Friday, April 27, 2007

Philip Hughes : First Impressions

Well, we've heard the hype and seen the first game so what do we make of him?

Naturally either nerves or adrenaline took their effect on him in the first and the better hitters in the Jays lineup took advantage of some loose pitching but after that he settled down well and there was enough to believe he has a very good future. However, there was also plenty to make you think he needs more time to develop.

It all starts with his fastball which settles in the low 90's but occasionally creeps towards 95 with plenty of movement. He still left it up more than he would like and was fortunate that Toronto was missing a few of its better hitters. It was too much for many of them to handle but the likes of Rios, Wells and Thomas hit him fairly hard.

He has a very good differential between his pitches and the 75 mph curve will get him plenty of K's in conjunction with his fastball and his change shows signs of being a plus pitch. Right now the change had a tendency to stay straight and up. After the first they used the change as more of a show pitch and, as a result, it didn't hurt him.

Its funny when you see Hughes and his inexperience and compare him to Igawa who has a good few years experience in Japan as Hughes does a much, much better job at repeating his delivery with a consistent stride and arm slot. Comparisons have already been made between him and Roger Clemens' mechanically which says it all really as The Rocket is one of the most technically sound hurlers of recent years.

The thing that marks him out most of all as a potential front of the rotation guy is his mental make-up. At no point in time did he look out of place on the mound and he never backed down to any of the hitters. Even after the rough first inning he never panicked.

So what does all this mean? It's all down to fine tuning and filling out. He could do with a bit more body mass to help his durability but he just needs to fine tune his offspeed stuff and he'll be ready to be something like the pitcher everyone keeps saying he could be. He's probably a better pitcher than half the guys in the Yankee rotation right now (the reason they called him up in the first place) but his long term development could probably do with more time at AAA.

He's not as advanced at that age as guys like King Felix, Verlander and Ankiel were but few are. The sad thing for all us non-Yankee fans is that he really could be special.

The Rhyme of the Seattle Mariners

Bottom feeders for so long in the west, Seattle shouldn't be anyones whipping boys this year but a playoff spot might be a step too far.

It all starts with a pretty decent rotation that is helped by one of the best pitchers parks in the AL and a slick fielding infield led by the athletic Yuniesky Betancourt who might be the closest thing to a true Gold Glove calibre shortstop in the AL.

The rotation will be lead by a couple of steady veterans in Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista who have seen their way around the league a few times and can usually supply consistent starts every fifth day without ever really being spectacular. The spectacular will be supplied by sophomore phenom King Felix (Hernandez) whose ability and poise often make you forget that he is still just 21. He comes at you with a fastball that can get into the high 90's, a good change and a truly vicious slider and he is still a long way from being as good as he will be.

The bullpen has one of the games underrated closers in J.J. Putz (more than just a guy with a funny name) to nail down the ninth but getting him the ball will be the tricky bit. Chris Reitsma might have a resurgence now he's back in the set-up role he's more suited to but Arthur Rhodes is the only other guy with any kind of track record behind him but he's coming off a hit and miss season and elbow problems and who knows what they'll be able to get out of him?

Once again the offence will be sparked by the prodigious talents of Ichiro who will once again frighten the living daylights out of baserunners with his arm in centre and catchers as he uses his speed on the bases. He'll also be in the running for another batting crown (his .330 career average is only marginally behind Todd Helton and Phat Albert among active players).

Behind Ichiro are a bunch of so so players who are merely solid citizens (Raul Ibanez, Jose Guillen) or could do better guys (Richie 'The Strikeout' Sexson and Adrian 'Is It A Contract Year?' Beltre).

Kenji Johjima will look to build on a solid rookie campaign both with the bat and in the armour and there's no reason to think he won't and the addition of Jose Vidro will add more consistency to the order but this team won't overwhelm anyone with their offence.

So what's in store for Seattle? Well they should look to improve on last years 78 wins and there is no reason to think they can't get beyond Texas and if things go well for them they might even sneak into second place but with the bullpen and reliance on youngsters consistency might be too much of an issue.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Wonderful, Most Wonderful Thing About Tiggers

OK, we'll start by saying this team scored a lot of runs in the regular season thanks to an incredible amount of depth in terms of power all the way up the order. Leyland would like to make this a more dynamic team with more guys running but Granderson is only leading off because there's no better option and while he does have speed, he's not a genuine base stealer. In other words, its all about homeruns and the only time that will become an issue is in the playoffs.

