Monday, May 30, 2011

Looking for Arms

Sorry we've been silent all week over here. Last weekend, I started a research exercise on players by age yet have gaps in the under 23 and over 33 groups. We still share some of our favorite photos, books, and films, and songs over on our tumblr. As for the writing element of our blog, we can thank writer's block for this:

Step it up, 'czynski!
If you're a real-life GM, or like us in fantasy baseball, you're probably looking for some pitching. With different rules from league to league, we'll utilize our competitive 12-team H2H league as a case study. It would appear that we could replace Marc Rzepczynski, whom we picked up a few weeks ago, and according to our team log, he's appeared in 6 games for us with no wins, no saves, 3 strikeouts, a 3.86 ERA, and 1.93 WHIP over 4 2/3's innings.

Below are available players, from our 12-team H2H league.

Jake Arrieta
Baltimore Orioles
Some thoughts:
As Mike Podhozer wrote last week, "He has posted a 3.74 xFIP so far, with a 4.03 ERA. Given my expectation for a decline in his K/9, I think his ERA should settle right around 4.00 where he currently sits. Though that would mean this is not a major breakout, it is a definite improvement from last season. Still, I think that would earn him only minimal shallow mixed league value, if any at all." He may not be available in my league much longer, especially when looking at a few numbers...
Some stats: 8.26 K/9, 3.98 BB/9, .263 BABIP, 6.56 rZIPS K/9

Carlos Carrasco
They got him for Cliff Lee, so we're
not the only ones expecting a lot.
Cleveland Indians
Some thoughts:
He was on our team earlier this year for 14.3 innings in 3 starts. Like Rzepczynski, he was unable to produce a win, while accumulating an unimpressive 10 strikeouts, 4.41 ERA, and 1.41 WHIP. Still, the Indians are hot, and their offense should maintain its output when its best players, Choo and Santana, start producing.
Some stats: 6.5 rZIPS K/9, 4.91 ERA, 3.67 FIP

Jordan Lyles
Lyles is just a kid soaking it all in.
Houston Astros
Some thoughts:
Anyone who's read a few of our posts knows we're suckers for highly touted prospects, and the 20-year old Lyles fits that bill. He has been the Astros' #1 prospect for a while. I'd like to pick him up because he'll pitch twice this week, and they are both good matchups. The cruddy Cubs face him on Tuesday night, and on Sunday, he'll take the mound in the pitcher's paradise of Petco Park. WGN's venerable Tom Skilling is reporting that the wind will still be blowing out, or at least out towards right field tomorrow night. I'd rather not have a 20-year old pitcher taking the mound at Wrigley with 15-25 MPH winds blowing towards the right field bleachers.
Some AAA stats: 6.25 K/9, 2.44 BB/9, 3.20 ERA, 3.49 FIP

Paul Maholm
Maholm'll be good on the Yankees
Pittsburgh Pirates
Some thoughts:
This guy has never really been under consideration for us because the Pirates have stunk for 18 years, and Maholm is not an overpowering strikeout machine. we're looking know for a few reasons. He has a career high 6.11 K/9, four positive value pitches, and a distinct possibility he may be traded to a contender in about six weeks.
Some stats: 52.5 career GB%, .256 BABIP, 3.18 ERA, 3.39 FIP

A couple of SP/RP's...

Cory Luebke
San Diego Padres
Some thoughts:
We've liked this guy since Opening Day, and he has been very good so far. As Mike Axisa wrote on May 27th, "The lone lefty in San Diego’s bullpen, Luebke is more than just a specialist and he could move back into the rotation before season’s end. His ERA (4.21) will look better once his strand rate (59.4%) normalizes."
Some stats: 9.47 K/9, 44.4 GB%, 2.48 FIP, HR/FB 4.2%

Daniel McCutchen
McCutchen throwing a splitter
Pittsburgh Pirates
Some thoughts:
He does not strikeout nearly enough batters, or else he'd already be on our team. Most of his success should be attributed to the weak contact he generates from his effective slider and chance of pace split finger.
Some stats: 4.43 K/9, 0.40 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 2.46 FIP

This is our first year in this league, and there is a 45-move limit. As someone who would normally end seasons around the 175 mark, it's been rough. We actually only have 19 moves left, with roughly 65% of the season left to play. For now, we'll resist the temptation* to acquire Arrieta, Lyles, Maholm, or McCutchen, rolling with Repczynski, hoping to vulture a few wins along the way.

