Monday, November 29, 2010

Quick Hot Stove Thoughts

The baseball Free Agent spending economy looks healthy again with the Tigers recent signings and this ludicrous 3 year / 21 million dollar contract from the Dodgers for Juan Uribe.  I knew Uribe was making millions with every homerun this October, but this is ridiculous.

Derek Jeter is still 99.999998% certain to remain a Yankee, but it would be absolutely spectacular to see some lunatic owner on another team make him a $100 million offer and see how the Steinbrenner's responded.

I'm beginning to think that Jarrod Saltalamacchia may have deserved a spot in our study of best player's in their prime.  When looking at the bottom of that Top 100 list, maybe Salty could have slid in ahead of the Mets' Chris Carter, or even Lastings Milledge.  He probably stinks.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka likely signing with the Twins suggests that Orlando Hudson will be wearing a new uniform next season.  Where might that be?  If I were the O-dog, I'd be thinking about moving to La Jolla and playing for the Padres.

The Cubs are rumored to be seriously considering Brandon Webb.  In years past, I may have liked this move.  I appluaded their Rich Harden anquisition and would hope they'd sign free agents like Ben Sheets and Kelvim Escobar.  A Brandon Webb acquisition feels misguided to my sensibilities.  With his almost certain imjury problems, the Cubs would be better off using that money in a variety of different ways.

LSU Alum, The Riot
The aforementioned Juan Uribe deal to the Dodgers also means that Ryan Theriot will likely become a free agent.  Some people are joking that he could replace Jeter in New York, but it's simply more likely that he gets thrown into that hodgepodge of middle infield free agents with something to offer, but not enough to make any General Manager swoon.

As we learned on MLBtraderumors early this morning, Lance Berkman has heard from the Cubs, Athletics, Pirates, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Rockies for their 1st base or DH roles.  I'm rooting for the Cubs to give him a nice 1-year deal, where he may restore his value before another run at free agency next year, and the Cubs keep their options open to acquire someone else for 2012 and beyond.  Perhaps the offer could include a handsome 2012 option that vests with certain performance bonuses.

In European soccer news from La Liga, it's time for Real Madrid @ FC Barcelona.

Best Players in Their Prime

We introduced the topic of players in their prime this past weekend.  We analyzed 109 position players, younger than 29 at next year's All Star Game, with Major League experience.

In Sunday's Players in Their Prime post, we saw the likes of Joey Votto, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, and even the Indians' Carlos Santana well represented on a few statistical leaderboards.  Today, let's look at the entire pool of players, strategically ranked by position, with a overall Top 100 countdown as our exciting conclusion...

1st Base
Joey Votto
Miguel Cabrera
The Brewers have the bats,
if they can get the pitching.
Prince Fielder
Billy Butler
Ike Davis
Daric Barton
Mitch Moreland
Brandon Allen
Matt LaPorta
Gaby Sanchez
Justin Smoak
James Loney
Freddie Freeman
Yonder Alonso
Lars Anderson

There is a lot of uncertainty at the first base position, as it gets younger around the league.  Of course, this is one of the positions on the diamond that carries older players.  So, there are still a bunch of very good first basemen in their 30's, and many of them can be expected to be productive for a few more years to come: Pujols, Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez, and so on.

The first base position, alone, could create quite a spirited discussion of who's better/who's best.  From Billy Butler to Mitch Moreland and Brandon Allen to Lars Anderson, this list could be turned upside down by mid April.

2nd Base
If you think Jeter's worth a lot...
Robinson Cano
Dustin Pedroia
Rickie Weeks
Neil Walker
Gordon Beckham
Howie Kendrick
Sean Rodriguez
Blake DeWitt
Eric Young, Jr.
Emmanuel Burriss

We may be a bit late to the Neil Walker bandwagon, but I don't really think so.  I think he's still likely underrated even in Pittsburgh.  He has a nondescript name that sounds too much like Todd Walker for people to naturally expect much upside.

