Posted on: March 8, 2010 2:37 pm
 

Preseason Power Rankings

 

1.  Yankees

The best got better this off season, upgrading CF with the acquisition of Curtis Granderson and adding another solid pitcher to their rotation with Javier Vasquez.  The World Series is theirs to lose.

 

2.  Angels

The Angels have quietly been one of the best teams in all of baseball in recent years and this year should be no different with their core players returning along with new additions Joel Pineiro and Hideki Matsui.

 

3.  Phillies

The NL champs return largely in tact with a new ace Roy Halladay at the top of their rotation.  They should be one of the best offensive teams in 2010.

 

4.  Red Sox

The Red Sox upgrade at SS with Marco Scutaro and strengthen their rotation with John Lackey.  They are doing their best to keep up with the Yankees but it may not be enough.

 

5.  Dodgers

The Dodgers retained all of their arbitration eligible players keeping together a group of emerging stars that has gelled well since the 2007 season.  If Manny Ramirez can find his 2008 form the Dodgers should contend for the NL pennant.

 

6.  Cardinals

The Red Birds resigned the top free agent position player Matt Holliday, keeping protection in the lineup for Albert Pujols. 

 

7.  Mets

The Mets were one of the most disappointing teams in baseball last year, however with key players returning from injury and off season additions Jason Bay and Kelvim Escobar the Mets look like they should be back in good form. 

 

8. Rockies

The Rockies have been the little team that could over the past few seasons.  They have done more with less than most other teams.  They have one baseball’s best short stops in Troy Tulowitzki and a very consistent pitching staff.

 

 

9. Mariners

The Mariners enter the 2010 season with arguably the best pitching 1-2 punch in all of baseball with Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee, and off season free agent acquisition Chone Figgins, along with the incomparable Ichiro gives them a very speedy top of the lineup.  The Mariners could surprise a lot of people this season.

 

10. Rays

While the Rays feature some of the league’s best young talent with players such as Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria, and Jason Bartlett, they will need their pitching to be stronger this season if they hope to compete.

 

11.  Twins

The Twins have one of the top three players in the game at a position that is the thinnest of any in the game.  They have five other batters that will hit above .280 and the amount of left handers in their lineup will give most team fits.  But none of that will matter if the pitching rotation cannot hold up their end of the bargain. 

 

12.  Braves

The Braves will again be relying on their pitchers to keep them competitive, as they don’t quite have the bats that their fellow NL East teams have.  Like the Rockies, the Braves don’t have a lot of household names in their rotation but they produce consistent outings and give the team a chance to win.

 

13.  Giants

Another team with a very strong 1-2 punch in their rotation, the 2009 wild card runner up has improved offensively with 1B Aubrey Huff and OF Mark DeRosa.

 

14.  Tigers

The Yankees got Curtis Granderson and the Tigers ended up spending $13 million on Johnny Damon for the last leg of his career.  That’s why the Yankees are the Yankees and the Tigers are the Tigers.

 

15.  White Sox

The South Siders lost a little power by letting Jermaine Dye go, but Juan Pierre should be a suitable replacement.  If Jake Peavy can stay healthy they should contend for the AL Central.

 

16. Rangers

A young team with a lot of talent the Rangers could find themselves contending for the AL West.

 

17.  Cubs

The Cubs suffered from a lot of injuries and underwhelming performances from key players.  With Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano healthy again the Cubs have reason for optimism.  But then again, Cubs fans are optimistic every year.

 

18.  Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks will need Brandon Webb to resemble his old self if they are to compete, but a few off season moves should help their offense.

 

19.  Marlins

The Marlins are unimpressive on paper, outside of a few players, but the perennial team of prospects always seems to keep themselves in the playoff hunt deep into the season even with one of baseball’s lowest payroll. 

 

20.  Brewers

The Brewers lost Ben Sheets but added a few reliable leftys with Doug Davis and Randy Wolf. Combined with the offensive upside of a lot of their young players the Brew Crew has the potential to make a run in 2010.

 

21.  Reds

The Reds probably won’t be winning the World Series this year, but with young players like Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, and Johnny Cueto they should at least be fun to watch.

 

22. Indians

Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo will be the highlights on this team with low expectations.

 

23.  Blue Jays

The Blue Jays enter the 2010 season with Shaun Marcum as their ace, a far cry from Roy Halladay, who at least gave them a chance every fifth day.  The Jays are nothing more than a sparring partner for the Yankees and Red Sox.

 

24.  Orioles

Miguel Tejada will be one of the few veterans on a team that features youngsters Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis.  The Orioles should finish considerably better than the 64 wins they had in 2009.

 

25. A’s

The bright side for A’s fans is there are not a lot of players left that Billy Beane can trade away.  On the other hand, Rajai Davis better hope that he’s renting.

 

26. Astros

The Astros will need Roy Oswalt to pitch like he used to if they hope to compete.