*We'll try to resist the temptation for at least a week, or two.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Next Big Hitting Debuts

Over the past three weeks, we've seen the MLB debuts of Eric Hosmer, Brandon Guyer, Julio Teheran, Jose Iglesias, Pete Kozma, and about nine other guys. Baseball-Reference, of course, keeps a record of Major League debuts by season. Here's the link that takes you to 2011.

Who are the next, most exciting prospects to expect in the coming weeks and months?

Jesus Montero, Yankees
Age: 21, Pos: DH/C Level: AAA
It doesn't help Jorge Posada's case in the Bronx, when team management sees a budding power hitter with a .317/.356/439 triple-A batting line. The eam could want to see some more slugging out of Montero before asking him to replace a lifetime Yankee and future Hall of Famer, but it's clear that Brian Cashman knows what he has in Montero. (Just look at the way he's staring at him in the photo.)
Other stats: .339 wOBA, 119 OPS+, 4.67 RC/27

Mike Trout, Angels
Age: 20, Pos: CF Level: AA
Most have Trout as the #1 prospect in baseball, so his name should begin to sound more and more familiar. His production this season has been fantastic. He's sporting a .314/.408/.550 triple-slash line, with 7 doubles, 4 triples, 6 HR's and 9 SB's. Since I can be an impatient person, I'm really hoping he gets to the big leagues this season.
Other stats: .404 wOBA, 152 OPS+, 5.13 RC/27, BB:K 22:27

Dustin Ackley, Mariners
Age: 23, Pos: 2b Level: AAA
Ackley has worked to develop his power, and early indications this season have been better than we expected. After just 7 HR's in 587 plate appearances between Double and Triple A last year, Ackley has already popped 6 homers in 214 PA's this year. His patience has always been excellent (108:104 BB:K career), so he'll be a good Major League hitter. If he develops 20+ Homerun power at 2nd base, he could be a perennial All Star.
Other stats: .346 wOBA, 15.4% BB%, 11.7% K%

Mike Moustakas, Royals
Age: 22, Pos: 3b, Level: AAA
Much of the Future Star talk this Spring Training this year surrounded Moustakas and Hosmer. In quick fashion, like a little coming out party at Yankee Stadium, Hosmer showed he belonged in The Show. It won't be long before Moustakas is manning the opposite side of the diamond for the Royals. My main man, Wilson Betemit, has been hitting the ball very well lately. In a few weeks, I could see the Royals trading him somewhere for someone's 15th best prospect, or something, to open the door for the Moustakas rapture.
Other stats: .364 wOBA, 111 OPS+, 21% LD%

Manny Machado, Orioles
Age: 18, Pos: SS, Level: A
We'll probably have to wait at least two or three years before Machado plays in Baltimore, but his start this season has been outstanding. Again, he plays shortstop, is only 18, and is hitting .333/.450/.611, with 5 HR's and a 19:14 BB:K ratio.
Other stats: 25 games, 30 hits

Right here, we were going to mention Shelby Miller as a pitcher we think is very exciting and close to the big leagues. Instead, we decided that since he's only 20 years old, and he's still in the Cardinals' organization, this will be a hitter only post. Are there any other MLB debuts that you're looking forward to? Please let us know if the comments, thanks!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Why Not Travis Banwart?

The Oakland A's rotation has taken a big hit in the last few days. We've been picking the A's to win this year since the start of the season. They lost Dallas Braden for the season over a month ago. In the past couple of days, they lost Tyson Ross and Brandon McCarthy.

For details on their injuries and potential replacements, check out Joe Stiglish's article in the San Jose Mercury News to this SB Nation article by David Fulcillo, this aptly titled Billy Frijoles piece on Athletics Nation: 'Possible Fill-Ins for Tyson Ross AND BRANDON MCCARTHY !#@%!@#$!@#$.'

Get well soon, Brandon!
Among other things, we learn "The primary candidates listed are Josh Outman, Guillermo Moscoso and Graham Godfrey."

I looked at the Baseball-Reference page for the Sacramento River Cats, where I found a viable fourth candidate: Travis Banwart.

This chart is from Baseball-Reference...

5 Josh Outman* 37.2 1.726 9.1 1.4 6.5 7.2 1.11
4 Travis Banwart 46.0 1.000 6.8 1.0 2.2 7.6 3.55
3 Guillermo Moscoso 40.1 1.215 8.0 0.2 2.9 9.6 3.31
2 Graham Godfrey 33.1 1.110 7.6 0.5 2.4 8.4 3.44
21 Players 378.1 1.306 8.2 0.7 3.6 8.4 2.35
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/21/2011.

