Wednesday, March 28, 2007

That Other New York Team

Pete J Testifies : If there is a team in baseball that can compare to the Yankees in terms of run scoring potential it's their crosstown rivals The Mets. The line-up is stocked with talent from both sides of the plate. They have speed, power, hit for average, good situational hitting, all in all they are pretty awesome and it showed in the MVP voting with four guys getting votes (Beltran, Reyes, Wright and Delgado).

It all starts at the top with one of the most exciting players in baseball, Jose Reyes. Reyes finished tops in the NL in stolen bases for the second year on the trot and is a good bet to do so again but the thing that made last year a real breakout season for him was the way he almost doubled his walk total from the previous season. Still only 24, he continues to work to improve and who knows how good he'll be when he hits his physical peak.

The MVP of the line-up (seems odd to say this with so many great players on board) is Carlos Beltran who really stirs the drink with all the skills you could possibly hope to posess. Finally fully healthy going into last year, he set career highs across the board displaying power, discipline, great glove work and, even with his speed diminished due to injuries, he's one of if not the best base runner in baseball. He might well be the best player in baseball not called Albert.

I could go on and on about the positive influence and great power of Carlos Delgado and how David Wright is on the verge of achieving true greatness but the general point is that this team has a huge array of tools at its disposal.

The bullpen was an asset last year and it got even better with the addition of lefty Scott Schoeneweis giving the team even more depth and versatility and with Heilman in the eighth and Wagner in the ninth, games will be made shorter and New York won't lose too many games when it's ahead late on.

Of course the big question everyone is asking is just how good will the rotation be? Pedro Martinez will miss a big chunk of time with his shoulder and any team would miss a guy of his talents.

Tom Glavine will be the guy called upon to be the ace in Pedro's absense and he'll have the added incentive of getting the ten wins he needs to join the 300 win club.

Glavine knows no fear on the mound and will continue to add and subtract over the outer half and will give the team a chance to win every time he takes to the mound but he isn't the one Mets fans are concerned about.

Orlando Hernandez is past his best but will still periodically pitch a big game for you, John Maine looked good in his rookie campaign but you can't rely on a sophomore pitcher to log big innings and then you have Oliver Perez who has all the gifts and has actually looked good this Spring, but is so frustratingly inconsistent.

So what do we make of The Mets? Well I can't see them not winning the East and posting the top record in the NL. Their rotation is a passable regular season unit with a good pen backing them up to hold the opposition to far fewer runs than they will score and they will score enough runs to blow away the lower tier teams and many of the upper level franchises too. Will they make the step up in the playoffs? They'll need a strong comeback from Martinez and probably need to get another arm from somewhere (or have one of the guys they already have step up) to win it all but they'll be there or thereabouts.

Conor C Proclaims : We all know about the offensive potential of this lineup and its AL calibre sluggers, but will the rotation hold up?

On paper this is a team that should waltz the NL East, but I have a sneaking suspiscion that the Phillies will sneak ahead down the road.

There's not much more to say other than what Pete has said, except that in my opinion, a lot rests on the shoulders of Oliver Perez. If he can rediscover the form that made him such a star a few seasons ago then suddenly an alright rotation becomes above average, and let's face it, they only need an average rotation with their bullpen (although letting Chad Bradford go was a mistake) and an offence to knock the stuffing out of any pitcher.

Pete J Say : If the Mets can get the Oliver Perez from a couple years back then this is the best team in baseball. I have seen too many false dawns from that guy to really think that is likely but even with last years Perez, this is still a monster team. Not many will be able to cope with their fire power and they have the experience of being almost there last year in the playoffs to spur them on.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Boston Chip On Their Shoulders Because They Aren't The Yankees

Pete J Says : This team will score some runs. Not only do they have possibly the best one-two punch in the heart of the order since Gehrig and Ruth, but they also have a strong assortment of guys to back them up.

Coco Crisp will rebound after a troublesome first year in Beantown where he was playing catch up after an early injury, Julio Lugo brings a new dynamic to the top of the order with extra speed (even if he doesn't have the patience you'd like in the leadoff spot) and Kevin Youkilis adds another option for the club to get guys on base in front of the big two.

The thing that could really take the team to another level will be a return to form by Mike Lowell and a full season from newly acquired (and way overpaid) outfielder, J.D. Drew. When Drew is on he is a complete player who uses a sweet stroke to generate good power and knows how to get on base.

Much has been made of the rotation and on paper it looks formidable with Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka and Papelbon all potential All Stars but Schilling and Beckett have bad health histories in recent years, Papelbon has yet to prove himself as a starter and wore down last year working out the pen and Matsuzaka has never had to pitch as many innings as he will be expected to this year. We shall see how these all pan out.

The real question is what will happen in the pen with no real established option as a closer. Plan A seems to be Joel Pineiro but he hasn't been that convincing for a couple of years now but the move to the pen might reignite him but I'm far from convinced. Plan B is...err...I guess it could be Timlin even if he's carrying a knock through Spring, or Julian Tavarez who is a journeyman middle reliever. Craig Hansen could end up being the guy, he's got the stuff but has yet to really put it together in The Bigs.

Brendan Donnelly was a great pick up but can you Boston fans say lefty reliever? Not entirely sure who's supposed to fit into that role.

If everything falls into place this could be an awesome team but very rarely does everything go right for anyone. The bullpen is full of holes and could fall apart and the rotation could collapse at any minute. Until it does this will be a tough team but they won't be able to last with the Yankees and the teams in the Central. They better hope they can reclaim second place in the East or the axe could be coming down.

Conor C Says : I have spent alot of time considering Boston's propsects for the season, and the more I look at it, the more I think they have a great team assembled. They have a good leadoff guy in Crisp, the absolute perfection of a number two guy in Youkilis, and a heart of the order consisting of Manny, Big Pappy, and JD Drew. From 2 right through to 5 they have guys who can really hurt you and who one would expect to see make a serious assault on 150 homers between them.

Julio Lugo is a decent shortstop although he had a poor second half last year and will be a very good AL 9 hole guy to get things going again.

Consider the sheer power of Willy Mo as the back up outfielder as well and its all scary. Lowell at third is the perfect hitter for Fenway with power to the left field wall. Boston can be very happy with the offence they've put together and will know that it will safely blow most teams away.

Pitching wise, I wasn't surprised to see Papelbon back to the closer role since no one else could grab it. Besides, Beckett is due one good year, Schilling may be on his last legs but he's making a run at Hall of Fame type numbers and will maybe step it up a gear, even if they only squeeze 6 innings out of him every fifth day. Dice-K will blow teams away for a few months and like Pete has said, will probably hit a wall sometime around September. Tim Wakefield seems evergreen and is a brilliant change of pace in the middle of a series.

This team WILL compete with the Yankees this year barring a severe injury crisis and should make for a very interesting AL East race.

