field and the Cubs go station to station. 7 – 0 Cubs, and Milton Bradley is up with the bases loaded. Inning over, as Bradley jogs to first during a groundout to the second baseman.

Bottom of 4th

Let’s see if Zambrano cacn settle down, with a seven run lead, and throw some strikes. I guess not. ON a 2-0 count, he gives up a ground rule double to Mark Reynolds.

Following a Conor Jackson groundout, Chris B. Young hits an RBI double to give both the D’backs and the Tabata Cougars an RBI. 7 – 1 Cubs.

Esmerling Vasquez is warming up for Arizona. Esmerling is his first name.

The camera just focused in on an older Cubs fan with a sign asking his son to send him money. Of course, we are used to seeing signs at college games with kids asking their parents for money. You gotta love Arizona retirees!

Zambrano just made Justin Upton look really bad on a 2-1 slider. Is Upton good enough that he was setting up Big Z? Maybe, but I don’t think he was doing that this time. He promptly flied out to Fukudome, inning over.

Top of 5th

1 out, Koyie Hill on 1st base, and Aaron Miles hits a fly ball. What do you think happened? Anyone? Any guesses? Right. 2 out, Koyie Hill on 1st base…

Carlos Zambrano proceeds to hammer a pitch to deep right-center field, for his twentieth career double. 8 – 1 Cubs.

Soriano gets jammed, but flares it to center. 9 – 1.

Bottom of 5th

Middle infielder, Josh Wilson, was just called up when Stephen Drew was placed on the DL. His first at bat of the year is a chance to pinch hit for Rausch, and he strikes out.


Lopez and Ojeda make some quick outs, for Zambrano’s easiest inning.

In Little League, there is a slaughter rule, and I think I’m going to institute one for my first running diary. After all, this game is not so compelling and it is a late, west coast game, while I’m in New York on a Tuesday night. If you enjoyed this post, please let me know so I can do another one. If I don’t hear from anyone, I’ll probably do another one anyway, but I’d feel a lot better if at least one person tells me they enjoyed some of this.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Morning Musings

Let's turn back the clock about nine days. I just got back from Chicago two Friday's ago. That evening, I was about to leave the house to pick up some take out we'd ordered. While getting my stuff together (shoes, wallet, keys, etc) and glancing at the TV, I saw Sheffield step up to the plate at Citi Field.

Gary Sheffield is amazing, and I had a feeling. I was about to turn off the TV since the food should have been ready by then, when I though "maybe". I had a feeling Sheffield would jo
in the 500 home run club then and there. It was a long at bat. He fouled off a pitch that he hammered down the left field line. After what seemed like ten minutes, as I was trying to avoid the distraction of my responsibility, Gary Sheffield got a pitch up and tomahawked it out and over the left field wall.

I often joke in a Clark Griswold sort of way that live sports are "living history". I'll say that about any live sporting event in which I'm mildly interested. In the case of someone joining the 500 home run club, it at least used to be historical. One of the shameful repercussions of the Cream & Clear era is how milestones like this are cheapened.

I lik
e Gary Sheffield, but I don't really hope he makes the Hall of Fame. My feeling is that if he were to get in the Hall, it could grease the wheels for that scumbag liar, Barry Bonds, to get in.

Remember, Barry Bonds allegedly recommended and supplied "The Cream" to Sheffield during the offseason they worked out together.
Wouldn't it be something if Bonds got into the Hall after voters' opinions started lightening up because a "borderline" guy like Sheffield got in? Bonds would be getting rewarded indirectly for being a pusherman.

Regardless of what Gary Sheffield did or did not put in or on his body, he will always be one of the most fearsome right-handed hitters in my lifetime. Manny Ramirez is probably the best. Who else? Albert Belle? Rickey Henderson? Frank Thomas, in his first few years, for sure. Bo Jackson? No, Bo struck out way too much.


Joakim Soria. Coming back on Monday? Who's their closer, if needed? Juan Cruz would be our pick. I'd LOVE to see Farnsworth get the first chance, if only to read Joe Posnanski's thoughts afterwards.