3rd Base
Is that Joe Maddon's bike?
Evan Longoria
David Wright
Ryan Zimmerman
Pablo Sandoval
Pedro Alvarez
Mark Reynolds
Casey McGehee
Ian Stewart
Chris Coghlan
Dayan Viciedo

The top 3 players here, Longoria, Wright, and Zimmerman are fantastic.  Zimm has a case to be listed above David Wright, but his career wOBA and OPS+ paled in comparison to Wright's.  Next season, when we do this list again, Wright will be too old to be considered.

How good, or bad, is Pablo Sandoval?  He famously hit .330 with 25 HR's in '09, with those numbers plummeting to .268/13 this past season.  We're betting on a bounceback, but respect the fact that he could fail to improve his conditioning and become relegated to platoon or pinch hitting duties.

We expect big things from Pedro Alvarez, McGahee, Coghlan, and Stewart are solid, while Mark Reynolds and Dayan Viciedio are higher risk/reward types.

The Cubs' Castro should move up
this list over the next several years.
Hanley Ramirez
Troy Tulowitzki
Jose Reyes
Asdrubal Cabrera
Stephen Drew
Yunel Escobar
Elvis Andrus
Starlin Castro
J.J. Hardy
Ian Desmond

Shortstop and 2nd base continue to look like the weakest hitting positions.  It almost doesn't matter from which perspective we view the middle infield positions.  When looking at available free agents, players in their 20's, etc, these two spots on the diamond are the shallowest.  In this exercise, depending on how you feel about Jose Reyes and Rickie Weeks, there is a big drop in perceived value from the top two at each position, with Cano/Pedroia and Hanley/Tulo tandems.  Each four of these players is the highest rated on his team, among players who are younger than Shin-Soo Choo, of course.  Yesterday, when looking at the Top 10 leaderboards of a few stats, like OPS+, wOBA, and WAR/600 plate appearances, Pedroia and Cano missed the cut each time.

It's too early to bet against Wieters.
Joe Mauer
Brian McCann
Buster Posey
Carlos Santana
Geovany Soto
Matt Wieters
Kurt Suzuki
Wilson Ramos
Chris Iannetta
Josh Thole

It's unclear if Josh Thole can be a productive every day catcher, but the rest of this position looks well positioned for the future.

Mauer and McCann are already in the midst of exceptional careers, and the next five guys, from Posey to Ramos, have a chance at being considered pretty special before they're done wearing the tools of ignorance.

We choo choo choose you, Shin-Soo!
Ryan Braun
Shin-Soo Choo
Jason Heyward
Carlos Gonzalez
Nick Markakis
Justin Upton
Jay Bruce
Andrew McCutchen
Matt Kemp
Grady Sizemore

I know there are thousands, probably millions, of people who appreciate Shin-Soo Choo.  He was seen as good player in Asia and with two different Major League organizations before distinguishing himself with the Indians.  He was a very good outfielder for the AAA Tacoma Rainiers in the Mariners' organization before getting traded to Cleveland in an awful Bill Bavasi trade for Ben Broussard.  Yikes, that's bad.

And now, the moment we've all been waiting for...

Best Players in Their Primes
100. Chris Carter (Mets) OF
99. Michael Bourn OF
98. Lastings Milledge OF
97. Eric Young, Jr. 2b
96. Michael Saunders OF
95. Blake DeWitt 2b
94. Felix Pie OF
93. Ian Desmond SS
92. Jesus Flores C
91. Cameron Maybin OF
90. Sean Rodriguez 2b
89. Josh Thole C
88. Brett Wallace 1b

The Astros' Wallace is an interesting case.  We're giving him a dose of the benefit of the doubt, as his Major League career performance to date (just 154 plate appearances) have been unimpressive.  He's had a good batting average in the minors, has always been a highly rated prospect, played fine for his age, but struck out a bit too much.  He was traded three times before his Major League debut, but we don't know if that was because other teams wanted him so badly, or because his current team(s) soured on him.