The reason why they can get away with not having the most versatile offence is because what they have is possibly the best rotation in baseball and one of the best bullpens too.

Kenny Rogers gives the team an experienced hand and then there is Jeremy Bonderman who is not far off having a monster season. Its amazing to think that this guy won't even be 25 at the start of the season.

Mike Maroth is another lefty who will eat innings and provide balance and Nate Robertson is as dependable as they come in the middle of the rotation but a return to the World Series will ultimately come down to how good Justin Verlander will be. He was always going to hit a bit of a wall in his rookie year, especially only being in his second pro year but he'll be eyeing his first 200 inning year and as he gets older and fills out more, his strikeouts per inning will go up and his ERA will get closer to 3.00. Have no doubts that Verlander knows how to make adjustments and stay ahead of the curve.

How good does the pen look? Well, Todd Jones returns to close the games and he'll be set up by two of the leagues hardest throwers in Fernando Rodney (what the heck has happened to him?)and the filthy Joel Zumaya. They've even bolstered the pen with Jose Mesa (assuming the injury was what effected his performances early on) to add even more depth and who knows if Chad Durbin will turn up because he's got massive upside.

From the left side Jamie Walker will be missed. Wilfredo Ledezma will likely split time between the pen and the rotation and is the only lefty with a track record on the 40 man roster and he's not really a situational guy but there is so much quality they probably won't need to worry about match ups (although Seay has done a solid job so far).

Things are on the up and up in Detroit with a tonne of young pitching thats only going to get better (even Kyle Sleeth is starting to shake off the injuries and he was once higher up the prospect list than Verlander and Zumaya) and they've even brought in a Gary Sheffield to give them more runs to play with. Even in a very tough AL Central they have to like their chances.

Washington Nationals

We went on a momentary hiatus with the previews so we're going to attempt to wrap them up pretty quickly so we can talk about better things. This was originally written back in March and I couldn't be bothered to redo it so instead I've plugged in some 'hilarious' abridgements.

How Ryan Zimmerman didn't win the Rookie of the Year award is beyond me. He showed tremendous presence at the plate (especially surprising as he was really in his first full year of pro ball), good ability on the bases and was so good defensively that people had to think for a bit whether Scott Rolen should have won the Gold Glove (of course he should but Zimmerman is the only 3B even in the same league defensively). He is an exciting player and will be an All Star for years.

The main reason I'm waxing lyrical about Zimmerman is that not only is he a great player who is fast becoming one of my favourites but there's not a whole lot else to talk about in Washington. So much of the team is in the air as to how it will pan out with Felipe Lopez at second, Brian Schneider at catcher, Austin Kearns and Ryan Church in the outfield and John Patterson will likely be the opening day starter (if he's physically able that is). Its not even that these guys are that good (except maybe Schneider), it's just they're just the only ones who really have any kind of track record in The Bigs.

You could also throw in that either Nick Johnson or Larry Broadway will be at first. Broadway offers more pop but his D is nowhere near as good as Johnson and I'm not even a fan of Johnson's D (he just seems to do dumb things from time to time).

The bullpen should be better than last year but there are questions. Chad Cordero is still a dependable ninth inning guy and Jon Rauch had a strong year setting him up. Luis Ayala is coming back after elbow problems (at least that's the rumour) and should settle back in and will be looking to re-establish himself as a top tier middle reliever.

Ray King is a non-roster invitee who could be a good pick up for this club (he's inactive but on the 40 man roster). Last year was a rough one but he certainly has a strong pedigree during his career as a situational guy and would allow the club to use Micah Bowie more creatively (Bowie is rooted in the pen now).

The line-up lacks a table setter or a dominant hitter, there are holes in key positions defensively and they have one solid starter who is injured a lot (not that he's looked it so far but Shawn Hill has done well). It really isn't a good time to be a Nationals fan. I think they call these times "transitional years".

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Yankee Circus Comes To Town With New Acts

Roll up, roll up! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, rolling into town in the pinstriped big top is the marvel of marvels, the saviour of saviours, the messianic one himself, Philip Hughes as he begins his long awaited tenure at the Bronx Zoo on Thursday.