Pete J Says : Obviously I wrote the first bit of this before word of Papelbon's move to the pen came out but even with him there the pen is still not very good and coupled with a good few key players with health concerns (Beckett, Schilling, Timlin, Drew), even if they do start well, they will have an incredibly hard task keeping track with New York. I can see why most people like their chances because, on paper, they look very strong but once you start poking around at the grey I strongly feel that there are too many issues.

And as a bit of a P.S., does anyone else feel that the more Wily Mo Pena plays, the more ordinary he looks?

Minnesota Award Winners

Pete Says : OK, we have a line-up with Luis Castillo, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau scoring runs every way you can, possibly the best bullpen in baseball with possibly the best closer in the AL in Joe Nathan supported by top lefties Juan Rincon and Dennys Reyes and tough righties Matt Guerrier and firecracker Jesse Crain and they can roll out the best pitcher in baseball every fifth day. Not a bad place to be.

Much has been made about how rookie phenom Francisco Liriano is out for the year and obviously thats a blow but Boof Bonser (that can't be a real name) and Matt Garza showed great promise last year and the likes of Carlos Silva and Glen Perkins can give good innings so it shouldn't be as big a concern as some seem to think...although admittedly its not as secure as they would have hoped but thats what an awesome pen and a line-up that includes a batting champ and MVP is for.

I know this is brief but this is, simply put, another great team that Terry Ryan has put together (it would be so easy to call him the best GM in baseball) with speed and power in the line-up, strong D and good arms throughout the system. The only problem they have is that they are in the toughest division in baseball and even the slightest slip could cost them but I still like them for the Central.

Conor C Says : Arguably the most stable bullpen in the AL. Superb set up men (wow isn't Jesse Crain something to watch!) and Joe Nathan should notch up forty plus saves if the team performs. All in all, this bullpen won't give up too many leads after the 6th inning if their starters can get them that far and for me that's what the problem is.

After Santana (the best pound for pound pitcher in baseball), I don't see where this rotation is going to be strong. Carlos Silva had a very average year last year and he has flat out sucked this Spring. There is alot of media talk about him being sent to the bullpen, and it's hard to argue given his dismal 11+ ERA this Spring.

Matt Garza seems a solid player, but it will be interesting to see how he copes with a first full season in the majors.

Offence wise, this team has the players to compete with anyone with the best hitting catcher in baseball in Joe Mauer and a first baseman who is going to be a perennial MVP candidate. The outfield perhaps lacks a little pop for an AL team and even more so from the left side of the infield. However this is a team that should compete and if Liriano was to come back ahead of schedule it would be a huge boost for the stretch run.

Pete J Says : If there were any chance that Liriano would be back this year I would be saying this team is the front runner to win it all (although I still like them to make it anyway). If they can get some good innings out of Santana's support staff then this team can do it but, then again, anyone who comes out of that division has a great chance in the post-season.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

3,448 Damn Yankees

Well, it's been a while since I had a good barney with my arch-nemesis Neil M from 3,049 Miles... so I've done a bit of subcontracting and here comes our view of the Yankees prospects for the season.

Pete J starts : We'll start with something I doubt we can argue about and that is the fact that the Yankees will field an awesome offence this year and with more luck than last year (its amazing how many injuries they absorbed last term) they should score more runs than any other team and might even approach some records.

Johnny Damon is so over-rated as a table setter but he's solid enough and has enough speed (he's not really a threat to lead the league in steals) to kickstart the big bombs behind him and give Torre some options. It also helps when you have Jeter (.417), Giambi (.413) and Alex Rodriguez (.392) all in the top 10 in OBP in the AL and Bobby Abreu posting a .424 mark between the AL and NL.

It's not just power, it's the ability to keep the runs ticking over by working guys on base and dragging them around and they also have enough depth that they can have Mientkiewicz at first and likely batting way down the order and rotate the likes of Cairo and Cabrera into the roster, giving the elder statesmen time off, and still look intimidating. The only thing they might worry about is can they get Posada and his battered body enough time off?

Neil M says : Johnny Damon might be over-rated but he fits into what the Yankees need at the moment. His skills are scrappy but his energy and happy nature are incredibly important to an up-tight Yankees clubhouse. After Damon you have the best #2 hitter in the game in Derek Jeter, two OBP machines will bat at #3 and #5 in Abreu and Giambi, with the latter having genuine power. Then you throw in A-Rod and Matsui, Posada and Cano and then at #9 Donnie Mattingly and the Yankees are looking like a scary prospect (what do you mean Doug "1 for 22 in ST" is the main 1B man?)

Offensively the Yankees on paper could score 100 runs more than anyone else but the games aren't played on paper. Injuries are a legit concern and the drop-off from Posada to Wil Nieves would be considerable. The only offensive position the Yankees could absorb a long-term problem with noticeable drop-off is in CF with Melky, beyond that a long-term injury would seriously harm that offensive juggernaut.

Pete J retorts : It's an interesting idea to have Mattingly come out of retirement to bat ninth. At least if they have Mientkiewicz at first they have one plus defender on the infield.

How can you undercut that offence by saying that an injury to anyone other than Damon would seriously harm them? They could lose two guys and still score a tonne of runs...obviously depending on who the two are. If they lost Jeter and A-Rod they'd be a bit buggered.

They showed last year that they can go without Matsui or a consistent right fielder. Injuries only change this offence from being an awesome one to maybe just a very, very good one. Either way they score runs, its just a question of how many they'll need to put up.

Neil M witters : Mientkiewicz has not been a plus defender for several years and is playing off that legacy. I'd like to see Josh Phelps win out the 1B RH Platoon job for two reasons, firstly he can hit, secondly he would be a genuine bat off the bench, something the Yankees haven't had in quite a while.

If the Yankees lost Jeter then Miguel Cairo wins a F/T job and no matter how well he plays, the whole dynamic of the line-up changes. If another player goes down the same applies, the Yankees don't have any IF talent at AAA who can step up whereas they have a couple of legit OF options who could do a job for a month or two.

The Yankees success or failure this year is all about the arms, not the bats.

Pete J responds : I think it's now that we need to mention that we're judging the Yankees on their ability to win a World Series rather than the standards we might set for other teams as that's all the Yanks are really about.

Pitching has been a huge part of why the Yankees haven't had as much success as they would have expected in recent years (that coupled with bouts of one dimensional offence) and I'm still not convinced by this group. The back end of the rotation of Pavano and Igawa don't say World Series winner to me.

Its hard to really say much about Igawa because we simply haven't seen him in the Bigs but Pavano has had one good year in his entire career and has only pitched 200 innings twice. If you take away 2004, his career ERA is 4.61 which isn't great especially if you throw in his lack of durability.