87. J.J. Hardy SS
86. Lars Anderson 1b
85. Yonder Alonso 1b
84. Freddie Freeman 1b

Personally, I'm rooting for Alonso to be the best of this bunch.  More than once, I've suggested the Red Sox let Adrian Beltre leave, slide Youkilis to 3rd, and start Lars Anderson at 1st.  Alas, Boston may not grant the opportunity for Anderson.  Could he be moved in a trade sooner rather than later?

83. Chris Johnson 3b
The A's Carter is the one on the left.
82. Dexter Fowler OF
81. Will Venable OF
80. Kila Ka'aihue DH
79. Starlin Castro SS
78. Chris Iannetta C
77. Domonic Brown OF
76. Wilson Ramos C
75. Chris Carter (A's) OF

Domonic Brown will be charged with the difficult task of replacing Jayson Werth.  Werth has been so outstanding that Phillies fans will probably have to be pleased if he even comes close.  Ramos is playing very well in the Winter Ball and should be given every opportunity to become a leader for the Washington Nationals.  And, we are huuuuge fans of the A's Chris Carter's abstractly indefatigable upside.

74. Jose Tabata OF
73. Chase Headley 3b
72. James Loney 1b
71. Danny Valencia 3b
70. Seth Smith OF
69. Drew Stubbs OF
68. Alex Gordon 3b
67. Austin Jackson OF
66. Howie Kendrick 2b
65. Justin Smoak 1b
64. Desmond Jennings OF
63. Kurt Suzuki C
62. Gordon Beckham 2b
61. Jacoby Ellsbury OF
60. Gaby Sanchez 1b
59. Matt LaPorta 1b
58. Brandon Allen 1b

We clearly think highly of Cleveland's LaPorta and Arizona's Allen, as we show here by placing them ahead of more than a few players who have distinguished themselves at the Major League level.

57. Elvis Andrus SS
56. Adam Jones OF
55. Delmon Young OF
54. Chris B. Young OF

The Diamondback's Chris Young is interesting because his statistics throughout parts of his career were so terrible, that he's at a big disadvantage when comparing himself to his peers.  However, he has shown the ability to do everything well on a baseball field.  Last season, at 26 years old, he had an excellent season.  It would likely behoove us to expect more good things from Young and the D'Backs offense in 2011.  We mentioned we like Brandon Allen, right?

53. Denard Span OF
52. Dayan Viciedo 3b
51. Mitch Moreland 1b
50. Neil Walker 2b
49. Yunel Escobar SS
47. Stephen Drew SS
46. Chris Coghlan 3b
45. Daric Barton 1b
44. Ian Stewart 3b
43. Hunter Pence OF
42. Carlos Quentin OF
41. Casey McGehee 3b
40. Adam Lind OF
39. Brett Gardner OF
38. Mike Stanton OF
37. Mark Reynolds 3b

There is a lot of 3rd basemen and Outfield volatility in the group.  As we enter the top 25 of our countdown, we are really talking about exciting players with tools of speed, power, and/or world class plate discipline and bat control.

32. Colby Rasmus OF
31. B.J. Upton OF
30. Matt Wieters C
29. Geovany Soto C

Colby Rasmus could arguably be a bit higher than this group.  Had he placed ahead of the next player on our list, Sizemore, it would have put him in the Top 10 outfielders.

28. Grady Sizemore OF
27. Jose Reyes SS
26. Ike Davis 1b
25. Rickie Weeks 2b
24. Carlos Santana C

Besides Ike Davis, whom we are very bullish on, the other four players in the above group can only blame injuries for not being in the top 20 or 10 of our overall rankings.

This is one of those instances where I wish I were a better writer.  Wouldn't it be cool if I could write something insightful, enjoyable, or as Neal Page would say "mildly amusing" about each player in our Top 20 or 25?

There is volatility at the elite levels of our player pool.  In fact, each player in our Top 25 has some chance of putting together an MVP caliber season.