Outman's control has been terrible, but Billy Frijoles of Athletics Nation says that's to be expected coming off surgery. Moscoso and Outman are already on the 40-man rosters, so it is easier for the team to recall them. Purely thinking from a non-business perspective and looking at their baseball numbers suggest that Banwart and Godfrey should get a chance.

In conclusion, here are a few more interesting triple-A statistics pulled from their First Inning player pages.

FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching)
Guillermo Moscoso 2.97
Graham Godfrey 3.82
Travis Banwart 4.32
Josh Outman 6.44

BsRA9 (Base Runs Allowed/9ip)
Guillermo Moscoso 3.07
Save Travis Banwart
Graham Godfrey 3.12
Travis Banwart 3.24
Josh Outman 6.45

Moscoso's case is strengthened by those last two numbers. It'll be interesting to see who the A's go with. Outman's experience and the team's comfort level with him could earn him the promotion. Hopefully, we'll get to see Godfrey and Banwart pitch in the big leagues, too. If not, I'm picking the River Cats to do pretty well in the Pacific Coast League.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Minute Maid Madness

While the Astros are not good this year, the hits just keep on coming from Minute Maid Park. Just last week, we shared this video of the Astros fan escaping from security after running on the field. Soon after that, loyal reader and good friend, Osh, sent us an email saying that our other good friend was hit in the ribs by a foul ball and it was funny. Naturally, I got on a plane, flew to Chicago, went to Osh's house, and video taped the clip off his TiVo. There's a good chance that you'd have to be friends with us to think this is really funny. Sorry, in advance, for the inside joking nature of the clip. It's just fun to see your friend get nailed by a foul ball. We've never uploaded video like this, I hope it works!

And now, for the close up view...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

MLB Bullpen Rankings

In February, we judged every Major League bullpen from the micro perspective. We looked at individual player stats like FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), HR/9, and K:BB ratio from 2008, '09, and '10, plus Marcel 2011 WHIP projections.

Quickly tonight, I took a macro glance and sorted 2011 team stats including K/9, BB/9, K/BB, HR/9, ERA, FIP, xFIP, and tERA.

The Elite, Best of the Best
Expect to see Kimbrel as an All Star
Craig Kimbrel has been the Derek Rose of NL Bullpens.
Seven out of Nine pitchers in their bullpen have a FIP under 2.94.
A solid group top to bottom, without a susceptible weak link.
Kevin Towers's best work may have been the building of this bullpen over the past seven months.

Acquirable Assets
The first big drop in our statistical review gets us to the Pirates, but they're still ranked 5th in all of baseball. If the buccos cannot compete (and they can't), a few of these guys could end up in pennant races with New York, Boston, Tampa, Philadelphia, or someone else.
The Nationals feel like they're close to contending, so it's not as if everyone is readily available. Todd Coffey could be in the American League come August.

Expected Contenders, Contending
Another former Cub who's got it goin' on
Our preseason pick for best bullpen is doing quite well, 6th in our study. It's a long season.
Unless the Bronx Bombers acquire reinforcements, their bullpen should fade throughout the summer. Their starting rotation is, frankly, a bad joke.
White Sox
Their closer situation, with Sergio Santos, should help solidify the entire bullpen.
We've always liked the Betancourt, Lindstrom, Street version of the Nasty Boys. While Huston Street has struggled, the left-handed Matt Reynolds has continued his solid pitching from last season.
Red Sox
Go ahead, Rich, win a
World Series with Boston.
See if we care.
Papelbon seems to have improved his control, and we expect great things from Daniel Bard. This will be a good group. Bobby Jenks is the X-factor, and his 3.74 FIP suggests his enormous ERA is a mirage. I've always rooted for Rich Hill and wanted the Cubs to reclaim him. So, his success is a little bittersweet.
Their best assets are their offense and the front of their rotation. If the bullpen becomes a strength, they could challenge Cincinnati for the NL Central.