Pettitte was a good pick up. He may be on the wain to some degree, but he always knew how to pitch at Yankee Stadium and never had a real problem taking the ball in a big game.

Mussina just knows how to pitch. Even if his stuff is in serious decline, he still has great location and savvy and fits well in the middle of that staff. My only minor quibble with him is that he hasn't thrown 200 innings since 2003.

Wang reminds me a lot of Brandon Webb. A sinker-baller putting up good but not great numbers but always with the promise that he could make the step to being a Cy winner one day. Does that mean I think Wang will win a Cy this year? Not likely. Why? Webb made the jump when the club got him Orlando Hudson to back him up and field all those ground balls that a plus sinker can give you and all Wang has is one of the most average defensive infields in baseball. They may have good hands (even Cano who did improve last year) but range is a serious issue.

Neil M prattles : Pitching - this is the time where I bring up my favourite subject - The Rocket. Whilst Igawa and Pavano aren't exciting you, the Rocket will in most likelihood launch again in the Bronx in July and he would slot into the front of our rotation. This would mean in essence Mussina would be our #4 pitcher and when you have that front four then you'd be quite excited.

I know you won't of seen Igawa pitch despite now having - I've watched him twice and he needs to trust his stuff. 13 k's in 9 innings is good and his off-speed pitches are certainly plus but he doesn't trust his speed as yet and keeps walking guys. Pavano needs to pitch well so we can trade him, he's pitching tonight after Pettitte (should go 4 innings after Andy's 5) so on the next update no doubt I'll be able to comment on his stuff (I'm watching)

Pettitte's just got Howard out swinging.

Wang was second in Cy Young voting last year and their is a good reason behind that, his sinker is evil. Yes the IF D isn't awesome but it's not as bad as everyone makes out, they'll be three players with Gold Gloves around the diamond (I think Doug M has one?)

On paper the rotation could be good but again, that's on paper...

Pete J continues : Well, we'll settle the infield thing quickly. Firstly we know that A-Rod hasn't exactly excelled at third and he was never that rangey at short. Jeter basically wins GG's now because, for the most part, AL shortstops aren't very good. You've already said you don't rate Mientkiewicz (honestly who would want a first baseman with soft hands and quick feet?) so where does that leave you? I agree they aren't as bad as some people want to make them out to be but they are the most average bunch I've seen in a very long time and they aren't good enough for the club to make the most of Wang's ability.

Then there's The Rocket. I don't deal in fantasy and delusion. He may sign later but I still doubt he'll leave the state of Texas but for now he's not a Yankee and thats all there is to say.

Only a fool would take on Pavano for anything worthwhile (did I mention how aside from one year he's been excedingly ordinary?) so putting any stock in a positive Pavano scenario is almost grasping at straws. If he pitches like he did in '04 then they'll want to keep him otherwise no one will give up much to get him.

All I'll say about Igawa is don't put too much stock in spring training numbers but the jury is still out on him.

I'm surprised you haven't brought up the Yankeedom saviour (or so we would be lead to believe) Phillip Hughes. I suppose, like me, you think he'll be best served by spending more time in AAA and get a call up in September in view to him maintaining rookie status for '08.

Neil M quacks : Well to say the Rocket is 'fantasy and delusion' is wide of the mark. He has already stated that he'd of never come out of retirement had Andy never of signed in Houston and had Andy signed with the Yankees last year he'd of returned to the Bronx. The bond between those two seems pretty watertight.

How many pitches have you ever seen Igawa throw? Do you even know what pitches he throws?

As for Pavano, if guys like Gil Meche are getting $11m per year then Pavano's contract isn't terrible.

I think Phil Hughes will be a great Yankee but he needs maturing time in Triple-A. The Yankees have a decent enough top three and they have a couple of league average guys at the back of the rotation, and league average with the Yankees offense gives them a chance.

Pete J say : I do know what repertoire Igawa has but all I know of him is from reading scouting reports which is why I haven't passed any judgement on him whatsoever. Much like Clemens apparent return to New York, I'll believe it when I see it.

As for Pavano's contract and comparing it to Meche's, the contract Meche got was straight out of bizarre-o land so I guess Pavano's contract isn't so crazy considering the present market so I retract my previous statement...he's still a very average pitcher with a bad history of breaking down.

I suppose in a way the rotation is a lot like the bullpen with one stud, and the rest is sort of bend but don't break. Obviously Mo Rivera, although maybe not the best any more, is still a top tier guy who is practically automatic closing out games and I've always liked Mike Myers but guys like Farnsworth, Vizcaino and Proctor might be solid citizens but would you bet your house on them? We'll also wait to see what direction Jeff Karstens takes in the long term.

I have no doubt there is more than enough pitching in Yankeedom to win the East and probably post the best record in the AL and maybe all of baseball but I just feel that when it comes to the playoffs they might not have quite enough to get them past the top teams. That's when you can't rely on just bludgeoning teams and your depth and quality is really tested.

Neil M laughs off the digs : The Yankees pen is the best in my years as a baseball fan. The greatest sitting at the back end of the pen, the man who has thrown a change-up in ST which has just frozen hitters. I'd still want Mo above any other closer in the game to close a game out.

Elsewhere you have a bunch of live arms, Scott Proctor, Kyle Farnsworth and Luis Vizciano are pencilled in for late inning setup duties but elsewhere you'll see the likes of Mike Myers, Ron Villone, Jeff Karstens and Brian Bruney. The last name had an 0.87 ERA late in the 2006 season for the Yankees whilst just rearing back and throwing, he is battling for the last spot in the pen and a guy with his stuff would've been a clear setup guy two years ago, it shows how deeper our relief options have come.

Pete J says : The pen is deeper than it has been in New York since they were winning World Series but does not have as many true impact guys as they had in those days. Live arms are all well and good but we can all shoot off a huge list of guys with great arms and stuff who never made the most of those tools (Farnsworth is probably on most peoples list). And as for Bruney, he recorded that ERA in 20 2/3 innings of mop up duty which isn't much to go on even if the 15 walks he gave up in those 20 innings doesn't bode well for the future.

Just because it's better, doesn't mean its necessarily great. Sure there's promise but aside from Mo, none of them has a sustained history of great success and if Mo gets hurt there really isn't anyone who stands out as an obvious fix.

Neil M says : How many teams have 'an obvious fix' should their closer go down? Boston might go into the season with Joel Pineiro as closer, if BJ Ryan goes down is their someone ready to step up to dominate? The only team in the AL with a real option in LAA with Scot Shields, beyond him and that ball club there isn't a great guy in the pen beyond a closer.

As we've already stated, whilst its better than it was it still might not be awesome but when you consider the Yankees have won the AL East every year since 1998 and this is the best pen for several years, you have to believe the future is pretty bright.

It might not be the greatest 25-man roster ever put together but it is the best roster the Yankees will of put out for a few years and that is the most important thing.