Gordon Beckham. This guy is either the next Ty Griffin, or he's going to be a very good Major Leaguer. I think he's better than Ty Griffin was twenty years ago, but Ty's minor league career OBP of .366 makes me wonder how he never played a game above Double A.

Looking at Beckham's Baseball Cube page, I see their scouting report (on a scale to 100) has Power: 97, Contact: 75, and Patience: 81. That's pretty solid for a 22 year old.

Impatient White Sox fans want to see Beckham playing on the South Side right now, and I can certainly understand why. The more important thing for them is that when he comes up, he comes up to stay.


Speaking of the White Sox, their radio broadcast team of Ed Farmer and Darren Jackson brought up an interesting point a couple of weeks ago, in regards to Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko. I can't remember who actually brought it up, maybe Farmer. The sentiment was basically about how great it is that two teammates, who are such great friends, of similar ages, and with similar career numbers, can push each other to keep succeeding. I actually think that is a great point.

I think when Paulie sees Dye have success, and vice-versa, he'll have a greater sense of confidence that he can do well, too. If those two guys can stay productive and healthy the White Sox will be near the top of their division.

Can we spark up a discussion on other teammates, age 33+, who have gone through a bromance like Jermaine and Paulie? Did their success carry the team? Did one of them get hurt, then the other fell apart?

One of the take aways from this is that it is good to live in a city with two baseball teams. I mean, I hate the White Sox, but it's better than listening to the the neanderthals on other sports talk stations.


The Oakland A's and Detroit Tigers are a couple of teams that I find intriguing. Both teams have well respected General Managers and are in "winnable" divisions. I also think that these two teams' volatility have them on a fence between winning over 85 games or losing over 85 games.

The A's are "getting better". They had an offseason of supposed improvement, adding Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrera, Nomar Garciaparra, Michael Wuertz, and more is supposed to turn 2008's JV team into a 2009 contender. However, in the first three weeks of the season, they have not played well.

They have problems as one of their most important relievers, Joey Devine, underwent Tommy John surgery a few days ago. Plus, the very impressive Trevor Cahill has an unsustainable K:BB ratio of 7:15. (h/t Rob Neyer). They are 6-10, and the 6-11 Angels have also sputtered through some miserable starting pitching. (Will Paul Byrd be an Angel soon?)

I must mention the contributions of Jack Cust. He was on the Portland Beavers the entire season I was with the club, 2006. That year, he clubbed 30 HR's and walked what I believe to have been a record 143 times. His slash numbers for the Beavers that season were .293/.467/.549.

I have something to say about Jack Cust that should be in its own post. He seemed like a very nice guy, and I root for him. He's been on our roto team basically his entire time with the Oakland A's. He is maybe the best example of the three non-BABIP outcomes per plate appearance, for his propensity to hit HR's, Walk, and Strike out.

Back to Detroit... The Tigers, in contrast to the A's, are supposedly on the way down. They were in the World Series in 2006 (David Eckstein MVP? Ugh.) They are getting older, and their window is closing. Dontrelle Willis turned into the worst pitcher since Rick Ankiel. Gary Sheffield is on the Mets.

The state of their pitching staff was a huge question mark coming into the season, but they have some bright spots:

Justin Verlander's peripheral stats suggest that he's pitching more like he did in '06 and '07, than last season.

Fernando Rodney, for the most part, has looked like the guy who would be the closer for the Dominican National team.

A couple of rookies are quickly getting reputations for having power arms and being ahead of the game: Ryan Perry and our darling Rick Porcello have impressed in their first few appearances. Perry has been clocked towards 100 mph, and he's getting a reputation as a bit of a head hunter. That never hurts. Porcello is one of those guys I am rooting for to have a Lincecum-esque jump to the head of a rotation.


I've been wanting to write about Carlos Pena for a few days, but I haven't much to say. I think he's also one of those HR, BB, K guys, but he looks like he is ready to have a big year. It's all about health with him, but a fast start certainly helps when you have a chance to have a career season.

