2011 Quick League Preview – NL

March 31, 2011

Baseball starts in just a few hours. So in order to get ready, let’s do those pesky predictions. Yesterday I did a quick and dirty preview for the AL, so now it’s time to look at the NL. Once again, before I show you my predictions, I’ll give you my thoughts on each team.

Astros: Hunter Pence is a good player, but when he is far and away your best hitter, you probably don’t have much of a lineup. They have two good pitchers – Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers, but beyond those 3 guys, and Carlos Lee, there isn’t much here of value.

Braves: I am bullish on these guys this year, their lineup is better than people realize, and I like their pitching staff. It’s too bad they have to look up at the Phillies. I think they’ll be in the Wild Card fight all year long. (This is what I wrote last year. I’m sticking with it)

Brewers: I really think this team has a chance to do very well. Strong pitching up front and formidable hitting better stand together because their defense aint winning any games.

Cardinals: Their lineup is strong in the middle – not just Pujols but Holliday, Rasmus and Berkman could be very good. The problem is, without Wainwright, their starting pitching leaves alot to be desired after Carpenter.

Cubs: This lineup is so up and down, with so much potential for success or failure – Fukudome, Starlin Castro, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Pena all seem to be wild cards. If they do well this year,it might be on the backs of Zambrano, Garza and Dempster.

Diamondbacks: I picked the DBacks to surprise last year, and they finished the season with 65 wins. They’re not good yet, but they have two potentially very good starters in Hudson and Kennedy, and several very good if not great position players in Drew, Montero, Young, and Kelly Johnson. Justin Upton could truly have a superstar year – remember he’s only going to be 23. Still, it isn’t gonna be enough to compete just yet.

Dodgers: This team looks like the real deal to me. They have a strong albeit not spectacular lineup, and I expect a significant recover from Matt Kemp. Their rotation is killer, their first 4 starters all are very good, with Kershaw and Billingsley having the chance to be great. They’ll be in the hunt all year.

Giants: The defending champs deserve credit for putting together a great pitching staff. It’s better than the Dodgers, thanks to the ability of their ace Tim Lincecum, but it’s not that far off. The question for me, then, is who’s lineup is better. I am not sure quite a few Giants didn’t peak last year, but that may be offset by a full season of Posey and a Sandoval recovery. They should be very good.

Phillies: It seems the question for the Phillies isn’t if they’ll make the playoffs, it’s how far they’ll go. That starting pitching staff is incredible, tops in the league, and even strong enough to allay fears about the bullpen. Their much maligned lineup is still quite good, but fears of Rollins having another bad season, Utley being too hurt, Howard aging fast and Polanco getting too many ABs keep them from being a total lock.

Marlins: The pitching staff is very formidable, they have a legitmate ace in Josh Johnson, and if Javier Vazquez remembers he’s in the NL they could have 4 good starters going. Their lineup is getting better – Coughlin and LoMo in the outfield provide OBP, Stanton provides power, and Hanley provides everything. Beyond that, though, there is something to be desired.

Mets: The lineup here could still be decent. David Wright can hit, and Reyes, Beltran and Bay will all probably have better seasons than 2010.  Davis and Pagan could give them something there as well. But the pitching staff, with Johan’s return a mystery and guys like Pelfrey and Niese considered their best starters, is just plain bad.

Nationals: Starting with the starting pitching – I expect Livo to be worse and Marquis to be better than last year. I think they will get good seasons out of Detwiler and Zimmermann, but that may be the highlight of the pitching. The offense from Zimmerman and Werth will be there, LaRoche is underrated and good. The real question for me is what will Desipinosa bring. This team won’t be a laughingstock, but it’ll still be hard to get out of the NL East cellar. With the right breaks, they’ll finish 4th.

Padres: Certainly the surprise story of 2010, the Padres will look to get that playoff spot that eluded them by 2 games last year. The problem is, their best pitcher is Mat Latos, who is presently hurt (not seriously) and beyond that isn’t that impressive. They might put up good numbers in Petco, but aren’t exactly great. Their lineup is ok, Bartlett, Headley, Maybin, Maybin and Hawpe are all complementary pieces. But in order to really score runs they probably need one or two Adrian Gonzalezes.

Pirates: There’s not much on offense here, except for McCutchen and maybe Tabata and Pedro Alvarez. The pitching staff has nothing of note, and this team will once again not be very impressive.

Reds: I think they’ll take a step back this year. They’ll still be in the hunt but outside of Votto, they don’t have any stud offensive players. Phillips has real power for a 2B, and could put together a great season, and Jay Bruce will hit the ball far, but it isn’t a real great lineup. The Mike Leake story took a bad turn after midseason last year, Chapman isn’t starting, and Volquez and Cueto aren’t special. The pitching staff could be significantly worse this year.