Pete J's denoument : All I'm saying is some teams are better equipped than others to deal with such an eventuality (Texas was the more obvious example but anyway).

So, do you think this is the team to win a World Series? As if I need to ask. Personally I see it as same old, same old with the team romping home in the division and then falling in the playoffs.

Neil M concludes : This is the best Yankee team I have seen so obviously I'll pick them for the Big Dance. However as we know the playoffs can be a strange place where guys like Jeff Weaver can be great.

On paper they are the rightful favourites - however we don't play the game on paper.

Pete J summarises : Well obviously we were never going to agree on much but it's hard not to see this machine of a team plough through the regular season like a tractor through butter. I do feel that Neil's slightly inflated view of this teams chances comes from having something of a short memory when it comes to great Yankee teams. My standards for them will always be set by the great sides between 1996 and 2000 which were real big game teams built to win however it needed and I just don't see that in this team.

Neil is right that this is the best team the Yankees have had in a good while and there is the potential, with a handful of wild cards on the roster that could blossom and fill the holes that I see in the team and make this a post-season juggernaut too. I wait to be convinced.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Baltimore Fourth Place Finishers

Pete J Says : I really am not sure about the Orioles this year. On paper they have a good talent level with a lot of very good pitchers who seem to be blossoming under the tutelage of Leo Mazzone but they are the O's and that means being part of one of the worst run organisations in baseball.

We'll start with the pitching and the vastly improved bullpen which should be one of the best in baseball. It will be anchored by Chris Ray, who is fast becoming one of the more dependable relievers in baseball and will be looking to build upon his first year as a full time closer. He will recieve good support from a revamped support staff which includes former closers Dannys Baez (still able to close if he needs to) and Scott Williamson (no one quite knows what he'll be like after the injuries) who will be looked on as the principle set-up men and the tremendous pairing of righty Chad Bradford and lefty Jamie Walker looking after the situational stuff. With such a well balanced group, if the starters can log some innings then this will be a tough side to face.

The rotation itself will be interesting with young stud Adam Loewen looking to establish himself after a hit and miss rookie year and Jaret Wright who is still looking to establish himself after a good rookie campaign 10 years ago. The last time Wright had Mazzone in his dugout he posted a career year so it will be interesting to see how he reacts a second time round.

The staff and the whole team will likely hinge upon the form of Daniel Cabrera and Erik Bedard. Cabrera in particular was very streaky and showed periods of absolute dominance and then backed it up with a period of very forgettable play which must have driven management to despair whereas Bedard looks like being on the verge of establishing himself as one of the top hurlers in the game. Bedard is coming into his prime and posted career highs in all the stats that count last year and will be looking to show it wasn't a fluke and if he maintains his aggressive approach he could be the ace this team has craved since Mussina left.

In the same way that the rotation needs one or two guys to really step up and carry the team, the lineup needs one or two guys in the middle of the order to step up and drive in some runs and this will be the trickiest thing for the club to find and so important in a division with some of the most potent offences around.

The top of the order is in the safe hands of Brian Roberts (you'll be hard pressed to find a better all around leadoff man) and Melvin Mora who continues to be one of the most under-appreciated guys in baseball. Of course you throw in Miguel Tajada and you have one of the best all around infields around. Tejada may not have the power he once did but he is still a very strong hitter and if they could find a big bit of lumber to bat behind him, then he could have a renaissance season. Of course we don't know who that big bat will be. Guys like Jay Gibbons, Kevin Millar and Aubrey Huff are all capable of providing periodical pop but none really has the consistency to be a real run producer or post 40 homers.

The only hope the Orioles have of finding someone to protect Tejada and really get this offence to where it needs to be is sophomore rightfielder Nick Markakis who was very tentative for much of last season and then erupted down the stretch giving us a glimpse of his power potential. There is nothing this kid isn't capable of achieving in his career but it is way to early to expect it from someone who will be 22 at the start of the year.

The team has got a lot of good things about it that should give O's fans hope but this is Peter Angelos' team and he stifles every attempt this team makes to try and build some kind of foundation for this team to build upon. If injuries hit or the team finds some kind of need to address to stay in contention they will find their cupboard bare (except for the exciting prospect Radhames Liz) and will be unable to find anyone worth calling up to bolster the team or anyone worth trading and then the finger of blame will go to the GM and manager and everything will be ripped up to start again and set the team back another decade. People talk about Jeffrey Lloria as being a terrible owner but at least he had the decency to leave town rather than bleed his cancer into a once proud franchise.

There is potential here for Baltimore to have a good year and surprise some people but sustaining any momentum will be tough and luck will be as big a part of this teams season as much as good coaching bringing out the best of their younger players.

Conor C Says : What a shame. This club with great history and a beautiful ball park to play in has lost its way. I'm not going to pretend to know the goings on in the front office with this team, but someone really needs to take things by the scruff of the neck and seriously try to turn this (as Pete said) once proud organisation back in the direction it should be headed (that's somewhere along the road that the Jays are going).

Numerous poor investments over the last few seasons have really crippled this organisation, and I'm unfortunately talking about possibly my favourite character in baseball Kevin Millahhhhh who is frankly not up to the job of being an every day first baseman in the AL anymore.

Miggy at shortstop is a dependable run producer, but seriously, how many teams are there that rely on the number six to hit 40 home runs? On the plus side, I love the pick up of Chad Bradford, in my opinion one of the most underrated relievers in the game, and speaking of underrated how good are Melvin Mora and Brian Roberts? Especially Mora who is the 3rd baseman I always look to draft first in a fantasy league.

In summary, this team is never going to compete with the Steinbrenner Yankees and its light at the end of the tunnel is whenever GS isn't there to make the AL East the money driven fiasco it is.

The Orioles really remind me of the Indians in the movie 'Major League' although unfortunately I don't see Wesley Snipes signing up and swiping a hundred bases. As Fall Out Boy said, 'Going down down...', a sad state of affairs.

Pete J Say : The really sad thing is that this team probably is in a better shape than Toronto to compete with Boston and New York in fiscal terms. Its the foundation of the team that really has never been given a chance to seed thanks to the meddling of ownership.

Rather than moving forward, this club seems to be standing still whilst the rest of the division is constantly reinventing itself and soon they could see Tampa breeze on by with its young starlets supplanting the O's aging vets and it frustrates everyone which is why Tejada wanted out.

This team looks like it's not that far off at the Major League level but they might be three or four years away from doing so and that's assuming they start right now. The BEST they can hope for now is a fourth place finish.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Bleed Dodger's Blue Chip Prospects

Pete J Proclaims : After a patchy start, the Dodgers looked very strong for a long time till the Mets juggernaut rolled over them in the playoffs but they are back with that experience still fresh in their minds.