No Outline, No Rough Draft

We usually try to be somewhat buttoned up on these posts. Usually, there is an outline or rough draft that we reread and spell check. Since it is 12:45 AM on Sunday morning, I'm just going to jot down a few quick thoughts that could be of importance to someone, somewhere.
  1. The Yankees need a 3rd baseman. Ransom stinks, and anyway, he's now hurt. Angel Berroa and Ramiro Pena are not good. If the AL East is going to be decided by as little as we expect, the difference between 1st and 3rd place, for the Yanks, could be the lack of production from 3rd base. Who's available? How about a trade for anyone better than Angel and Ramiro, which really challenges the question: What is the value of a replacement player at 3rd base this year? How about Mark Grudzielanek? How about sending the San Francisco Giants $100,000 for Dallas McPherson and some pain killers. Scott Rolen? Anyone? I seriously would like to know what Brian Cashman is thinking. Is he trying to get a 3rd baseman, or is he content with these guys?
  2. With Brian McCann on the DL, we expect David Ross to have a nice couple of weeks, until he remembers he's David Ross.
  3. The Cubs stink right now. Carlos Marmol is out for a few days, making Aaron Heilman the new "set up" man. What's he setting up? A Kevin Gregg appearance? That's not good for anyone. I'd much rather see Jeff Samardzija pitching high-leverage situations for the Cubbies, but when I looked at his 2009 Triple-A stats, they didn't look so good, considering he's already given up 3 HR's with Iowa.
  4. Jason Kubel hit another 2 HR's tonight. He has really been stepping up for the Twins. Speaking of the Twins, Joe Mauer may come back as early as Tuesday. His upcoming performance is huge for the AL Central race.
  5. Kyle Davies got knocked around pretty good... maybe we should be glad we never got on that bandwagon.
  6. Todd Coffey got hit hard today. The Brewers bullpen is about as bad as the Cubs. Are the Cardinals the class of the NL Central? I sure hope not...
More to come tomorrow, or (more likely) Monday. Go Cubs...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Risk of C.C. the Hut

Please accept my apologies for the long posting break. Perhaps, the sad news that the King Kaufman column at salon was ending threw me off. Anyway, I've returned from Chicago and am back to the land of the Metropolitans and the Yankee Swishers.

In fact, yesterday I caught glimpses of televisions around town
during the Yankees and A's 5-hour, 14-inning game.

In the bottom of the 14th, M
elky Cabrera hit a 2-run Homerun, his second of the day. Robinson Cano seemed exceptionally happy for him. Matsui looked like he didn't want to get hurt in the celebration. Nick Swisher did the on-field, post-game interview, which made me feel prophetically minuscule about calling them the New York Yankee Swishers a few days ago. This guy is embracing the bright lights, and the city is eating him up.

I saw Cano was hitting over .380 today. When he starts the season hot, he's likely to contend for the batting title. The question is whether some serious power will come from his sweet Panamanian Rod Carew
swing. I think if the Yankees really want to get more power from Cano, they should move him to a corner spot. Maybe he should play 3rd, and they can make A-rod a complete psycho freak by making him the DH. Oh wait, they can't do that because they have Matsui, and in a year or two, Jorge Posada will be there. Maybe they should trade Cano to a National League team. Or, they could be more logical and hang on to him because he's a great hitter, leave him at second base, and don't ask for much power from him. They really need a better defensive Shortstop, then. Is it possible to feel bad for the Yankees?

Between my time spent sitting on subway trains and buses, coffe
e shops, bars, and more time wasted while waiting to meet others, I find myself reading a lot... books, blogs, newspapers, status updates, or the rare magazine... I've spent the last few days jotting notes into my notebook whenever possible, and those should turn into some posts this week. In fact, here's one now... (Note: this post will contain no math, and will probably be pointless...)

I've been thinking about my strange fascination with rookie starting pitchers. Tommy Hanson, Jordan Zimmermann, Rick Porcello, Derek Holland, and Ricky Romero
are all on our rotisserie team.