 

27.  Padres

Look for Adrian Gonzalez to be wearing a Red Sox uniform by August.

 

28.  Nationals

This probably won’t be the year that the Nationals climb out of the NL East basement, and unfortunately like the AL East there are a few teams in the division that can spend far beyond the Nationals’ means, but with Ryan Zimmerman developing into one of the better third baseman in the game, Stephen Strasburg in the pipeline, and a few reliable veterans on the team don’t be surprised if the Nats make a run in the not too distant future.

 

29.  Royals

The Royals have Zack Greinke and uh...and uh…and uh…another long season ahead of them.

 

30.  Pirates

The Pirates have been one of the worst teams in baseball for nearly two decades.  They have not had a winning season in 17 years, the longest losing season streak of any team in the four major sports.  They have finished last in their division 10 times.  They trade away any and all of their top players and prospects at every trading deadline.  This year should be more of the same.  But Pittsburgh has won two Super Bowls and a Stanley Cup within the last five years so I guess there has to be some cosmic balance.

Posted on: February 10, 2010 11:29 am
Edited on: February 10, 2010 11:32 am
 

NL West Preview

The football season has been over for two days now, the Super Bowl has been rehashed and discussed to the point of nausea. Meanwhile, the baseball teams are checking the oil and tire pressure on the team buses and getting set to head out to Florida and Arizona.  That's right, pitchers and catchers report one week from today.  So how will this year play out?  Will it be the usual suspects contending for the World Series?  Probably.  But recently there have been a few dark horses that have found themselves in the mix.  Who will be this years Rays or Rockies, which team with a sub $100 million dollar payroll will find themselves toe to toe with the big boys? 

Below are snapshots of the 2010 versions of the five NL West teams, the much underrated division that has produced the NL wild card 3 of the past 4 years.  And looking at the make ups of these teams it looks like it will be another close division race and not surprising if the wild card team was again one of the five.

So here is the tylenol for your football hangover, the NL West preview.

Dodgers

The Dodgers lost a few key players this off season including 2B Orlando Hudson, OF Juan Pierre, and LHP Randy Wolf, while remaining relatively inactive in acquiring new players.  This could be in part that a number of their younger players were arbitration eligible and received huge pay raises.  While losing Juan Pierre shouldn’t be too much of an issue for the Dodgers crowded outfield the loss of Hudson and Wolf leaves them thin at 2B and in their starting rotation.

The infield of the Dodgers features James Loney, Blake DeWitt, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, and Russell Martin at catcher.  In 2009 Loney had the highest average of the five with .281; Casey Blake had the most home runs with 18.  They should see improved production from Blake DeWitt, who will put up decent power numbers but not a great batting average, and both Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin will probably increase their batting averages around 10-20 points.

The outfield is made up of Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier, three players who could all realistically hit 30 plus home runs.  Matt Kemp is an emerging star who hits for average, has 30 home run 30 stolen base potential, and is solid defensively.  Andre Ethier put up a respectable .272 batting average and equally respectable 31 home runs last year, and while he might not be the natural talent that Kemp is he is a very solid player and will probably improve his average slightly while retaining the same power numbers. 

Manny Ramirez was one of the leagues most feared hitters as recently as last April, but after serving a 50 game suspension for a banned substance he struggled to find his old form.  He began the season strong, hitting .372 in April, but in the following months he saw his average drop considerably, hitting only .255 with 10 home runs after the All Star break.  It remains to be seen if Manny will return to his old form or if last season was the beginning of the end. 

The starting rotation will consist of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Hiroki Kuroda.  All three had decent ERAs but none had more than 12 wins last season.  Chad Billingsley will probably improve his numbers some this season, most likely reaching 15 wins and lowering his ERA slightly. 

Relievers George Sherrill, Ronald Belisario, Jonathan Broxton, Ramon Troncoso all played a part in the Dodgers having one of the strongest bullpens in the league last season.  They will be hurt, however, by the loss of Guillermo Mota who pitched the fourth most innings in relief for the Dodgers in 2009 and posted a 3.44 ERA.

Rockies

The under the radar Rockies have been the NL Wild Card team two of the past three years and will look to finally grab the division title in 2010.  The team lost 3B Garret Atkins and starter Jason Marquis while remaining relatively quite on both the trade and free agent fronts.

The infield is made up of Todd Helton, Clint Barmes, Troy Tulowitzki, Ian Stewart, and Chris Iannetta. at catcher.  Todd Helton remains one of the most reliable hitters in the game and

Tulowitzki is proving himself as an elite SS.  In 2009 he hit for a .297 average and 32 home runs, the most of any SS in baseball.  On top of his offensive prowess he also remains one of the better defense players at his position. Stewart, a high end prospect, should have a better batting average this season with similar power numbers.  Chris Iannetta has the potential to be a strong offensive catcher but hit only .228 last season.