Once again they will roll out a formidable pitching staff from the rotation of Lowe, Schmidt, Penny, Billingsley and possibly Randy Wolf to a deep bullpen anchored by the impressive Takashi Saito. Quite simply it doesn't let up and they will be marshalled by one of the top young catchers in baseball in Russ Martin who will be eager to establish himself as one of baseballs elite recievers.

The line-up has plenty of options to fill the slots behind table setter Raffy Furcal but doesn't have a dominant hitter for the heart of the order. The outfield in particular is quite limp after the departure of JD Drew. Andre Ethier is primed for a sophomore slump after struggling down the stretch, Luis Gonzalez can still be productive but you can't expect more than 15 homers from him and Juan Pierre still has gas to burn but is an impatient hitter who lacks the qualities to top the order and is only a passable defensive player with nowhere near the amount of power to justify batting down the order. He is the most expensive pinch runner in baseball.

It will be interesting to see if Andy LaRoche cracks the lineup and gives the side a boost. He plays a decent third base and has good power potential and could push Betemit to another position. Either way this is still a side with lots of depth even if they lack the big bat.

Its hard to really write anything substantial about this team because its just as solid as it gets with depth in hitting and pitching and even though they are very average defensively, there is not another team in the NL with the same amount of options at their disposal and no one in the West can compete with their standard of pitching over the season and they should match up well come the post-season. The youngsters of last year have added experience now and can take the next step. This team is a serious contender to win it all.

Fan Boy Conor Says : It's a very exciting time to be a Dodger fan with a farm system bursting with players around the Major League level. There truly is a squad here that could dominate the NL for a number of years.

The rotation is the crown jewel of this franchise with so many pitchers competing for a starting slot that quite simply there isn't enough room. Lowe, Schmidt, Penny, Wolfe are probably certs for four of the five jobs, but the fifth spot is anything but certain. Brett Tomko is back looking mean sporting a new delivery which hides the ball much better than last season. His velocity is perhaps his biggest weapon and he is certainly a very good fifth starter.

Chad Billingsley is up against it for a starting role and will likely start in the bullpen along with Mark Hendrickson, the extremely exciting Hong Chi Kuo and possibly Eric Stults. One option the Dodgers do have if Kuo, Tomko and Billingsley all excel in spring is to look for a suitor for Brad Penny who has ruffled some feathers in the organisation. Elmer Dessens is also a red hot favourtie to be traded.

Penny and Dessens could seriously tempt some teams to release that big bat the Dogder's line up is missing. However the problem for the Dodgers (and it is a nice problem) is what position a big bat would take up. $44 million has been spent on centrefield, two blue chip prospects are poised to platoon at third (Wilson Betemit right handed and Andy LaRoche lefty), James Loney can't even find an everyday position, and the Dodgers are certainly not going to give up on Andre Ethier who revealed in the last week that he played from the All Star break with an injury, apparently explaining his slump.

In short the Dodgers at the close of Spring will porbably have to trade away, release, or send down enough quality position players to make another Major League team, and that says something about their strength and depth. The back end of the bullpen will be cemented as Pete said by Takashi Saito who I have to say is far more likely to suffer the sophomore slump than left fielder Ethier. Honestly the Dodgers' biggest issue this year will be closing games and while they may not blow enough saves to lose out on a third post season in four years, it may come back to haunt them in the playoffs should they reach there.

Pete J Says : If Billingsley doesn't go the full year in the rotation I will eat my proverbial hat.

In a nutshell the Dodgers have a very deep roster and enough to be considered in the running for honours this year. If they are able to trade away some of their excess baggage for a big time bat then this becomes a red hot favourite to do it all.

Ned Colletti has a job to do.

The Milwaukee Ouch That's My Hand, Leg, Arm, etc...

Pete J Says : Everyones favourites last year to be the leagues surprise team is back and this time we're all a bit more tentative about their chances.

Much of the expectation was born from a formidable pitching staff which will once again be a force if Ben Sheets can throw every five days. He is one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball and can match up against anyone and, when combined with emerging star Chris Capuano, gives the Brewers a firm base to build on.

Behind the big two are three steady eddies in Jeff Suppan, control maestro Dave Bush and Claudio Vargas all of whom could fit into the middle of a lot of good rotations. Backing them up will be a bullpen that should be solid but probably won't strike too much fear into the hearts of many. Francisco Cordero got back on track, to an extent, after a mid-season trade away from Texas where he had a very tough time last year, will close and be set up by Derrick Turnbow. Turnbow had tough time re-adjusting to the league and his control was way off, with some work in the Spring he should be back on track and fit in well in a less pressurised role or he might implode and fade without a trace landing more responsibility upon the young shoulders of Jose Capellan who dominated hitters in the AFL with his electric stuff.

The line-up will be interesting with Prince Fielder looking to be this years Ryan Howard (he might not hit 50 but 40 is well in his reach) and Bill Hardy looking to show last year was no fluke. Fielder started strong but faded down the stretch as the grind of the Big League season got to him as it does many a first year player.

Corey Koskie and Johnny Estrada are both nice additions on both sides of the ball but much of this teams success will hinge on the prodigious talents of Rickie Weeks who was on the way to a tremendous offensive year before being struck by injury. Weeks is a special blend of speed and power atop the order and was showing much improved discipline last year (albeit offset by a frightening amount of K's) and will be one of the leagues most exciting players for a number of years (also because of his will he/won't he fielding escapades).

If injuries do hit Weeks (or Koskie for that matter as both are pretty brittle) yet again, the club has a good array of talented utility men including Hall and newly acquired Craig Counsell and Tony Graffanino and Brady Clark is good value as a temporary leadoff man and centrefielder.

Once again this team could emerge from the pack if they can keep key players healthy (mainly Ben Sheets) and the youngsters continue to emerge. The bullpen should (notice that's a 'should') be OK but we'll have to wait and see, the rotation will be good and the offence will do much better than last year if Fielder continues to improve and Weeks stays healthy. All in all thats a good recipe to mix it up near the top of the Central and if it weren't for a man named Pujols, they'd have a shot at the division. Alas Pujols is out there and a playoff spot might be tough but the Wild Card is do-able with a bit of luck.

Conor C Says : A good one, two, three punch lines the Milwaukee rotation this year, and even with the departed Doug Davis, the brew crew are not in terrible shape. However even with stellar pitching, there is no way in which they can be competitive this year. Ben Sheets could get back to his old ways this year and if he does he is a legitimate ace, but most of their success will rest on Chris Capuano and FA signing Jeff Suppan. Capuano also has 'ace' stuff, but hasn't been able to harness it during his career, while Suppan is a solid middle of the rotation guy in any organisation.

David Bush and Claudio Vargas are very interesting tail end of the rotation pitchers who could make a big impact this year and really propel the Brewers further up the divisional rankings. In a funny way, the two most exciting rotations for the season are based in Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. The youth in these two franchises' rotations is going to give both team fresh impetus and hunger and hopefully they can challenge the teams who have been dominating the last few years.