There is a pending waiver claim to pick someone up and drop Romero. The only reason we're dropping Romero is because he has just been placed on the DL, and our three DL spots are being used by Alex Gordon, Chris Carpenter, and John Smoltz. We even have Joe Mauer, still on the DL, on our bench, while Tommy Hanson, Matt Weiters, and recently out/ineffective Milton Bradley take up three of our four bench spots.

While our team is getting next to nothing from its bench, we are in 2nd place. Not too bad. I think the team will be impressive if we can hit on all cylinders for at least seven to ten weeks.

What I was wondering is, why do I have so many inexperienced arms on my squad? Is there a subconscious strategy here that is shouting at us for recognition?

Pitchers are the most volatile commodities in Baseball. In fantasy baseball, I try to get a solid, consistent lineup before worrying about pitching because a solid, consistent pit
cher is much more likely to get hurt than a solid, consistent hitter. What are the warning signs?

  • Too many Innings Pitched in the past season(s)
  • Too many pitches thrown in any game(s) before a noticeable drop in performance
  • A drop in velocity from the player's usual average fastball speed
  • Any euphemisms like: "forearm strain", "tired arm", "inflammation", or "bicep or triceps soreness/tendinitis"

About a week ago, Buster Olney wrote a piece about how Cole Hamels' struggles this year may not be that different from other starting pitchers who carried their teams to greatness, with an extra workload through October.

From Buster's April 11 blog post...

Cole Hamels has made only one start, and it may be that he will rebound from his awful first start and have a fine season. Or it may be that he will join the run
ning list of aces who couldn't bounce back after leading their respective teams to championships, the cost of greatness.

Curt Schilling bled through his sock and helped end 86 years of Red Sox Nation frustration in 2004, and in 2005, he was a mess, working just 93.1 innings, racking up a 5.69 ERA. Mark Buehrle led the White Sox to their first championship in almost 100 years in 2005, and in 2006, his ERA rose by almost two runs. Chris Carpenter hoisted the Cardinals onto his broad shoulders in the fall of 2006, and pitched just six innings in 2007. Josh Beckett was dominant for the Red Sox in 2007, as they won their second title in four seasons, and he never seemed to fully recover in 2008, his stuff much flatter.

It is awfully believable that pitchers who are overworked will struggle and/or get hurt. Most would also agree that pitchers who are hurt will get rocked. So, we have taken the strategical leap to say that we need to try to minimize our injury risk, especially with pitchers.

So, why are Chris Carpenter, John Smoltz, or Josh Johnson on your team? You ask...

We feel that giving pitchers with tremendous past performance like Smoltz and Carpenter opportunities to come back from injuries is wise. I mean, Carpenter missed all of last season. I can't think of many non-Pavano/Prior's who need two seasons off in a row. If Carpenter allows his oblique injury be the start of another lost season, he may get to share club naming rights with Carl and Mark.

Our Smoltz gamble was also a lot of trusting the Red Sox front office to usually make
smarter decisions. Maybe we are being foolish, following Theo's hunch with Smoltz, but the best argument I heard is that Smoltz is just like that mid-season acquisition a good team makes through a trade in July, but the Sox don't have to give anyone up for him this summer.

Josh Johnson? This is a case of thinking/hoping he has had enough time to recover from Tommy John Surgery. After all, he came back strong at the end of last year, going 7 - 1 for the Marlins.

Our strategy is most definitely flawed. We thought that limited innings from guys who are young or recovering from injury, but are "lights out" when healthy would give us better fantasy stats than a team full of healthy, but not spectacular results. We could call it the Rich Harden strategy. However, I would be surprised if this lightning in a bottle strategy will actually work for us this season. To borrow from an earlier point, we need to find solid, consistent starting pitchers. At least this is fun to try because we get to throw out there the guys that we like, who have power arms and dominant stuff. Hopefully, someday I'll be able to put together more thoughts on this topic, the right way to implement the strategy, and what can be done to identify experienced pitchers who will continue to succeed.