23. Matt Kemp OF
22. Andrew McCutchen OF
21. Billy Butler 1b
There are lots of reasons to be excited
about an Upton on the trade block.
20. Jay Bruce OF
19. Justin Upton OF
18. Nick Markakis OF
17. Carlos Gonzalez OF
16. Prince Fielder 1b
15. Buster Posey C
14. Dustin Pedroia 2b
13. Robinson Cano 2b

As we alluded to before, Cano and Pedroia are the highest of the super powered Yankees and Red Sox.  Not only that, the only other players from those clubs listed here are Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Lars Anderson.

12. Ryan Zimmerman 3b
11. Brian McCann C
10. Troy Tulowitzki SS
9. Jason Heyward OF
8. Shin-Soo Choo OF

Throw Albert Pujols into the names below, and we could get started with a mock roto draft.

7. David Wright 3b
6. Ryan Braun OF
5. Evan Longoria 3b
4. Miguel Cabrera 1b
3. Hanley Ramirez SS
2. Joe Mauer C
1. Joey Votto 1b

Honorable mention to: JP Arencibia, Emmanuel Burriss, Jason Castro, Lucas Duda, Alcides Escobar, Jonathan Herrera, Jose Lopez, Fernando Martinez, and super-sleeper Ben Revere.

Special thanks to our friends at Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs, and Baseball Think Factory for all statistics and projections.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Players in Their Primes

Let's begin with what this is NOT.  This is not a quasi mock fantasy draft.  We're not ranking players with a view on fantasy baseball.  We are not necessarily arguing that any of these players will be better in 2011 than some older stars like Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, or Justin Morneau.  They are just a bit older than the scope of our prime seasons bullseyes.

Despite this analysis, we may pick
Pujols to win the MVP again in '11
People argue over the age of baseball players in the prime of their careers.  For a long time, it was considered ages 27-32, where one can find plenty of Hall of Fame caliber seasons throughout history.  Personally, I think the prime is much younger, more acute, to something like 24-27.

We're looking at players entering their Age 28 seasons and younger.  So, please don't write in that Carl Crawford is better than this guy, or Josh Hamilton is better than that guy.

Brandon Belt's stardom
is approaching quickly.
We're also only looking at players with Major League experience.  So, top prospects we can't wait to see like Brandon Belt and Lonnie Chisenhall will have to wait for their own Future Stars prospect post, dedicated to Dave Horn.

In this study, we only looked at hitters.  Pitching is still so unpredictable, that there are usually only about a dozen pitchers each year we can get excited about without having substantial concern for injury.

As points of reference, the oldest player in our 109-player study is Shin Soo-Choo.  The youngest is, of course, Starlin Castro.  The player with the most career plate appearances is Miguel Cabrera, with 5,089 in the regular season.  Freddie Freeman and Desmond Jennings have the fewest, with 24 plate appearances each.  From the data, we briefly present a few leaderboards:

Career OPS+
Votto is a worthy MVP
1. Joey Votto 151
2. Miguel Cabrera 145
3. Carlos Santana 144
4. Ryan Braun 140
5. Prince Fielder 139
6. Shin-Soo Choo 138
7. Joe Mauer 136
8. Hanley Ramirez 135
David Wright 135
10. Evan Longoria 134

Career wOBA
1. Joey Votto .409
Santana's got serious lumber.
4. Hanley Ramirez .393
8. Joe Mauer .382
10. B.J. Upton .380

avWAR per 600 PA
3. Joe Mauer 5.99
6. Joey Votto 4.76
7. David Wright 4.69
Bill James thinks highly
of Mike Stanton.  Perhaps
we should, as well.
8. Troy Tulowitzki 4.61
10. Jason Heyward 4.53

2011 Bill James Projected wOBA
1. Joey Votto .426
3. Joe Mauer .407
9. Mike Stanton .391

How about those small market teams.  Multiple players from the Brewers, Indians, Twins, Rays, and Marlins?  Anyone notice a lack of Yankees and Red Sox?  For all the struggles that BJ Upton has endured, he sure has a nice career wOBA.