Brad Hawpe, Carlos Gonzales, and Dexter Fowler will be chasing the balls in the rarified air of the Rockies outfield.  In 2009 Hawpe hit .285 with 23 home runs, Fowler hit .266 with 27 stolen bases, and highly touted prospect Carlos Gonzales appeared to be finding his pro form, hitting .284 with 13 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 278 at bats. The Rockies also have Seth Smith to fill the outfield, who is capable of posting respectable numbers.  Look for similar production from the Rockies outfield, with possibly some increased production from “CarGo.”

The Rockies starting rotation is probably the most consistent 1-5 in the division and will have most of the same faces returning with Ubaldo Jimenez, Aaron Cook, Jorge De La Rosa, Jeff Francis, and Jason Hammel.  The team will miss 15 game winner Jason Marquis, who followed the money to Washington, but it does have Jeff Francis returning from injury.  While the staff may not have any household names they do get the job done, with De La Rosa, Jimenez, Cook, and Hammel all posting sub 4.50 ERAs in 2009, and De La Rosa and Jimenez both winning 15 games.

The Rockies bullpen saw almost no movement this off season, which is an area they could have improved on as they finished the 2009 season with the fourth worst ERA of all NL teams.  They will again rely on closer Huston Street to come up big in the final inning while Manny Corpas, Rafael Betancourt, Matt Daley, and Franklin Morales will be used in middle relief.

Giants

The Giants are probably built more on pitching than any other team in the division.  In 2009 they had the second best ERA among relievers in the NL and tied for the second best ERA among starters.  Conversely on the offensive side they were fourth worst runs scored.  They did see some movement to try and bolster their offense with the signing of INF/OF Mark DeRosa and 1B Aubrey Huff.

The Infield sees the return of Pablo Sandoval, who had a great 2009 season, batting .330 with 25 HR.  Joining Sandoval will be SS Edgar Renteria, newly acquired Aubrey Huff at 1B, 2B Freddy Sanchez, who was acquired at last seasons trade deadline, and C Bengie Molina.  Huff and Renteria will look to bounce back this season and could potentially improve their averages between 20-30 points.  

The outfield will also look to improve offensively, with Mark DeRosa, Aaron Rowand, and Nate Schierholtz all producing very mediocre numbers in 2009.  DeRosa does give them versatility however, as he is capable of playing 1B, 2B, and 3B in addition to the OF. 

Regardless of any improvements seen offensively the Giants will be heavily leaning on their pitching staff, which includes Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, and Jonathan Sanchez.  Lincecum and Cain were fantastic last season, posting a 2.48 and 2.89 ERA respectively.  Zito and Sanchez also contributed with sub 4.30 ERAs.

The dominant bullpen of the Giants suffered some losses with the departures of Justin Miller and Bob Howry.  Howry pitched the third most innings by a Giants reliever in 2009 and had a 3.39 ERA.  The bullpen retained notable pitchers Jeremy Affeldt, Brandon Medders and closer Brian Wilson.

Padres

Somewhat expectedly the Padres had a very quiet off season.  They traded Kevin Kouzmanoff and signed Jerry Hairston Jr, but other than that no notable moves.  The Padres are a team of players little known outside the San Diego area. 

The infield will be made of 1B Adrian Gonzalez, 2B David Eckstein, SS Everth Cabrera, 3B Chase Headley, and C Nick Hundley.  Adrian Gonzalez led the team in every major offensive category last year, including batting average with .277. No other infielder hit over .270 or more than 12 HR.  Although no one outside of Gonzalez has any power potential, Cabrera will look to have between 30-40 stolen bases.

The outfield has Kyle Blanks, Tony Gwynn Jr, and Will Venable.  None of the young players played a full season last year.  There is little power to speak of, but Kyle Blanks has the potential to hit 20 homers.

Chris Young, Kevin Correia, Mat Latos will make up the front end of the rotation. Latos could eventually be top starter but none figure to have any significant impact in 2010.

The Padres bullpen is most likely the strength of the team.  Closer Heath Bell had 42 saves in 2009 and Mike Adams, Luke Gregerson, Edward Mujica, and Joe Thatcher all had very respectable ERAs. The bullpen, which ranked sixth in the NL for ERA last season, is returning for the 2010 almost completely in tact.

Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks were probably the busiest team in the NL West, and with good cause, they finished dead last in the division last year.  They made the biggest splash being part of a three team trade during the winter meetings and later signed a few notable free agents, resulting in one time fan favorite Eric Byrnes being designated for assignment. 

The Diamondbacks infield will welcome new acquisitions 1B Adam LaRoche and 2B Kelly Johnson as they join 3B Mark Reynolds, SS Stephen Drew, and C Miguel Montero.  This is a much improved infield from last season, both offensively and defensively, as LaRoche provides a solid glove and consistent bat at a position that has been a long time liability for the team.  Kelly Johnson is coming off a forgettable season in 2009 and the Diamondbacks will look for him to return to his 2008 form.