Offensively this team will probably falter, and if they spend another season dwelling in the basement, it will most likely be on account of a lack of runs. Carlos Lee is an unreal loss and power hitters like him don't grow on trees.

Pete J Say : How you can rate Pittsburgh's chances of mixing it up (albeit in a limited way) and not Milwaukee is beyond me. Even with the loss of Carlos Lee, you still have Fielder in his second full year (who should put up Lee-like numbers) and if combined with a full season of Weeks, Koskie and JJ Hardy, that should go a long way towards bridging the gap...with some luck.

Injuries had a huge impact on their season last year (along with some terrible D) and shaking them off will go a long way to drastic improvement on their record and very good rotation goes a long way towards lifting them away from the dregs.

I still believe they have the talent to surprise lot of people but .500 ball shouldn't be too outlandish a prediction. A lot of their yougsters are still on the up and Capuano and Sheets are already All Stars.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Shamalamadingdong Angels

Pete J Says : Just like last year no one has the same depth and breadth of talent available to them that the Angels will going into the season but that didn't seem to help them last season as they seemed to find endless ways to lose games with some truly sloppy play. In fact they played so badly most of the time that its a tribute to how much talent they had that they stuck around in the pennant race so long.

One group that didn't fail was the pitching which logged the third best team ERA and the most strikeouts in the AL. They will once again be led byJohn Lackey who is fast emerging as one of the most consistent aces in baseball. Every time he takes to the mound he gives his team a chance and just demands the ball in the big games.

The rest of the rotation is solid with a good assortment of young pitchers with Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver having all sorts of adulation thrust upon them (I just think they're solid pros rather than future aces but anyway...) and Kelvim Escobar looked dominant down the stretch for the team last year as he got further removed from the last big injury (when the next one comes is unsure but you have to expect it to be out there). The only real question is when will Bartolo Colon be back and how good will he be? If he comes back as anything like the pitcher he had been before the surgery on his rotator cuff, then once again Anaheim will have one of the best one-two punches in their rotation in baseball.

The bullpen took a hit in the off-season with the loss of Gregg andDonnelly but it still should be a strength of the team. Francisco Rodriguez and Scot Shields can really shorten the game at the back end and Justin Speier, Hector Carrasco and Darren Oliver offer variety and quality in the middle innings.

It was the position players who contrived to botch games the most. Mike Scioscia has always liked to be aggressive as a manager but his players showed a lot of bad judgement in deciding when to go and when not to. Whether it was trying to steal in the wrong situation or going for the extra base when it wasn't there, this team ran itself out of a lot of games...but at least they made up for it with countless mental errors and by making simple plays look difficult.

The fulcrum for this team will once again be Vlad Guerrero, possibly the biggest freak in baseball. At the plate he takes the wildest and most vicious hacks of anyone and no one has his plate coverage (because no one should swing at some of the balls he swings at) but he still manages to hit for a high average with power and has yet to strike out 100 times in a season. This guy is simply baffling to watch which also makes him so much fun.

The rest of the line-up has diminishing power with Casey Kotchman and maybe Howie Kendrick the only guys apart from Guerrero capable of providing consistent pop. Juan Rivera and Shea Hillenbrand could also contribute some power but its a question of how much playing time they'll recieve this year.

The rest of the roster has a bunch of guys who are capable of going deep from time to time but the real secret to this offence is their legs. Chone Figgins will be amongst the league leaders once again in steals if he keeps his everyday role and Erick Aybar could be quicker but it might be too early to expect him to be an every day guy.

The big question is can Gary Matthews replicate what he did in Texas last year? He showed tremendous improvement in his plate discipline last season once put into the leadoff spot which saw him draw more walks and get him into better situations to get better pitches to hit. If he can keep his OBP up he offers speed and a bit of power atop the order and should combine well with the oft under-rated Orlando Cabrera who can really do it all and its only a matter of time (and shifting of the east coast media bias) until he gets a Gold Glove. He's got 20-20 talent and his approach at the plate keeps getting better and better, he should be due a breakout year.

Of course if anything goes wrong they have an exciting array of minor league talent such as Dallas McPherson, Kendry Morales and uber-prospectBrandon Wood who could all see time in the Bigs this year and could all contribute, its just a question of where?

So once again the West is theirs if they want it but if they don't show up then Oakland will do them over again. They have everything they need to not only win the division but the World Series too, it's all a question of aptitude. Scioscia needs to really light a fire under this lot because if they play the same way this year as last, he could be looking for a new job come the winter.

Conor Says : There's no doubting the talent of this bunch of players. They have some of the most brilliant players in baseball, and for me K-Rod is possibly the most exciting pitcher around (aside of Gagné).

Bad Vlad does it all offensively, but I don't really feel they have built the offence around him as well as they could have.

The Angels have massive infield depth, but it's difficult to see who's going to sieze the starting jobs. Shea Hillenbrand is likely to slot in at DH with the unproven Casey Kotchman looking like the everyday first baseman.

Will Chone Figgins or Dallas McPherson find positions? I think there are more questions than answers as far as this team is concerned.

The rotation is solid and there is no doubt this team will contend, but will they have the staying power of Oakland? I'm not sure that they will be willing to part with some of their prize prospects right now to be succesful this season if there is a gaping hole in their line up come the deadline.

Also Gary Matthews jr? Are you kidding me?

Pete J Says : That was succinct.

Gary Matthews is a curious fellow. If he's made an adjustment and can repeat last seasons form then he will be a great fit on this club. If he reverts to previous form then they have a platoon guy against lefties even if thats not what they paid for.

It does seem that we agree, however, that much like the real Los Angeles team, the Angels have everything they need to be serious contenders and it really just comes down to how they are able to put it all together.

It's very interesting that the club is already looking at Wood at third this Spring which makes you think that they are serious about this year. We shall see.

The long baseball season?

Bear with me on this one ... it may seem strange for a fan to criticise a certain aspect of the sport, but as someone who has always been a football (soccer!) fan, it's always struck me that the baseball season does just seem a tad too long!

Not in terms of the months, but just in the sheer amount of games that are crammed in during the regular season .... 162 games has always felt to me as if it was an awful lot of games crammed in, an awful lot of teams travelling all over the country, a lot of injuries, and a lot of tired players!

Now, who am i to criticise Major League Baseball ... it's going through a bit of a boom spell at the moment, but there are times when i watch and i wonder:

1) No atmosphere ... is this a meaningless game, it is baseball overkill, etc, etc
2) I know they get good wages (nay, amazing wages!) but can you expect a professional athlete to produce on such a regular basis
3) If both of the above are true ... then aren't we short changing the fans?