Carlos Santana is gifted.  He exploded on the scene and could be riding the coat tails of small sample size into 2011.  He's expected to be ready for Opening Day, but it is difficult to guess how long it will take him to come back completely.

Come back in the next few days to peruse our cherry-picked, and biased, rankings (by position and overall) for offensive players, with Major League experience, no older than Choo.

As always, thoughts, suggestions, and requests are encouraged in the comment section below.  Afterall, this is all for you.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Week 12 NFL Picks

We don't have much time for NFL talk this weekend.  We're a bit involved in a project for friend of the blog, Graham Womack, of Baseball Past and Present.  Graham got in touch with me after reading our "Hall of Fame's Best Outsiders" post, back in August.  Feel free to read the comment thread from the reposting on Seamheads to see other people's contributions to the discussion.  Graham is working on a project devoted to the 50 greatest non-Hall of Famers.

We're all over any chance
to give Quiz some pub'
If any friends want to offer contributions, please email me or comment below, and I'll see if there are any ballots available.  You'd better believe we'll be giving some big ups to our boys: Ron Santo, Dan Quisenberry, and Bobby Grich.

It's going to be great when a few guys from our 1st Occasional Non Hall of Famers team make it into the Hall, thus opening room for new outsiders on the 2nd Occasional team.

In regards to the National Football Gambling Picks, I went 2-1 on Thanksgiving, inconceivably raising my season record to fifteen games over .500.

There's plenty of room with
us on the Giants bandwagon.
This kind of run, gambling on a .593 Winning Percentage, naturally, makes me want to start gambling regularly.  With as much money as I can get my hands on.  But, that's where they get you.  In accordance to our better judgement, we suggest everyone NOT gamble.

Week 12 Picks
Pats -7 @ Detroit, W
Saints -4 @ Dallas, L
Jets -9 vs Bengals, W
Do you remember when
Dwayne Bowe was a bust?
Redskins -1 vs Vikings
Texans -6.5 vs Titans
NY Giants -6.5 vs Jaguars
Steelers -6.5 @ Buffalo
Browns -10 vs Panthers
Packers +2 @ Atlanta
Chiefs -2.5 @ Seattle
Raiders -3.5 vs Dolphins
Rams +3.5 @ Denver
Eagles -3.5 @ Chicago
Buccaneers +7.5 @ Baltimore
How about Rivers for MVP?
Chargers +3 @ Indianapolis
Cardinals +1 vs 49ers

This week's Unsponsored Locks of the Week are the Redskins, Packers, and Chargers.  Truthfully, I don't really feel good about the picks for any of these games.  I wouldn't be surprised if I get them all wrong.  But the Locks of the Week are the 3 games we'd bet on if we were in Vegas and "had to" pick a few games to bet on because we're staying in a casino during an NFL Sunday.

Season Record: 48-33-3 (.593 W%)
Locks: 9-6-3

In closing, all this talk of non-Hall of Famers has gotten me thinking of personal favorite, The Pride of Havana, Dolf Luque.  We highly recommend this fantastic account about Adolfo Domingo de Guzman Luque by the awfully impressive Callum Hughson, of Mop-Up Duty.

In his Dolf Luque post, Callum shares the video below, which I really want to share with the select few people who made it this far in the post.  It's pretty special.

Béisbol. from Memoria de Cuba on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Day NFL Picks

This week, we've been working on a pretty neat analysis of baseball players in their primes.  There should be some interesting new tidbits on guys ranging from Miguel Cabrera to Brett Wallace.

As we look at today's National Football League festivities, the games look like they are going to be very good.

Look, he's being a jet!
Last week was hot.  I was at the incredible Jets/Texans game.  More importantly, my picks went 10-6, while Weino bounced back from two sub-.500 weeks to go 12-3.