The outfield will remain somewhat similar to 2009, with Chris Young and Justin Upton returning to their spots.  Conor Jackson, who missed most of the 2009 season with illness, will return to LF where he played much of the time in 2008.  Jackson is a consistent .280 hitter when healthy and the team will need his reliable bat if they are to compete for the NL West title.  Filling in when the need arises will be Gerardo Parra, who is coming off a very nice rookie season where he hit .290.  If Chris Young continues to struggle like he has the past two seasons look for Parra to get a large chunk of the playing time. 

Their pitching staff will look considerably different after losing middle of the rotation man Doug Davis to free agency and trading former first round draft pick Max Scherzer.  Meanwhile, they acquired Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy to fill in the rotation and will have Brandon Webb back from a season long injury.  If Brandon Webb can pitch like he has for most of his career the Diamondbacks will have one of the strongest front ends of the rotation of any team with the one two battery of Dan Haren and Webb. 

The Diamondbacks bullpen is an area of concern for the team and one that cost them many games in 2009.  The bullpen’s collective ERA last season was 4.61, third worst in the National League behind only the Pirates and Nationals.  It may not be a coincidence that those teams, along with the Diamondbacks, made up the three last place teams in the three NL divisions.  The bullpen did add Bob Howry and Aaron Heilman to try and cure some of its woes, but if they get the same inconsistent performances from the rest of the pen as they did last year it will be of little help.

Posted on: January 21, 2010 12:37 pm
Edited on: January 21, 2010 12:40 pm
 

Diamondbacks By Comparison

Sure it's only January, but with the Cardinals season over and the date for players to start reporting to spring training only a month away I figured it was time to dust off the old blog and assess where the Diamondbacks might see themselves this season.

The Diamondbacks were the talk of baseball during the winter meetings when they traded Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth in a three team deal receiving Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy in return.  Many people felt they gave up too early on a couple young pitchers with very high potential, Max Scherzer in particular.

In reality they acquired two starters for one, including a very solid third man in the rotation with Jackson, who is probably ahead of Max Scherzer in terms of development and his ability to go deeper into games.  Edwin Jackson averaged better than 6.1 innings per start, Scherzer averaged about 5.2 innings per start. The Diamondbacks also received a high end prospect in Ian Kennedy to hopefully fill the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation.  Kennedy has had success in the minors but has experienced set backs in his major league progression due to injury.

In the following weeks they picked up 2B Kelly Johnson coming off a bad year for a bargain price and a solid, veteran, true 1B Adam LaRoche.  Certainly neither player has the flash or name recognition of a Jason Bay but they do solidify a lineup that was too reliant on utility players and rookies last year.  With the hopeful return to form from Conor Jackson and Brandon Webb the Diamondbacks are looking like they could be a respectable team next season…if things work out as planned.

To get a gauge on how the Diamondbacks stack up their starting position players and top three starters are compared to the NL champion Phillies, and NL West winning Dodgers.  Below are the players for each team ranked in terms of their 2009 season performance.  In some cases a few players had seasons that were far below what they had done in previous seasons so their career numbers were used rather than 2009 numbers.

1B Ryan Howard .279 45 HR 8 SB .360 OBP .571 SLG
1B Adam LaRoche .277 25 HR 2 SB .355 OBP .488 SLG
1B James Loney .281 13 HR 7 SB .357 OBP .399 SLG

At first base Ryan Howard clearly has the edge with his power, but Adam LaRoche is certainly comparable in batting average and has more power than James Loney.

2B Chase Utley .282 31 HR 23 SB .397 OBP .508 SLG
2B Kelly Johnson (career) .264 .346 OBP .460 SLG
2B Blake DeWitt (career) .257 11 HR 3 SB .333 OBP .384 SLG

Again at 2B the Phillies have the obvious better player, but Kelly Johnson’s .264 career batting average beats out Blake DeWitt and Johnson had a very respectable .281 average in 2008 prior to his injury hampered 2009 campaign.

3B Mark Reynolds .260 44 HR 24 SB .349 OBP .543 SLG
3B Placido Polanco .285 10 HR 7 SB .331 OBP .396 SLG
3B Casey Blake .280 18 HR 3 SB .363 OBP .468 SLG

The Diamondbacks have the advantage a 3B with Mark Reynolds emerging as one of the league’s young power hitters. In addition to his power he also has more speed than the other two.

SS Jimmy Rollins .250 21 HR 31 SB .296 OBP .423 SLG
SS Rafael Furcal .269 9 HR 12 SB .335 OBP .375 SLG
SS Stephen Drew .261 12 HR 5 SB .320 OBP .428 SLG

If Jimmy Rollins returns to his previous self then the Phillies will have the absolute advantage here too, and even if he doesn’t they still might due to Rollins’ home run and stolen base numbers, however his average and OBP definitely level the playing field some.