His call up has been confirmed and after the disappointment of other young pitchers and injuries to most of the guys the team were set to rely on, the Yankees have decided that not rushing their prized prospect and protecting his arm is a tactic for wimps (or a very good idea depending on how things pan out) and Philip Hughes will make his first start of his big league career on Thursday against Toronto...not exactly breaking him in easy now are they.

Monday, April 23, 2007

10 Players Of Note So Far

It's been a while since we've had a top 10 list on here so here we go.

10 Mark Buehrle - A firm favourite in Spuriousville for a while now, Buehrle has looked good in his attempt to rebound from a disapointing '06. The no-no was special but what was so great about it was the way he picked off the only guy he allowed to reach.

9 Braden Looper - All the talk about St Louis before the year was how their pitching was going to suck at the back end and you know that no one thought this career head scratcher would do much. His arm will likely fall off eventually but right now he's acting like the ace.

8 Oliver Perez - 2004 seemed like a distant memory for many and it says how much of a blip that year seemed to be as he got more k's that year than he has in all the seasons since combined. After a strong Spring, Perez has been a real lift for a club that really doesn't need more weapons.

7 Cole Hamels - The early front runner in the NL Rookie of the Year stakes with a ridiculous 33K/6BB ratio. He's been the one of the few bright spots in Phillie this year.

6 Rich Harden - Injured so often that you forget he's one of the very, very few guys in the same league as Santana. It says so much about the A's that Harden has given up 3 runs in three starts and is only 1-1. Lets hope he can stay healthy and we can see how amazing a pitcher he is.

5 Daisuke Matsuzaka - It's been a strange year so far for Hype-K with his worst outing so far counting for one of his two wins after two losses with an aggregate score of 5-1. He's done enough to show that he could well be a very good pitcher but who's have thought we'd be asking for better run support from the Boston hitters?

4 Tim Hudson - Well, it's been a while but the real Tim Hudson has started to stand. He has looked filthy this year with the tilt and late movement that made him a perennial Cy candidate back in Oakland. Already my bet for NL Cy this year.

3 Felix Hernandez - Last year I heard so many people saying how much of a disappointment King Felix was because 20 year olds should win more than 12 games for last placed teams. I hope those people have been watching The King this season. Dominant doesn't begin to describe what he has done so far. As he is still just 21 (that's 21) you know he'll hit a wall at about 180 innings and start to fade but he really has everything he needs to be the best in baseball. Did you see him destroy Boston?

2 Barry Bonds - Barry has started this year like a man on a mission. Regardless of how you feel about the man, he has always had the jewellers eyepiece at the plate and those amazing hands, in a nutshell he's always been a great hitter and while he's healthy he'll rake it. There's not much to support him in San Francisco this year but Barry has never been afraid to tell the naysayers where to go.

1 Alex Rodriguez - It seems that after off-season surgery to remove the broomstick that was up his butt he has come back happy, relaxed and hitting the ball like it called his mother a naughty word. A 1.418 OPS at any time of the year is just silly.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Spurious Fantasy League - Friday night update - 20th April 2007

Not much change to talk about this week ...

Purple Haze 2 keep the lead at the top of the table ... whilst Dee-Raynged stay firmly rooted to the bottom. The rest of the teams, unsurprisingly, are somewhere in-between!

... more next week!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Spurious Fantasy League - Friday night update (on a Sunday!) 15th April 2007

Two days late .... sue me, i've been sunbathing!

2 weeks in, and Purple Haze 2 retains the lead, but must be nervous at an advancing Chow plays for Amy in close pursuit (god, we'll never hear the end of it!)

Dee-Raynged still props up the table, and the less said about my team the better!

Another update next week, i might (no promise) even make it on a Friday!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Oh My God

Oliver Perez tossed seven innings and didn't walk anyone!! Surely that warrants a blog entry.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Spurious Fantasy League - Friday night update (on a thursday!) 5th April 2007

** I'll normally post this on a Friday night, but since it's the easter weekend, i'm doing it now!

Only a few days into the season, but thought it would be good to post regular updates on the Spurious site so we can chart each team's progress (or lack of) over the season!

Purple Haze are the early pace-setters, followed closely by the Greenock posse! Disappointment for Dee-Raynged so far, but it's still early days!!