Personally, to make these picks I use the Simmons method of trying to predict the lines, then wagering off the arbitrage between my predicted line and the actual line.  For example, last week, I thought the Bears/Dolphins line should have been Bears -2.  It was Miami -1.5, so I jumped all over the Bears +1.5 opportunity.

This week is a test; I'm going to Zig when Vegas expects me to Zag.  My guesses for this week were Pats -3, Saints -3, Jets -6.  I selected the correct favorites but didn't give enough points.  The method we practice should tell us to take the underdogs, and therefore the points.  But, while nonsense, it's a holiday.  I'm feeling like our instincts were right, but we were a bit stingy with the spreads this morning.  So, as you can deduce, these are our picks for today:

Danny Woodhead could
win a Turkey Leg today.
Pats -7 @ Detroit
Saints -4 @ Dallas
Jets -9 vs Bengals

Since it's a holiday, and these are Nationally televised games, let's select our picks to click*: Danny Woodhead, Drew Breese, and Shonn Greene.

*Yes, it's true.  Picks to click are an homage to old White Sox broadcasts of my youth.  I think they still do it, and I would say that picks to click are the only things I've ever considered to be positive contributions from Hawk Harrelson.

None of these picks are locks.  We'll have three locks with our picks for Sunday/Monday, coming out this weekend.  Enjoy your holiday, the games, and please remember to be thankful for something.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Victor Martinez, Bo Diaz, & Catching 101

This morning, Ignacio Serrano of El Nacional newspaper in Venezuela broke the story that Victor Martinez was leaving Boston to sign a 4yr/$50 million deal with the Detroit Tigers.  There is some confusion that V-Mart rejected a 3yr/$60 million or 3yr/$48 million from the White Sox, but I find that so hard to believe that I am throwing it out as a typo or misunderstanding somewhere along the rumor mill.

What got me thinking today was this retweet from the blog's new BFF, Ignacio.  Although it is for a sad reason, it is good to remember Bo Diaz, who passed away 20 years ago today from a tragic accident at his home.

Readers of a certain age probably remember him from his run with the Reds in the late '80s, or prior stops in Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Boston.  Diaz had a memorable 13-year career in the Major Leagues and even more legendary run in the Winter Leagues of Venezuela for los Leones del Caracas from 1972-1990.

Baudilio Jose Diaz is widely thought of as the finest catcher born in Venezuela.

As Steve Stone used to say, "For all you youngsters out there..." here is a short video of Bo Diaz, answering a request to describe how to set up to call and receive a pitch.  Notice how delicately he describes game planning with the pitcher.  Diaz recommends blocking the signs from the opposing team and keeping your free hand closed, as a fist, in case it gets hit by a foul tip.

Any Questions?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jamie Moyer & The New Greybeards

Last week, we found out that Jamie Moyer was shut down from the Dominican League because of his 2nd elbow injury since July.  Many expect Moyer to retire, but he intends to pitch again, even if he needs Tommy John Surgery.

Why did this photo appear when
I searched for Jamie Moyer Cubs?
I wouldn’t bet against him and wholeheartedly hope he does come back.  For many of us, he’s the last link to our childhood as fans.  He’s been the oldest player in the leagues for years, since Julio Franco, I think.

Jamie Moyer turned 48 this past Thursday.  As hyperbole and exaggeration rule supreme, Moyer’s lore extends beyond 100 years, to the freewheeling days of deadballs and speakeasies.

Personally, I remember not thinking much of Moyer when he was a below average starting pitcher for my beloved Cubs in 1986, ’87, and ’88.

Moyer Won 28 games,
but also gave up
58 homeruns as a Cub.
The most memorable part of his game was, unfortunately, watching the way his weird looking jaw muscles moved while he smacked on his gum on the mound, awaiting the catcher’s signals.

Even if he does eventually come back, it’s safe to say that Jamie Moyer will not be pitching for anyone on Opening Day.