LF Manny Ramirez .290 19 HR 0 SB .418 OBP .531 SLG
LF Raul Ibanez .272 34 HR 4 SB .347 OBP .552 SLG
LF Conor Jackson (career) .281 12 HR 10 SB .361 OBP .431 SLG

Always a respectable player, Raul Ibanez catapulted himself to one of the leagues elite sluggers in the first half of the 2009 season.  However, after hitting 22 home runs prior to the All Star break he hit only 12 after the All Star break.  He’s 38 years old and prior to last season he had hit 30 or more home runs only once in his 13 year career.

You also have to wonder if Manny’s age and prior supplement usage are catching up with him, as he too saw a significant drop in is second half numbers, batting .355 pre All Star and .255 post All Star.  But this is about what the player did last season rather than speculation on what will happen this season, so with that in mind Manny and Ibanez have the advantage over Conor Jackson.

CF Matt Kemp .297 26 HR 34 SB .352 OBP .490 SLG
CF Shane Victorino .292 10 HR 25 SB .358 OBP .445 SLG
CF Gerado Parra .290 5 HR .324 OBP .404 SLG

This is the one position that the Dodgers have the clear advantage.  Matt Kemp has the potential to be one of the best players in the league and has a great combination of strength and speed. 

RF Justin Upton .300 26 HR 20 SB .366 OBP .532 SLG
RF Jason Werth .268 36 HR 20 SB .373 OBP .506 SLG
RF Andre Ethier .272 31 HR 6 SB .361 OBP .508 SLG

All three of these players would be welcomed on any team but Justin Upton beats out Werth and Ethier with a considerably higher average and SLG %. 

C Miguel Montero .294 16 HR 5 SB .355 OBP .478 SLG
C Carlos Ruiz .255 9 HR 3 SB .355 OBP .425 SLG
C Russell Martin .250 7 HR 11 SB .352 OBP .329 SLG

Miguel Montero leads the catchers group with a much better average, home run total, and SLG %.  His numbers not only beat Ruiz and Martin, but are also better than most catchers in MLB.

1P Roy Halladay 17 W 2.79 ERA
1P Dan Haren 14 W 3.14 ERA
1P Chad Billingsley 12 W 4.03 ERA

2P Brandon Webb (career) 3.27 ERA
2P Cole Hamels 10 W 4.32 ERA
2P Clayton Kershaw 8 W 2.79

3P Edwin Jackson 13 W 3.62 ERA
3P Hiroki Kuroda 8 W 3.76
3P Joe Blanton 12 W 4.05 ERA

The Phillies got the jewel of the off season with the acquisition of Roy Halladay, one of baseball’s best arms, but their second and third pitchers are a significant drop off.  The Dodgers pitchers are more level than the Phillies but the Diamondbacks are the only team with all of their top pitchers under a 4.00 ERA and the top two under 3.50 ERA.

When looking at the above figures, it is apparent that the Phillies have the best players, and they should considering that they have the sixth highest payroll of any MLB team and the third highest payroll of all NL teams, nearly $40 million higher than the Diamondbacks.  But the Diamondbacks have the best player at two of the eight positions and have the strongest front end pitching rotation. 

Want further proof that the Diamondbacks are ready to compete?  When the numbers of the players above are averaged the Diamondbacks have the highest batting average and only rank last in OBP.  There is definitely reason to believe that this year will be better than 2009 if for no other reason than it would be hard to be worse.

Category: MLB
Posted on: October 7, 2009 12:08 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2009 2:01 pm
 

A Tale of Two Cities

It is a tale of two cities.  A  Midwestern team with a payroll of $67 million, less than 24 hours removed from a 12 inning game that was the 163rd of their season, a game played in their old, drab, domed stadium that they share with an NFL team.  An unsexy team of players largely unknown to the casual baseball fan and certainly to most of America.  A team without a true ace pitcher or their MVP first baseman that has just traveled 1200 miles in the middle of the night to take on a well rested baseball goliath that is being touted as one of the best teams in a decade.

The team that these modest Midwesterners face consists of All Stars and future Hall of Famers, playing in a newly built billion dollar stadium in the biggest city in the nation and one of the largest media markets in the world.  They’ve essentially had the division locked up for month, they boast the most storied history of any team in baseball, and they will send their free agent prize from last off season tonight to face Brian Duensing, a rookie with a $400,000 salary, 1/38th that of CC Sabathia's.

There is no reason to think that the Twins will win the ALDS against the Yankees.  They have everything working against them.  They are built on role players such as Denard Span and Jason Kubel and their best pitcher has a 4.03 ERA, not to mention that they weren’t even first in their division until last night.  Most people say of the Twins, who are they and who cares, bring on the Red Sox for the ALCS.

But scratching the surface a little there is a glimmer of hope for the Twins.  The Yankees ace, CC Sabathia, has not had much postseason success.  He has an ERA of 8.80 and 12.27 in each of the past two postseasons.  The Yankees do not have a reliable fourth starter, and when compared to the Twins, outside of Sabathia, the two team's pitching staff’s numbers are very similar, both among starters and relievers.  The Twins relievers collectively have an ERA of 3.87, the Yankees have an ERA of 3.91.  The starters numbers are listed below.