I'm a fan of the wildcard, it keeps the action going until the last pitch of the regular season, but sometimes i feel as if still not enough teams are involved post season, and it's a long 162 games for those who have absolutely no hope! In football, the best team wins at the end of the season ... top of the league, simple as that .... but in baseball, you can play 162 regular season games as the best team in baseball but still end falling at the first hurdle in the post season

Always seemed strange to me, but who am i to question ... i guess it makes things different for me to watch, and keeps it exciting!!

Just wondered what other UK fans thought of the long season?

The beauty of baseball philosophy, Pete and Conor don't have to agree! Oakland

Conor :

Just over the Bay from the main act at the circus, Billy Beane is carefully crafting yet another Championship calibre team. Without delving perhaps pointlessly into the 'Moneyball' debate again, it's perhaps pertinent to just give kudos to Beane for how efficient and astute a GM. Who else would have touched Frank Thomas last year and look what happened. Beane landed another title, and Thomas landed a new mammoth contract. Anyway onto the roster...

Starting Pitching :-
While they have obviously lost Barry Zito and really lack what we might term 'a stopper', this rotation is extremely solid and bodes well for the new season. Dan Haren might finally have that breakout year people have been talking about since his move to the Bay Area. He has composure for such a young man, but he just needs to trust his stuff a little bit more. He may turn into the staff ace by mid season, but Rich Harden will most likely be the opening day number one. Esteban Loaiza seems to re spawn every year and it will be a big test to see if his arm holds up again. Joe Blanton was again solid last year, but much like Haren, it's about time he had that breakout year that his stuff warrants. The kid has great control and a cool presence on the mound. Joe Kennedy should be the fifth starter after a solid year out of the bull pen, but he has struggled as a starter before and it will be interesting to see just how many innings the A's expect to get from him.

Bull Pen :-
If it remains injury free (and unfortunately for the A's there's no great track record here) the bull pen should be good enough to hold any lead. They have two bona fide young closers in Duscherer and Street, although in a kind of funny way the guy who had the worst season by far of the two is likely to start the season as the ninth inning guy (Street). Street blew an incredible 11 saves last season and although I can't put my finger on a MLB stat, that must have been the highest in the entire league. Nevertheless, it's not exactly a problem for Beane to have two closers. Further down comes the wily old set up guy (and in my opinion one of the best pick ups of the off season) Alan Embree, a good club house presence with a tonne of experience to pass on to this young pitching staff. Brad Halsey is probably pencilled in for long relief, but could challenge Kennedy in the rotation with a solid Spring.

Offence :
Well the main pick up here is obviously Mike Piazza. People have been talking for years about putting Piazza in purely as a DH with no catching duties, and while he may well get the odd start there, at last someone has seen fit to do it. Piazza without the wear and tear of every day catching is still a great hitter despite decreasing power, and of course he brings a great presence to a young offence. Nick Swisher is so incredibly gifted all round, but the main problem is his desire to slug every pitch out of the park. If he could cut down on his bad hacks, which for some reason seem to start to increase as the season goes on, he will be real MVP material.

Eric Chavez was once the total poster boy for this franchise but like some of the pitchers, we're really waiting to see him put all the parts of his game together. One can expect Rolen-esque glove work, Aramis Ramirez type thunder at times, but can he stop hacking at simply terrible pitches. His strike out numbers have shot up in recent seasons which explains his lack of batting average stats, and a Swisher like need to crush every ball making yourself easy fodder for good pitchers.

As for the best of the rest, Jason Kendall is a total one off, a catcher who is a prtotype lead off hitter. He looks at pitches, makes contact, walks his ass off and has good wheels. Kendall is a real offensive catalyst and a great player. Milton Bradley may finally shake off his injury problems and produce what LA fans knew he was capable of. With Milton though there's always a countdown to his next implosion.Overall, this is a team bursting with potential and with a few typically classy trades in June by Beane there's no reason why this team can't
seriously challenge and win over 90 games. The A's will be good, but just how good is hard to tell.


First, we'll start with Billy Beane. If he were a player then people would be asking when he was going to take the next step and become an elite performer because the A's always seem to contend for the pennant but never look likely to do anything come the playoffs and this year should be no different.
The only real reason they made the playoffs last season was due to a sloppyness epidemic in Anaheim and thats the only way they'll win the west again this year...oh and if Rich Harden finally manages to put a whole year in (as unlikely as that sounds). Harden is really the only genuinely top drawer player on a team of good to average players.
The lineup lacks a serious power threat and even if Piazza had a renaissance, he, Chavez and Swisher are all guys who do well to get into the mid-30's in homeruns rather than serious mashers capable of carrying a team for an extended period. They don't even supplant the lack of real power with a credible running game. In a nutshell, they will not score enough runs especially when matched up with the better teams in the league.
The pitching is better, especially if the tremendously gifted Harden stays healthy. Haren and Blanton do have talent and you can never be sure what Loaiza will do (he's a curious guy who seems to be so-so most years and then he'll pull a blinder out of nowhere) so the rotation is fairly dependable. The bullpen however is less secure with Huston Street not doing so well in his sophomore year. If he struggles again there is no obvious replacement unless Santiago Casilla pulls it together very quickly which is a shame because the rest of the bullpen is pretty solid and I have to agree that Embree is a great pick up.
So what do we make of Oakland? They have good pitching which includes a guy who could win a Cy if he could muster up 30 starts and a solid line-up that lacks speed or a genuine threat with the bat which should see them middle of the pack (at best) in terms of scoring runs. Seattle and Texas have too many holes to really win consistently which means they only have to worry about Anaheim (there is no way a team from the West will win the Wild Card) which puts them in the same scenario as last season and they are the reigning division champs.
This is a good team that will win more games than they lose but if the Angels show up this year then they will be left in the dust. If the Angels stutter like last season then, like last season, they could once again be raising flags and crashing out at the first hurdle in the playoffs. No team will win a World Series with Kendall catching for them thats for sure.


Well Pete and I have never agreed about Oakland, about Billy Beane, and about the more wide ranging elements of baseball philosophy that this Oakland organisation brings to the table. Firstly let's start with the jibe at Beane. One might level the same accusation at Joe Torré and Brian Cashman with the Yankees... when are they going to step up in the playoffs and win the WS again. Despite having the best team on paper every year they just can't, and the same goes for Oakland, except that they DON'T have anything close to the best team on paper.... yet Beane manages to sign players who will bring this team to the post season almost every year. The playoffs are a lottery, let's face it. I am a huge Beane fan in the way that he gets results through ruthless means, even if he has to cut half the squad as he has done before.

How can anyone say that Nick Swisher will do well to hit 30+ home runs? He hit 35 last year in only his second full major league season. There is absolutely no way to predict hat his out put will be, and based on the trends of similar players, one should only expect his HR numbers to rise. I don't know about Chavez but if he 'does well' and gets around 30 bombs, I think the front office will be happy enough.

