Quick League Preview – AL

March 31, 2010

I didn’t want to start the season without completely ruining any credibility I have, so once again I will make some bold predictions that can be used against me later in the year. I’m going to start today with the AL predictions, but before we get to that, here are some of my feelings on the teams.

Angels: To me they just had losses this offseason. They still have some stuff there, and it’s hard to bet against Scioscia, but I can’t say I’m fond of their pitching staff or more than half of their lineup.

Athletics: I really like them this year. They need another hitter but I think they’ll be buyers for that later in the year. That pitching staff in that park I think bodes very well for them. They are a team that I could see surprising people and making the playoffs, especially if Ben Sheets stays healthy.

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Anyone Need a Shortstop?

March 30, 2010

With Ian Desmond named as the starting SS, the Nats now have a backup infielder who also happens to be their 2nd highest paid player. Cristian Guzman is someone that the Nats would probably love to trade, to get any sort of value for him. They may want to wait a month to make sure Desmond doesn’t stink it up, but if he’s alright, they’d be happy to move Guzman. And if they were to get some talent in exchange, they’d probably be willing to eat some of his contract.

There are only a few teams out there that might want a veteran SS that can hit in spurts and has an expiring contract. Here’s my list:

Boston – Right now they have Marco Scutaro as their starter, and he can hit… sometimes. He’s also had some pretty bad years. But I don’t expect Boston to want someone like Guzman – low OBP, questionable fielding – they’re probably not in the running unless Scutaro actually gets hurt for the year.

Detroit – The Tigers have Adam Everett as their starter right now. He can still field, but the last three seasons he has hit .231/.284/.322. They may lose patience but they do have youngster Brent Dlugach waiting. He’s not a stud prospect but he hit last year in AAA, they may be more inclined to use him or backup Ramon Santiago if they give up on Everett.

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Get Ready for Your Short Term Team

March 29, 2010

You expect changes with a young team. You expect changes with a bad team. You expect changes with a team that has a talented, ready for prime time prospect in the minors. So the Nats, who are all of those teams, should see some changes real soon. But just how many changes? Well some of them are obvious, like the rotation, but there is still possibilities for changes throughout the lineup, and of the course the bullpen is a work in progress. Changes are afoot, so if you don’t like the way this team looks right now, you’ll be happy to know it won’t look the same in short order.

I listed the team’s alleged lineup going in to the season, and then put out some possibilities that may be coming by the end of the year. This isn’t necessarily my prediction for April’s team and September’s team, just more a demonstration of a possibility. Now that all that caveating is out of the way…

Rotation

Firstly, the rotation has the potential to change big time by as soon as June or July.
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2010 NL East Rankings Part 2: The Pitchers

March 23, 2010

Yesterday, I went over the the starting lineups for each team, and I was happy to give out 5 points for each position winner, 1 point for the bottom guys, and the logical points for those in between. Here’s the score as it stands before looking at the pitching staffs:

SCORE: Phillies (30), Mets (24), Braves (22), Marlins (22), Nationals (22)

So if we used the ol’ permanent pitcher for both teams methodology, I’d be picking the Phillies. But clearly there’s more to baseball than just hitting and fielding, there’s a whole slew of hurlers. Less clear is what starter is in what position. Normally it wouldn’t matter, but when we’re comparing each pitcher in an individual part of the rotation, it does. I used my best judgement here, and tried to go with rotations according to BP and other sources. Forgive me if you disagree:

#1 Starter

1. Phillies – Roy Halladay
2. Mets – Johan Santana
3. Marlins – Josh Johnson
4. Braves – Jair Jurrjens
5. Nationals – John Lannan

Halladay has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball the last few years, and that was playing in the AL, facing the Boston and New York juggernauts there on the regular. Throw in the league change and Santana’s recent injury, I’m giving him the top spot. Josh Johnson stayed healthy all last year and continued to look great, and Jurrjens may regress a bit, but is still a very effective young pitcher. The unfortunately thing is that with Lannan the apparent opening day starter, I have to put him here, at the bottom of the list…

SCORE: Phillies (35), Mets (28), Marlins (25), Braves (24), Nationals (23) Read the rest of this entry »


2010 NL East Rankings: Position Players

March 22, 2010

An annual tradition here is one that has been done twice, so let’s call this an annual tradition. I’ll do my best to rank each position for each team in the NL East, seeing who has the best pieces to their team. It’s quite simple – there are 5 teams in the division, so if someone has the #1 player at a position, they get 5 points for it. If they have the worst, they get 1 point. At some point I have to make judgments about who is there, and playing time, on top of assessing their abilities. Such is life. Starting with the position players:

CATCHER

1. Braves – Brian McCann
2. Marlins – John Baker/ Ronny Paulino
3. Phillies – Carlos Ruiz
4. Nationals – Ivan Rodriguez/ Jesus Flores
5. Mets – Rod Barajas

Obviously McCann is the class of this group and wins all offensive categories including beardiness, but I actually the potential platoon in Florida. How about this for career splits – Ronny Paulino has an OPS of .877 against lefties, John Baker’s is .814 vs. righties. Neither can hit from the other side, but with the buddy system, they won’t need to. I expect some sort of recovery for Ruiz, who isn’t a terrible hitter. As for the bottom of the group, who knows if and when Flores will hit, but we know he can. If he managed to get in 100 games (not likely) I might rank him as high as second. Barajas may get a slight hitting edge over Pudge, but not a defensive one, and the more Flores plays, the more the Nats catching tandem will beat out what the Mets have.