Duensing 3.64     
Blackburn 4.03
Baker 4.37
Pavano 4.64

Sabathia 3.37
Burnett 4.04
Pettitte 4.16
Chamberlain 4.75

Offensively and defensively the Twins also match up very well with the Yankees.  The Yankees have a team batting average of .283, second best in the AL; the Twins are right behind them with the third best team average of .274.  Defensively the Twins have a fielding percentage of .987, the Yankees .985

Really the only noticeable difference between the two teams is the Yankees $208 million payroll and the Twins $67 million, 23rd in MLB.  In fact, the Yankees three highest paid players make more than the Twins entire team, but as the Yankees have learned the past eight years money doesn’t buy you a World Series. It would be nice if some of the national media would remember that once in a while.

Category: MLB
Posted on: September 25, 2009 4:24 pm
 

Diamondbacks 2009 Season Report Card

I realize that there is still a week left in the regular season, but I wanted to post this while there is still a slim interest in the Diamondbacks.  I feel pretty confident that nothing much will change between now and the actual end of the season so I am giving my final grades for the 2009 Diamondbacks.  On the negative side, there are still some very bad areas, but on the positive side they have made some improvements since the All Star break.

 

Catcher
Mid Season Grade: C
As was the case for Wally Pipp, Chris Snyder too found himself on the bench as Miguel Montero, his former backup, seized the most of his playing time and has emerged as one of the better hitting catchers in the game.  Montero is finishing the season with a .298 batting average ranking first among NL catchers.  The emergence of Montero as a hard hitting everyday catcher has been a bright spot in this much maligned season.
Final Grade: A

First Base
Mid Season Grade: F
At the All Star break the Diamondbacks did not have a true first baseman.  A trade that sent Tony Pena to the White Sox for Brandon Allen has potentially solved that problem.  Allen is better defensively than anybody on the roster currently, but he has yet to prove that he can hit at the major league level.  While it looks like he could be the first baseman of the future, the team still needs to get a proven first baseman for the next season or two.  
Final Grade: D

Second Base
Mid Season Grade: C
Another mid season change for the Diamondbacks occurred when they sent loafing journeyman Felipe Lopez to the Brewers.  This gave an opportunity for career minor leaguer Ryan Roberts to start most games at 2B.  Roberts has not disappointed so far, hitting a very respectable .285, more than exceeding all expectations.  While he is still somewhat unproven having only played in a total of 18 games prior to this season, he will most likely be as good as any free agent the Diamondbacks would acquire.  Expect him to start at 2B next season as the team will look to invest money elsewhere. 
Final Grade: B

Third Base
Mid Season Grade: B+ 
Mark Reynolds has emerged as one of the premier sluggers in the game today, likely finishing second in homeruns in MLB.  He broke his own strikeout record, but he still managed to have a decent batting average of .266 and OBP of .357.  Along with the strikeouts the other main criticism of Reynolds is that he is a defensive liability.  Reyonlds has improved his fielding percentage from last season, although he still ranks among the bottom for NL 3B.  However anyone who actually watches the games rather than just the box score will tell you that Reynolds does make some great plays, and he seems to have at least one or two every night.Final Grade: A

Shortstop
Mid Season Grade: B
At the time of the All Star break Stephen Drew had been improving his batting average every month after a terrible start to the season and he continued to hit well through July.  Unfortunately he was unable to continue that trend and has had a very disappointing season with the exceptions of June and July.  He hit .229 in August and to this point is hitting .244 in September with a season batting average of .259, well short of expectations.  After Drew posted a .291 average in 2008 the Diamondbacks and their fans had hopes that the highly touted shortstop would rank among the best in his position, which unfortunately has not been the case.  Drew has been very average to this point in his career.  His fielding percentage remains respectable, finishing in the top half of NL SS.
Final Grade: C-

Left Field
Mid Season Grade: D-
Left field turned from a very dark spot at the All Star break to one of the stronger positions thanks to AA call up Gerardo Parra.  Parra ranks second among all MLB rookies and third among every day Diamondback positions players in batting average with a very solid .291. He is a quick player in the outfield that can cover a lot of ground.  He still has room to improve defensively, but as with Ryan Roberts he has earned a spot on the roster next season. 
Final Grade: B

Center Field
Mid Season Grade: F 
This position is an embarrassment to the Diamondbacks.  Chris Young, who has started almost three times as many games in CF as the next highest player, has the worst batting average among all MLB CF with a pathetic .206.  He was sent down to the minors in August and only recently raised his average above .200.  His fielding percentage remains in the top ten of all MLB centerfielders but there have been times during the season where he has looked as distracted in the field as he has at the plate.
Final Grade: F