Rockies: Two of the best players at their position – Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki – help make this lineup pretty formidable. Dexter Fowler, Chris Ianetta, Ian Stewart and Todd Helton aren’t slouches either, and this team should score some runs. They still have the great Ubaldo, but De La Rosa, Chacin and Cook don’t give them very much beyond him. They’ll be good, but I don’t think they’re in the hunt at the end.

Here are my final predictions, including those for the AL from yesterday:

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: White Sox
AL West: A’s
AL Wild Card: Yankees

ALCS: White Sox vs. Red Sox

AL Champs: White Sox

NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Brewers
NL West: Dodgers
NL wild card: Braves

NLCS: Braves vs. Phillies

World Series: White Sox over Braves

AL MVP: Robinson Cano, Yankees
AL Cy Young: Jon Lester, Red Sox
AL Rookie: Jeremy Hellickson, Rays
AL Manager: Bob Geren, A’s

NL MVP: Ryan Braun, Brewers
NL Cy Young: Josh Johnson, Marlins
NL Rookie: Freddie Freeman, Braves
NL Manager: Ron Roenicke, Brewers


2011 Quick League Preview – AL

March 30, 2011

As the season looms it appears to be that time where I make predictions that are sure to make me look stupid in October, if anyone ever bothered to check.  Before I get to the actual predictions, I’ll start with my first reaction to each team:

Angels: My first reaction is that they don’t have any pitching beyond Haren and Weaver, and the middle of their lineup isn’t very impressive. But Haren and Weaver have the potential to be great, so they could be decent, I just don’t think it’s enough.

Athletics: I’ve bought in to the strength of this team’s starting rotation. Their lineup isn’t great, but I think it’s better than most people realize. They may not have a stud ace, but the rotation including Cahill, Anderson, Gonzalez and Braden is very very good and quite deep.

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Nationals Get 24 Year Old Pitcher

March 29, 2011

Alberto Gonzalez, defensive whiz middle infield sub, was not going to make the squad out of Spring Training. Gonzalez was out of options, so despite a strong spring, there was enough evidence to know how much offense he can really bring, and they wisely made a swap. In exchange, they got a 24 year old pitcher from the Padres named Erik Davis.

Davis was drafted in 2008 out of Stanford, and has only pitched 2 full seasons in pro ball. Last year he spent the majority of his time in high-A, where amassed a 3.82 ERA with 34 BB and 91 K in 99 IP in the hitter-friendly California league.  He then pitched 39 1/3 innings in AA, with similar peripherals of 12 BB and 35 K and a better looking 2.75 ERA. His final start in AA was a no hitter after 7 innings, he finally gave up a hit in the 8th. To finish the season, he made a single start in AAA where he threw 5 innings, struck out 7 and walked 2, allowing 2 ER. It was a good season, and indicates that he is at least something of a prospect, and will probably start the season in AAA with the Nats. But what do the scouts say about him?

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Options in CF

March 28, 2011

With the Nyjer Morgan trade, and Roger Bernadina‘s .245/.310/.340 spring, Rick Ankiel has won the CF job outright. So far he has hit slightly better than Bernadina, hitting .218/.271/.455 so far. The OPS is higher, so are the runs created and other similar offensive value stats. But since OBP is more important that SLG, those other offensive stats aren’t as far apart as OPS is. Regardless, Ankiel is hitting the best of the two.

Roger Bernadina

Bernadina will still get his shots at the position. He’s probably going to be considered a 4th outfielder been assigned to the minors, although being a lefty as well, he isn’t automatically going in when Ankiel gets a convenient rest against left handed starters.  The thing he has going against him, as mentioned, is that he hits from the same side of the plate as Ankiel, unlike…

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2011 NL East Rankings Part 2: The Pitchers

March 24, 2011

In our last episode, I went over the starting lineups for each team, giving out 5 points for the best player at each position, 1 point for the worst. Here’s where we stand:

SCORE: Phillies (27), Mets (24), Nationals (24), Braves (23), Marlins (21)

Before comparing the pitchers I have to caveat it even more than the position players. Most teams make it evident who their “ace” is early on in the year, and most teams have an obvious one anyway. Most teams make it evident who their #5 starter is early on in the year, by not  playing him until about May. Of course, the number 5 starter is often 3 or 4 guys. And many teams don’t make it all that evident who starters 2-4 are. This normally isn’t important, but since we’re trying to compare guys head to head, it is extremely important. So I’ll do this the best I can, but it should be taken with a handful of salt. I’ve tried to use Baseball Prospectus as my guide to order.