This is an organisation that always finds a way to improve itself even without throwing millions of dollars around, and once again the As are at least as good as last year. Maybe Piazza won't be as effective a DH as The Big Hurt, but the pitching is more promising with Harden threatening to put together a dominating campaign, and Huston Street prehaps ready to become dominant againa fter shaking off the niggling injuies he siffered with last year. Even if he doesn't how is Duscherer not an able replacement when he is arguably better !

Okay, the As only really have to compete with one team to win a division title, but why should we bet against Beane's savy, the Cult of Swish, the legend that is Jason Kendall (who is by the way improving defensively all the time and will only benefit from the tutelage of Piazza) and the general confidence that this organisation has? Give me a reason !!!

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr me harties, we'll be plunderin' no treasure in '07

Conor C :

Pittsburgh : While Pittsburgh have made some very interesting strides offensively this year, their rotation still lacks a real ace that could properly catapult them into competitiveness. Their rotation is so young that it's difficult to see them developing into a dominant force in the next few years. Zach Duke and Paul Maholm both slumped somewhat in their sophomore years. Surely the Pirates won't suffer the indignity of seeing two more quality young starters go the way of Oliver Perez. If both these guys make it back to something like their 2005 form, then thing could get very interesting in the Central.

Ian Snell's addition as a full time rotation member last season seemed to help the Pirates out a lot. He is maybe the jewel in the crown here, possessing all the characteristics of a dominating pitcher in his formative years. High strike outs, decent ERA, and somewhat wild. His fastball perhaps doesn't move as much just yet as it's going to (thus the silly amount of home runs he gave up in '06), but Snell has all the tools. Shawn Chacon remains an inconsistent enigma in the majors, but this season must be make or break for him. Turning closer in Colorado really affected his game (having been an All Star starter the year before). He was awesome in 2005 splitting time between the Rox and the Yankees, but flat out sucked last year between the Yankees and Pittsburgh. If he can step it up once more along with Snell, things could get really exciting. Moreover, Pittsburgh have a rotation that, if it clicks, could be set for years to come. Although he didn't play last season, Sean Burnett should bring up the rear of the quintet, but he will be challenged in Spring Training by a number of new faces around camp.

Offensively you've simply got to hype Jason Bay. This dude has it all when it comes to hitting and will be able to carry a team through a lean spell. This is one advantage that the Pirates have over the Brewers for example. The problem is of course that if Bay suffers an injury, then the Pirates are in serious trouble. The limited Chris Duffy is pencilled in for centre field. Duffy lacks the necessary speed to really own the middle of the outfield. Xavier Nady in right field had a really amazing opening to the 2006 season and is a solid player who will provide average outfield power again.

The infield has promise. Jack Wilson at short is coming into his own with a number of solid seasons offensively. On defense he still needs a little work but he he's more consistent than any number of NL shortstops. José Castillo at second base sacrificed his very good average to hit more home runs last year and much like the wannabe sluggers in Oakland, he may have to address this problem in spring. Castillo also has his worst defensive year last season and it will be interesting to see how he rebounds.

On the corners are two players with great promise. Freddy Sanchez was unbelieveably the NL batting champion last year. He makes alot of contact and is a really exciting player to watch. Defensively he is solid and will also see spells at second base. Adam LaRoche who came over by way of trade from Atlanta is a great pick up. A guy with experience (although he's still young) of being with a winning ball club, and a player very much still on the upward tangent in terms of his ability. He could push close to forty home runs this season based on projections.

Overall this team is exciting and in a division where it may be possible to challenge for the Wild Card, maybe not this year, but cerainly in 2008. I would look to see this club level out at .500-ish for this season and try to improve again.

Peeeeeeeeeetah says :-
Its quite simple really, one Jason Bay does not a team make. For as gifted a player he is (for a Canadian at least) the rest of the team is at best average with a
whole bullpen full of who, no true leadoff man and cast offs from several teams including the decidedly average Adam LaRoche and Xavier Nady who both had very good spells last year but would you want either batting in the top five of your teams lineup?
It will be interesting to see how Freddy Sanchez progresses but even if he maintains something like the standard of last year, this team can't carry his lack of pop at third and would ideally move him to second and ditch the, at times, laughably poor defensive work of Castillo. He could combine well with the very dependable Jack Wilson who would be a good utility player on a championship team but is a leader on this club.
The only ray of hope does come in the shape of the young rotation with the likes of Paul Maholm, who rebounded excedingly well after a wretched start to last season (he did so well to get his ERA even below 6 after the first couple of months), Zach Duke who looks like he might be settling into a career as a good number two or three in the rotation and John Van Benschoten who has had so many battles with injuries since being lined up as a potential rookie of the year winner three years back.
The real problem for a team looking to build around a team of young starters is that it is imperative that you support them with good work defensively behind them and this is not a good defensive team. Sanchez, Wilson and LaRoche will make the infield a solid one even if they aren't the most rangey group but Bay is the only passable outfielder which doesn't help a strikeout/flyball pitcher like Snell in particular.
All in all this is a team that will do well not to be propping up the whole of the NL. They certainly don't stack up against the Brewers (watch this space for a more detailed explaination) and Harang and Arroyo give the Reds an edge.
The Pirates might be able to hang with teams for 5-6 innings but then the real adventure starts and their lack of options will become painfully obvious.


Conor says :-

Like I said previusly, getting this team to .500 will be a good position for 'Dim' Tracy (maybe the most tactically inept manager in the league) to be in. Anything more must be considered a bonus in the absence of veteran leadership, established pitching and any real protection for Jason Bay, but good luck to the bucks!!!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Sammy Says Sammy's Good

I've just been reading some of the latest news from Spring Training on and came across an article outlining Sammy Sosa's comeback trail in Texas and found it incredibly funny. Here's a couple of tid bits from the mouth of Sammy.

On hitting his first homer of ST : "When you are working so hard, you want to see results early," Sosa said. "It's good to get that one out of the way. Now I can relax. I was looking for that, so was everybody else." The question I ask is, who is everybody? Quite frankly I had more or less forgotten about him and thought his career had been swept under the carpet but I guess I'm in the minority.

"People like to see me play," Sosa said. "I've been blessed. I have good charisma and a good relationship with the fans. People love me out there. You're not going to take that away from me. I earned that." Am I the only person who finds that a wonderfully hysterical quote? That's right out of the book of Rickey satire. You could almost rewrite this as "People like to see Sammy play, Sammy has been blessed. Everyone loves Sammy because Sammy loves everyone because Sammy is great and no one can take that from Sammy because Sammy has earned what Sammy has."

I have to give it to Sosa, he has built up a wonderful little fantasy world around himself to protect him from the post BALCO/steroid backlash. I guess this comes easy when you believe the hype for so long.