Presuming that Rickey Henderson and Julio Franco won’t return, we’re looking at a changing of the guard among elder statesmen of the game.  Next in line has a chance to stick around for a few years because he also is a crafty pitcher who doesn’t rely on fastball velocity to make out: Tim Wakefield.

Wakefield, born August 2, 1966, should have a nice run as Major League Baseball’s Senior Greybeard.  He could be the next Charlie Hough, or something.

And now for the dorkiest of trivial baseball dorky lists… If by some chance Wakefield and Moyer both hang them up after 2011, here are some players who could carry the torch in 2012:

We could see a Smoltz comeback.
Omar Vizquel, April '67
John Smoltz, May '67
Trevor Hoffman, Oct '67
Matt Stairs, Feb '68
Russ Springer, Nov '68
Arthur Rhodes, Oct '69
Mariano Rivera, Nov '69

Given today’s salaries and knuckleballer’s prepared conditioning and continued effectiveness, we expect the 44-year old Wakefield to at least equal Moyer and make it to his age 47 season.  If not, wouldn’t it be fun, at least for future folklore, to have The Hammer of God as the oldest player in the game?  Maybe the Yankees will overpay to keep him around a few years after he stinks.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chris Archer & The Shackles of Hope

Being a Cubs fan is an exercise in futility.  From somewhere deep within, there is hope.  Outside circumstances surrounding the Chicago Cubs may make it so that our hopes are more, or less, noticeable.  During the Jim Hendry Era, we've had reasons for hope.

Think back to the formidable pitching rotation a few years ago with Prior, Wood, Maddux, Clement, and Zambrano.

We had superstar managers.  In Dusty, we trustied.  Then, Sweet Lou showed up to turn the Cubs winners.

The Outfield was always a work in progress, and they kept dumping money on the wrong players.  Alfonso Soriano was a power/speed monster who was supposed to get the team over the hump.  Dreadful.  Kosuke Fukudome was supposed to be a blend of Ichiro and Godzilla.  Nope, not even close.  Milton Bradley was a switch-hitting OPS monster with some character and durability flaws, but man that OPS!  He's a whole other story altogether.  All the while, we had Felix Pie who wound up finally showing some of his promise the past two years in Baltimore.

On the mound, among other things, Jeff Samardzija was supposed to bring his golden dome to the Wrigley Field mound and blow hitters away.  That hasn't happened.

Much like the thoughts of our beloved Chicago Bears, and the empty feelings surrounding their current 7-3 record, we should maintain some hope.  It's tougher with the Cubs, when we see them go for less expensive options at Manager, Pitching Coach, and on the field.  Couldn't the Cubs use Cliff Lee and tell Silva or Wells to get lost, or move to the bullpen, or get better, or something?  What's the use?  The Cubs are keeping payroll level with 2010 spending, although they stunk this year and they're getting revenues from every possible stream surrounding the organization.  It's infuriating.  The Cubs lost one of the best pitching coaches in the game, when Larry Rothschild left for the same position with the New York Yankees.  They could be innovative and let Greg Maddux slide into the position, but they'll probably lose him to Arizona, just as they lost him to Atlanta almost 20 years ago.  What's the word for something that is infuriating even before it happens, but you know it's going to happen, then it happens?  That's what being a Cubs fan has been like since Steve Bartman got his fat fingers in Moises Alou's mitt.

Let's witch gears, Mark McGwire style... I'm not here to talk about the past.

Maybe the Cubs will get better this offseason.

Maybe, just maybe, they'll get Adam Dunn, and he'll be worth the money.  Maybe Kerry Wood will give a good ol' boy discount and come back to pitch with Marmol and Marshall in the 'pen.  Perhaps, some prospects can come up from Iowa and Daytona to help the cause beyond expectations.