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2011 NL East Rankings: Position Players

March 22, 2011

A tradition that has I’ll rank each position for each team in the NL East, seeing who has the best pieces to their team. 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. Starting with the position players:

CATCHER

1. Braves – Brian McCann
2. Phillies – Carlos Ruiz
3. Mets – Josh Thole
4. Nationals – Wilson Ramos/Ivan Rodriguez/Jesus Flores
5. Marlins – John Buck/John Baker

McCann is not just the best catcher in the group, he’s one of the best in the game, and is generally highly underrated as an altogether great player. Ruiz, now 31, has developed the patience to make him a good hitter, even though he won’t hit .300 again this year. Thole is a youngster who has proven he can get on base. The trio in DC may have to drop down if Flores doesn’t recover, Pudge gets too many ABs, and Ramos doesn’t mature. But I think enough will happen on the other side to allow them to surpass the Marlins catching tandem, with once decent hitting John Baker struggling to even make the team.

SCORE: Braves (5), Phillies (4), Mets (3), Nationals (2), Marlins (1)

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What to do in CF

March 17, 2011

Mike Morse has had such a strong showing this spring, that it’s assumed the LF job is his. With Jayson Werth the obvious starter in RF, that leaves all the other guys scrambling to get placed in CF. Morgan is the favorite, but his poor 2010 and an unimpressive spring (although he hit a homer yesterday) has certainly opened up the competition. Roger Bernadina and Rick Ankiel are the other two obvious candidates, and even Jerry Hairston could be considered in the mix. A platoon isn’t really much of an option because all the guys are lefties other than Hairston, and Hairston has almost no discernible split in over 4000 PAs. So without a convenient platoon, someone’s gotta be the initial starter. Who should it be?


Into the Third Week of Spring Training

March 15, 2011

Spring Training is in full swing, and while we must take every performance with a grain of salt and a handfull of small sample size, it’s important not to ignore what’s happened so far. Here are a few highlights after the first few weeks:

The Position Players

The middle infield – Danny Espinosa is batting .324/.378/.559 and Ian Desmond is batting .314/.351/.400 while having the two highest AB totals on the team. They’re not walking much, which is troubling, but at least they are hitting the ball. Without walking, they will have to sit lower in the lineup, they just won’t get on base enough, but hopefully some of that will come.

Left Field – It would be hard to deny Mike Morse the starting job at this point. He’s hitting .469, he’s slugging 1.000, and he’s got 5 HRs in only 32 ABs. This compares with Rick Ankiel‘s .194/.219/.548. Ankiel has shown enough power that you’d think he’d make the team, but he doesn’t look like the starter yet.

Center field – Nyjer Morgan is now batting .212/.242/.261, while Roger Bernadina is hitting .281/.324/.438. Bernadina is putting together a strong case to be the 4th outfielder, since Morse is hitting so well. But if Morgan continues to slump this way, Bernie’s got a chance to be the starting centerfielder.

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The Starting Rotation, So Far

March 10, 2011

The rotation keeps on spinning, and will continue to do so throughout the spring. I think it’s a bit premature to name anyone as a definite starter, except for probably Livan and Zimmermann. Let’s take a look at how everyone’s done so far.

John Lannan – Alright, if there’s another guy already in the rotation, he’s it. He’s only started one game this spring, he looked good early on but did surrender a few runs in the third and final inning. He only struck out 1 guy, which is low compared to what he was able to do last year. It’ll be interesting to see if those K numbers do come up.

Jason Marquis – People have him as an “already in” guy, thanks to experience and salary. In two starts so far, he hasn’t let up a run only gave up 3 hits and 1 BB, while striking out 4 in 7 IP. It’s early, but that’s at least a promising sign of a recovery to the league average type pitcher they were expecting last year. He’s been quoted as saying that he likes how his sinker feels, and that’s real important for him.

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BP in DC at P and P

March 8, 2011

Baseball Prospectus authors Steven Goldman, Kevin Goldstein, Jay Jaffe, and Ben Lindbergh showed up in DC to host an event at Politics and Prose last night. Also appearing unbilled was Clay Davenport, who jumped into the group and helped field questions.

If you love online baseball chats (I do) and you aren’t afraid to leave the house (I’m not) than this is the kind of event for you. It was a little cramped in the room, thanks to a ton of people showing up, but it didn’t detract from the great atmosphere. After introductions, and an entertaining dinosaur story by Goldman, they got right into answering questions. People lined up at microphones, asked away, and they answered away as a group. I thoroughly enjoyed it, here are some highlights that I remember:

  • A question was posed about relegation a la primer league soccer, to make a team have to work their way back to the majors. Jay Jaffe brought up the point that the capital required to have real major league baseball facilities would make this difficult. And most cities wouldn’t put up the money for a stadium if they thought their team might be relegated to the minors in the next decade. Goldstein chimed in that baseball probably shouldn’t do anything that soccer does.

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