Right Field
Mid Season Grade: A
The prodigal son of the Diamondbacks, Justin Upton, has had a good season with a .304 batting average, 25 home runs, and 82 RBI.  Although these numbers are very respectable the team will need Upton to do more if they are to compete.  Upton still has much room to grow and his 2009 production is probably all that you can ask of him at this point.  He has shown his age at times during the season, playing the game with an exhibited cockiness and openly responding to fans’ taunts.  His fielding also remains an area that has a lot of room to improve.  He is the only right fielder in all of baseball to have double digit errors and his fielding percentage is well below the RF average.  He has a strong arm, which to this point has been a detriment, as he often overthrows the cut off man trying to gun someone down at the plate.  It is not unreasonable to call him the worst right fielder in baseball at this point in his career. 
Final Grade: A

Starting Pitching
Mid Season Grade: B 
The Diamondbacks have used a total of nine different pitchers to start games this season, with Dan Haren being the only one having an ERA under 4.00.  Max Scherzer has shown growth this season and more often than not is going at least six innings.  His pitch count remains an issue but he usually gives the team a chance to win.   In his first full season he has an ERA of 4.08.  Doug Davis has been hit or miss this season but he usually gets the job done.  Like Scherzer he’s typically good through six innings and usually keeps the team in the game. 

With the loss of Brandon Webb the team has struggled to find a fifth starter.  Most of the starts have gone to Yusmeiro Petit, who can either be solid through five innings or give up the game by the third.  Similarly, Billy Buckner has also been used to fill the void after Jon Garland was traded and has also been very inconsistent.  To say that the season was done after Brandon Webb was injured opening day may be a stretch, but they did not get a win from the fifth starter until May 22, and only have a total of 5 wins from Webb’s replacements.  Brandon Webb had at least 15 wins in his past three seasons. 
Final Grade: C

Bullpen
Mid Season Grade: F
The bullpen of the Diamondbacks has been among the worst in baseball, with their specialty being blown leads in the eighth inning.  There have been a few pitchers that have faired well this season, Clay Zavada has a 3.06 ERA and Chad Qualls has an ERA of 3.63, but the positive notes end there.  The Diamondbacks relievers as a whole have an ERA of 4.67, fifth worst in all of baseball.  Only the Indians, Orioles, Royals, and Nationals have worse.  The Diamondbacks relievers also rank seventh worst in batting average against, fifth in total earned runs, and seventh in losses.
Final Grade: F

Overall Grades

Offense
Mid Season Grade: D
The offense has done much better the second half of the season, moving up from fifteenth among NL teams in batting average to ninth.  They are also right in the middle for runs scored on the season, ranking eighth in the NL.

Overall Grade: C 

Defense
Mid Season Grade: F
Second most errors in the majors.
Overall Grade: F

Pitching
Mid Season Grade: D

The team ERA is ranked 18 in MLB.  The Diamondbacks do have a bona fide ace pitcher, which is something many teams lack, and have two more reliable starters and a couple reliable pitchers in the bullpen.

Overall Grade: C-

Overall Team Grade

Mid Season Grade: F
This is a tale of two halves.  For the season as a whole the team deserves a F.  They will only finish with a few more wins than they did in their inaugural season of 1998.  However, for much of the second half the Diamondbacks have played around .500.  The last few weeks they haven’t faired very well and most of the games lately look like they don’t really want to be there.  But for a team that hasn’t really had any playoff hopes since early June it’s not completely unexpected.  The Diamondbacks have been very quiet in the last few off seasons, opting to utilize the players they have, this off season they will need to be much more active if they hope to compete in 2010.

Final Grade: D

Category: MLB
Posted on: September 23, 2009 2:29 pm
 

Mark Reynolds, Strike Out King... Again

I would be remiss if I did not note that Mark Reynolds beat his own all time strikeout record last night.  I have been a Mark Reynolds apologist all season and will continue to do so.  I would like it if he struck out less, but his production ranks up there with any of the top names. 

2nd in NL HR, more than Prince Fielder
4th in NL SLG, higher than Adrian Gonzalez
12th in NL OPS, higher than Ryan Howard
9th in NL RBI, more than Chase Utley
11th in NL SB, as many as Shane Victorino
14th in NL BB, more than David Wright

A strikeout is only worse than an out made by a ball put in play when there are runners in scoring position and less than two outs.  Even then a lot of the time the hit ball does not result in a "productive out."  And a strikeout is only better than an out made by a ball put in play when there is a runner on first, less than two outs, and it is a ground ball.  Most of the time, an out is an out.  While it's not the type notoriety that the Diamondbacks want, it does put them back in the headlines after six months of obscurity.  So hate on haters, keep your David Wrights and Alex Rodriguezes

Category: MLB
Posted on: September 23, 2009 2:05 pm
 

Brandon Webb Not Renegotiating

Brandon Webb has stated that he is unwilling to renegotiate his contract to stay with the Diamondbacks, and why should he.  He has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the past four years he’s pitched, and since 2003 the Diamondbacks have leaned on him for his consistent performance and his ability to give the team the chance to win.  He has a career era of 3.27, and a pitcher who doesn’t give up a lot of runs is crucial for a team that doesn’t score a lot of runs or scores them inconsistently.  For the past several years Brandon Webb has watched as pitchers who have not equaled him on the mound soar past him in terms of salary. 