Yesterday, the Cubs added a few prospects to their 40-man roster, pitchers Chris Archer, Kyle Smit and Alberto Cabrera and outfielder Brandon Guyer.  Cabrera and Guyer began their pro careers in the Cubs' organization, while Kyle Smit came over from the Dodgers in the Ted Lilly trade.  The Cubs got Archer a couple of years ago, when they traded Mark DeRosa to the Indians.

In short, during Chris Archer's minor league run with the Cubs, he has been terrific.  From this post:
Archer was named the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year after a tremendous 2010 season.

Archer (22 years old, September 26, 1988) posted a 15-3 record in 28 games, 27 starts, with the Daytona Cubs (High Class-A) and the Tennessee Smokies (Double-A). Archer struck out 149 and walked 65 in 142 1/3 innings with a 2.34 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. Archer was a solid 8-2 in 13 starts after his promotion to the Smokies and posted a 1.80 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP (67 strikeouts and 39 walks) in 70 innings.

Chris Archer is expected to compete for a spot in the Cubs' rotation this spring.
So, there you go fellow Cubs fans, a little offseason hope for the future.  Pay no attention to all the other great prospects that every other Major League team has.  We gotta believe!  It has been said that being a Cubs fan means the best day of your life hasn't happened yet.  We'll see about that.  Still, there are some things we cannot deny.  The shackles of hope won't let us go.  Even if 2011 is already a lost cause, the shackles of hope won't let us go.  There's hope; we maintain hope for that one sweet day.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Week 11 NFL Picks

Last night, the Bears avenged 1985 as both Weino and I predicted.  The Bears are 7-3, but I'm not a believer.  I used to believe in the Bears, even when they were terrible.  Then, I became a realist, especially on defense.  If the defense doesn't inspire confidence, I don't believe in the team.  No 7-3 Bears team has inspired less confidence in my lifetime.

Football is a funny sport.  It's great on TV, and it is unpredictable.  Unlike futbol, or soccer, it has enough scoring to be fantastic for gambling.  So much of football is unpredictable.  Game rules change each season.  Game styles change weekly, based on personnel, opponent, or weather.  Football injuries are frequent and can change the entire complexion of a team.  Professional football doesn't have a long historical database of statistics, like baseball.  The historical depth of Football pales in comparison with the legendary, worldwide obsession with boxing.

So, I have no confidence in this 7-3 Bears team.  Why not?  Because their WR's stink.  Because their offensive line is the worst of any team above .500.*  Because I live in New York and don't have DirecTV.

*Great assumption I'm just throwing out there as fact, without looking up and considering the over .500 teams in any way at all?

We have faith in these guys.
Yes, we do.
These Bears are only ten games into their new offensive scheme.  Perhaps, I should lighten up.  The Bears defense leads the league in points per game allowed.  I should probably have a bit more faith in Lovie, Jerry Angelo, Julius Peppers, and the boys.

On the gambling front, I still do not provide any aplomb with our NFL picks.  We've had a couple of hot weeks, with 17 wins, 8 losses, and 2 pushes in Weeks 9 and 10.

You can see it in his eyes.
Since I expect to finish the season around .500, it's a good time to pull a Costanza and do the opposite of what we bet below.

As we face another Bearsless Sunday, here are our picks for Week 11:

Bears +1.5 @ Miami
Bengals -5.5 vs Bills
What happened to Neck Beard?
Browns +1.5 @ Jacksonville
Lions +6.5 @ Dallas
Ravens -10.5 @ Carolina
Packers -3 @ Minnesota
Texans +7 @ NY Jets
Redskins +7 @ Tennessee
Chiefs -8 vs Cardinals
Raiders +7 @ Pittsburgh
Rams +3 vs Falcons
Saints -11.5 vs Seahawks
Buccaneers +3.5 @ SF 49ers
Patriots -3.5 vs Colts
NY Giants +3 @ Philadelphia
Broncos +10 @ San Diego

The locks this week are the Ravens, Bucs, and Broncos.

Season Record: 38-27-3 (.585 W%)
Locks: 7-5-3

Don't gamble!

Enjoy the games!