SCORE: Braves(5), Marlins(4), Phillies(3), Nationals(2), Mets(1) Read the rest of this entry »


What Now? Elijah Dukes Released…

March 17, 2010

In the past you might have thought those words would be followed with “on his own recognizance,” but it’s just followed with “by the Washington Nationals.” It was a surprise, I’m sure, for most, as there was no indication that this was going to happen. It leaves a void in the assume starting roster, as Dukes was penciled in to be the right fielder. But he didn’t hit much at all so far this spring, and for whatever reason, they decided to end the relationship today. Time to move on, so the question now is who will be the starting right fielder? A few options:

  • Mike Morse – Looked ok in September for the Nats (.250/.291/.481) and has has a strong spring so far (.259/.310/.519)
  • Ian Desmond – If he’s the best hitting option, I guess they could put him out there, but I’d really rather see him playing SS in the minors than OF in the majors unless he proves he can’t play infield
  • Jermaine Dye – He’s out there, he still can hit, and they need someone. But he’s a terrible fielder towards the end of his career. Read the rest of this entry »

Guzman vs. Kennedy

March 16, 2010

Middle infield rumors have been flying around since way back in September and October. First Ian Desmond was going to take over at shortstop and Cristian Guzman was gonna move to second base. Then the Nats went searching for a second baseman, and most thought that Desmond was being pushed aside. Then they went out and signed Adam Kennedy, and Desmond was indeed pushed aside. Then he went out and hit .385/.448/.692 in his first 11 games of spring training and pushed himself back into the picture.

So now there is a rumor that Ian Desmond will be the starting shortstop for the Nats going in to the 2010 season. While I don’t believe 11 spring training games are enough to establish a resume (Adam Dunn has 0 home runs, but nobody is worried he won’t hit any this year), I have all along lobbied that Desmond should be the starter. His bat seemed ready and I thought his defense was good with the occasional hiccup, and figured that what better group to learn concentration and discipline from than the major league coaching staff? Of the three players, Desmond is the only one with the potential that comes with youth, and he could eventually wind up a very good player. The other two guys are closer to retiring than being called someone with potential, so let’s assume here that if Desmond has role his role, he deserves it.

The thought is then if Desmond starts, Guzman would move to second and Kennedy would play utility man. But is that the way to go? Let’s take a look at the two that might be fighting for the role of starting second baseman:

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10 Things That 10 Games of Spring Training Have Shown

March 15, 2010

Since I’ve been somewhat cynical mentioning the meaninglessness of individual games in spring training, and the overall deceptiveness that stats can give you from this month, I wanted to show that I do think a few things can be learned from the month. It’s more than just a tuneup, it can give managers a very good idea of what to expect. I just believe that a month of games when people don’t care shouldn’t override several years of evidence. Anyway, here are a few things I’ve noticed in the first half of the spring:

  1. Strasburg has looked very good – his second start wasn’t as well-covered or noticed, but it was just as good as the first. He’s pretty impressive so far
  2. Elijah Dukes hasn’t looked very good – hitting .174/.263/.294 so far probably won’t make him lose his job, but it will significantly shorten his leash in April. He’s gotta start hitting, although at least he still can walk
  3. Ian Desmond has alot of good news surrounding him – he’s hitting the hell out of the ball (.455/.580/.815, if you must know – whatever I’m sure that’s real sustainable) but Rizzo has also said he’s definitely NOT coming on the club as a utility man. This was assumed, but there were rumors to the contrary – like when Riggleman went on XM-Sirius last week and said he might be a utility man. He’s gonna start in Washington or Syracuse at SS – my guess is in Syracuse until they figure out whether they could get anything for Guzman
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Apres Stras, Le Deluge

March 10, 2010

It’s over, Strasburg has made his debut, and he’ll never do that again. Except possibly in 2 or 3 stops in the minors as well as in the majors at some point this year. At each stop the debut will may not get bigger, but certainly if he goes to the minors, his first start will be bigger than this one, and whenever he gets to the majors that will be quite the show as well. I’m sure you’ve seen all of the numbers. What impressed me the most was that the velocity does seem to be there already, which I wasn’t expecting. Also, the 3-0 count where he worked it to 3-2 and then laid in a curveball for strike 3. That takes talent, but it also takes confidence. His control wasn’t that good, although he said he’s always more nervous for his first appearance every year, all the way through high school, so he wasn’t worried.

Alright, first one’s in the books, what do you think?

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A Preview of the Future

March 9, 2010

Here we go. Stephen Strasburg pitches today, and how he does will dictate forever the fortunes of the free world. Or America, or the Nationals. Or probably none of the above, judging by what 2 innings usually can tell you about a person. There’s quite a bit we’ve heard about this young man, and for many people, today will be the first time they really get to see him go. Because even if you miss the innings during the day, even though it’s being broadcast over the internets and well as TV, you’ll probably be able to see him on every Sportscenter all night, if you watch the sports on the nightly news,  on an evening replay on MASN, and no doubt there will be video footage up within a few hours of the game.

But the question you may have is, “What should I be looking for? I don’t want to just watch him pitch, I want to see him and tell everyone there is something special because I saw him do this or watched him do that.” To you I would say, relax, and enjoy baseball. It isn’t all numbers and potential and prospects, sometimes it’s watching someone throw a pitch to a glove that is most fun. But if you must, I’ll tell you that I will be paying attention to the location. He is supposed to have pinpoint control, so I’d like to see if there are any nerves. I want to see if his throwing his fastball with the accuracy that we would all like to see. Let’s see if the catcher is chasing or is statue-still.

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