For the Diamondbacks it will be a tough decision on whether or not to risk essentially six million dollars to keep Webb.  For other teams it is not.  Webb knows that there are many teams out there that can afford him and would be more than happy to take a chance on a one year contract for a pitcher of his caliber.  He’s had the surgery, he’s healthy (according to him), and he will be ready to go come spring training. 

The difficulty of the decision for the Diamondbacks is that they have to make the decision sight unseen, as Webb cannot pitch off a mound until December, about a month after the Diamondbacks are required to declare whether or not they will pick up his option.  The team has erred on contracts in the past with Chris Young, Eric Byrnes, and Chris Snyder, and will be hesitant to take any chances now.

But is Brandon Webb really that big of a risk?  If they keep him it will cost the team $8.5 million dollars, if they cut him it will be about $2, a $6 million dollar swing.  There are no pitchers on the free agent market that can equal a healthy Brandon Webb, or even a 75% Webb, for that amount of money.  In that context the decision to sign him should be automatic.  In addition to the lack of quality free agents that could be had for $6 million the Diamondbacks really only have to gamble on one year.  Even if Webb is not able to return to the form that he once had the worst that the team has lost is $6 million, not $30 million like they did with Byrnes.  The only two starters that will be in the rotation next year that are certain are Dan Haren and Max Scherzer.  Doug Davis will most likely be gone, and if the team elects not to pick up Webb’s option they will need to acquire three starters in the off season.

I’m not sure if the Diamondbacks front office has noticed, but the team didn’t play very well this year.  Starters often did their part only to either not get any run support or to have the bullpen give up the lead and undo the six or seven previous innings.  Those are two things that don’t really appeal to pitchers who rely on their team to give them a statistic critical in their free market value, a win.  This means that a free agent pitcher will likely have to have exhausted all other options before signing with the Diamondbacks, as was the case with Jon Garland this past off season.

Teams will low salaries need to take a few chances on players to win. Even when you take all the emotion and history out of the decision the best way for the Diamondbacks to proceed is to pick up the Webb option just because there isn’t anything out there that is better.  It is, maybe, their only option.

Below is a short list of free agent pitchers with a salary close to Webb’s 2010 option of $8.5 million.

Eric Bedard 09 Salary $7.7m, 2.82 ERA, out half the season
Kevim Escobar 09 Salary  $10m out all season
Rich Harden 09 Salary $7m, 4.09 ERA
John Lackey 09 Salary $10m, 3.56 ERA
Carl Pavano  09 Salary $1.5m, 4.82 ERA
Todd Wellemeyer 09 Salary $4m, 5.81 ERA
Jarrod Washburn 09 Salary $9.8m, ERA 3.78

Category: MLB
Posted on: September 21, 2009 1:59 pm
 

Next Up on the Eric Byrnes Show...Nothing!

The Eric Byrnes show has been cancelled, mercifully, leaving fans wishing that his contract could be cancelled just as easily.  The show was a constant reminder to fans that 15% of the team’s payroll is being used for an oft injured bench player hitting .214, essentially taking the Diamondbacks payroll from $73 million to $63 million, which would put them in the bottom seven in MLB payroll.  It was salt in the wounds of the Diamondbacks faithful, who, while watching their team likely be on the losing end of a game, also had to be subjected to Eric Byrnes Show promos during commercial breaks.   So while the bullpen was collapsing or the offense was being shut down, we also got to see clips of our $10 million dollar man playing mister mom, cleaning up goat crap at the zoo, or riding a jet ski.


To me the cancellation of that embarrassing TV show is symbolic more than anything.  This is the beginning of the cleansing process.  The staring lineup of the team next year will look very different than the starting lineup of the overachieving 2007 team, with only two players who started the majority of games that season expected to start next year as well.  The pitching staff may or may not have one player from the 07 rotation, depending on what happens to Brandon Webb.

 

The team is on the right track, as far as position players go, finally starting to gain legitimacy after what has been proven to be a fluke season where they won many games by just a run or two and were driven by the strength of their pitching staff.  Justin Upton has emerged as a star.  Miguel Montero has shown some of the potential that we’ve heard he had all along.  Mark Reynolds is showing himself to be a legitimate big league slugger.  Gerardo Parra is looking like he will be a fixture in the outfield.  It’s up to Josh Byrnes to build on this base and get a one or two veteran players that can provide leadership as well as on field production. 

 

There is a good chance that the Diamondbacks will miss the playoffs in 2010 as well, but at least we no longer have to see an organization’s mistake every time we watch a game and wonder what could have been if they had an extra $10 million dollars to spend.

 

Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com