MLB's Middle Class
Will their semi-annual fade ruin their season around August?
So far, it's a 1-man race
for American League
Manager of the Year.
Surprise, surprise, Manny Acta has his musical mojo working so far.
The Mets are a year, or two, away from being relevant again. Trading K-Rod for anything would help expedite the process.
They have money, a front office with brains, a nice stadium, and vast fan support, but their average bullpen isn't turning their below average offense in many Wins.
I agree with Marty Brennaman, that the Cardinals are baseball's most hated team. Kyle McClellan is helping the rotation, but it also left a gaping hole in their efforts to get Outs 22-27.
Blue Jays
This Bullpen should turnover a bit, as they get through the battles of the AL East. They score enough runs and should be in enough games that the bullpen, sadly, looks like their Achilles' heel.
Please, don't get me started. Marmol, Wood, and Marshall are very good. It would be nice if they had more Major League talent around them.
The Rays bullpen was completely revamped in the offseason. They will likely see improvement.
Aroldis Chapman is becoming an enigma, and Dusty Baker has shown the repeatable skills of winning divisions and destroying young arms.
Poor Don Mattingly could really use a break.
The Astros shuold get nice and comfy here, near the bottom of the bullpen rankings. Consider it penance for Brandon Lyon, alone.
Jim Leyland should figure a way to get through the later innings, as the season goes along. The Tigers are a good bet to improve.
Joakim Soria has not had a good start to the season, so if he regresses towards his career mean, we could see the Royals winning percentage stay around .500 for this first time in a long time. It would be interesting, more than with any other reliever almost, to see Soria show his brilliance again and get traded to a contender.

Still Searching
S.O.S. in the Philly Bullpen
Lidge and Contreras haven't helped, but this contending team should acquire arms through trades to improve their Phillies bullpen. The cannot count on CG's the rest of the year/postseason.
The Orioles bullpen is terrible and should stay that way through next season.

With Regression Alone, Should Improve
Expect more from the AL Champs
Jordan Walden, Scott Downs, and Rich Thompson have been great, but that's been it. Mike Scioscia can do better than this.
Can Joe Nathan help them regain control? Is he a year away? Or is he done?
The return of Neftali Feliz will propel the Rangers up this list.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

First Cubs Game

It's hard to believe that this is when it started getting serious.

This is the first Cubs game I ever attended:

May 9, 1986

San Diego Padres
Bip Roberts 2B 4 0 3 0 0 1 .206 .515 -0.048
   Garry Templeton SS 0 0 0 0 0 0 .196 .451 0.000
John Kruk LF 4 0 0 0 0 2 .229 .556 -0.049
Tony Gwynn RF 4 1 2 0 0 1 .345 .898 0.066
Steve Garvey 1B 4 1 1 0 0 0 .232 .667 -0.063
Terry Kennedy C 3 2 1 1 1 0 .223 .670 0.088
Kevin McReynolds CF 3 1 1 3 1 1 .257 .760 0.335
Graig Nettles 3B 4 0 1 1 0 0 .171 .520 -0.053
Tim Flannery SS-2B 3 1 1 1 1 0 .265 .737 0.090
Andy Hawkins P 4 0 0 0 0 1 .214 .429 -0.062
Team Totals 33 6 10 6 3 6 .303 .967 0.304
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/16/2011.

Andy Hawkins, W (2-2) 9 5 2 2 1 2 1 4.10 70 0.198
Team Totals 9 5 2 2 1 2 1 2.00 70 0.198
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/16/2011.

Chicago Cubs
Shawon Dunston SS 4 0 1 1 0 0 .299 .835 0.058
Gary Matthews LF 4 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .624 -0.068
   Matt Keough P 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .500 0.000
Ryne Sandberg 2B 4 0 0 0 0 0 .278 .784 -0.074
Keith Moreland RF 4 0 0 0 0 0 .279 .697 -0.067
Leon Durham 1B 4 0 1 0 0 0 .241 .756 0.017
Jody Davis C 3 0 1 0 0 0 .240 .664 -0.051
Ron Cey 3B 2 1 1 1 1 0 .184 .719 0.103
Jerry Mumphrey CF 3 1 1 0 0 1 .310 .790 -0.009
Rick Sutcliffe P 2 0 0 0 0 1 .188 .688 -0.079
   Ray Fontenot P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.000
   Terry Francona PH-LF 1 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .500 -0.026
Team Totals 31 2 5 2 1 2 .161 .478 -0.196
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/16/2011.

Rick Sutcliffe, L (1-5) 7 7 5 5 2 6 3 4.21 47 -0.302
Ray Fontenot 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 3.86 0.015
Matt Keough 1 2 1 1 1 0 0 3.00 -0.015
Team Totals 9 10 6 6 3 6 3 6.00 47 -0.302
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/16/2011.

Ron Cey hit the 1st Cubs' HR I ever saw in person.

Looking at some of these images captured at Wrigley Field during the 1986 season make the memories come flooding back...

Love the old scoreboard with no lights and two divisions.

That's supposed to be Dwight Gooden pitching.

Nolan Ryan reaches back to pitch to Ryne Sandberg

This photo has all kinds of Classic, from the fashion, to
the mustache, and of course the paper beer cup.

No idea what it is, but I'd still buy whatever Torco sells.

When was your first game? Let's open time capsule.