Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fixing the BoSox...or Not

I picked the Boston Red Sox to win the American League East, I also picked the Rangers to finish second to the Angels in the American League West. I'm glad we're only two weeks in.

While I may have been one of the more optimistic prognosticators when it came to the Red Sox, I simply can't understand the crazies who think there needs to be major changes in Boston in order for this team to turn things around.

Here's the thing, the Red Sox pitching has been atrocious, unbearably bad. As of this post, they own a team ERA of 6.27, their starters, a hefty 5.63. You know how you fix this team? Give them a couple weeks to watch the ERA's of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Josh Beckett's respective numbers to fall dramatically.

Unless of course you believe that what those pitchers are doing is for real.

If not, then there is no need to worry. There is especially no need to make any ridiculous changes as ex-GM Jim Bowden proposes. These changes, in order of idiocracy begin with moving Kevin Youkilis and replacing him with Wil Middlebrooks. It continues with swapping the Red Sox RF platoon, a platoon that has the highest OPS among team rightfield numbers in the league (.955 OPS) with the underachieving Dominic Brown (acquired in the Youk trade). And finally it suggests the Arizona Diamondbacks would trade their top of the line catcher for three Red Sox catchers.

How do these moves make the Red Sox better?

There is no one who would argue that Middlebrooks would outperform Youkilis. Yes, Middlebrooks is off to an incredible start, and Youkilis is off to a horrible start, but the difference between triple A and the majors is akin to the difference between being in China and being in a Chinese restaurant at the mall.

We're looking at a substantial loss here for the Red Sox, probably close to two wins on the season.

Then the idea of bringing in Brown. Brown who certainly deserves a chance, should be traded out of Philadelphia. Actually, Brown should be starting for Philadelphia, bet he's not. But the problem with the Red Sox isn't in the outfield, specifically, it doesn't exist in right field where the combination of Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ross will easily outperform whatever Brown's ceiling may be.

Again, we're looking at a team loss here, probably only worth a win, but enough to make the last day of the season not very exciting.

Finally the addition of Miguel Montero. An excellent idea. Who wouldn't love to add this guy? Even the Twins who are playing a catcher in right field could use his services.

But does Bowden really believe that the Diamondbacks would trade him for not one, not two, but three catchers? Granted Blake Swihart has a decent ceiling. Ryan Lavarnway should put together a nice major league career once he figures out what to do defensively. And Jarrod Saltalammachia is an okay place filler, there is no way the Diamondbacks make this deal, at least not now. Possibly they come around to it in the middle of July if they are out of the playoff hunt, but right now, what a joke!

A gain here, but an impossible gain that can't be counted on.


The main thing to understand here isn't that the Red Sox need fixing, they need time. They have had a terrible start to a season which saw them opening up against five teams which were all projected to be well above .500. But between now and May 9th they go on a stretch against some terrible teams (Minnesota, Oakland, Baltimore, and Kansas City) which could see them going on a 12-4 run which would easily get them above .500 an make everyone forget about lynching Youkilis.

Friday, April 6, 2012

2012 Predictions....American League

I know I haven't written in a while but I thought with the excitement of Opening Days and all the picks of "experts" and talking heads that I'd again throw my hat in the ring. I'm going to break down every team and give my prediction on where they should rank this season.

American League

East

I don't agree that this is the power house division everyone says it is. There are a lot of holes, a lot of aging players, some awful rotations. Where it is strong is in the prospect ranks which makes the top 4 teams in this division buyers on the trade market.

1. Boston Red Sox
I think they have the best hitting lineup, possibly in all of the Majors once Carl Crawford returns. It would be nice for them to make a move for a RFer, but the system has some pieces that could fill that hole if need be - which it shouldn't need.

The rotation could be the best in the division, I'd say at worst it is the second best. The area of concern here is with health as even their #4 and #5 are big question marks.

In any event, the Sox should be able to take the division as they are the team with the least amount of flaws and the best top end players in the division.

2. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are a team of fewer weaknesses rather than many strengths. The rotation is probably the best in the division as this team could boast three #1 starters. The bullpen will be strong but it won't be relied on heavily.

Offensively and defensively this is a good cast of players. Longoria is the only superstar but there aren't any other holes.

3. New York Yankees
I know CC Sabathia took the mound every three days a few years back in Milwaukee, but that's not going to happen this year. So who do you trust as even a #3 in this rotation? Simply put, I don't think they have the rotation depth to get it done...Yet. In a year or two when Betances and Banuelos are ready and relied on, but for now there is a lot of junk-at-the-wall throwing going on in this rotation. Don't tell me that Kuroda and Pineda are the answers in that ballpark, in that division, with that fly ball rate. The bullpen will again be dynamite, and that might be enough to save them from a bunch of 4 inning starts.

Offensively, this team isn't getting any younger. Granderson is off of a career year and I rarely bet on a player to improve on his numbers after a career year. Aside from him, where is the upside? What happens if they drop 60-80 runs scored?

4. Toronto Blue Jays
This is not the Lucero of baseball in that they are everyone's darling. Offensively this team is stacked. Top to bottom it's tough to find a player who shouldn't at least exceed last year's output. This could easily be the highest scoring team in the league if everything goes right. Big statement as they were 6th in the Majors in scoring last year, but still, this team can, and will rake. Edwin Encarnacion is my breakout player on this team.

However, the reason this team ranks 4th, their rotation. What a mess!!! They have two starters and that's it. There is a little bit of wishing with those two starters as is. If this is 2013, it's one thing, but the Jays are thin with upper level prospect pitchers and it's going to come through this season.

5. Baltimore Orioles
This team just got unlucky. Had things gone according to plan, this team would be ready to contend this year. Unfortunately, all of that hope that was in the rotation (Britton, Matusz, and Tillman) has gone in the complete wrong direction. Unfortunately that happens.

Offensively this team is fine and should see improvements from where they were in 2011. We're not looking at any easy win for a starter, but we're also not looking at a 1-9 like the Sox. I'm also betting there are going to be some pieces sold at some point today. This is the easiest pick in baseball.

Central

Everyone, I mean everyone is saying the Tigers will run away with this division, I don't see it.

1. Chicago White Sox
What changed with this team from 2010 to 2011? Essentially nothing. Yet for some reason this team dropped 100 runs offensively. They won't be that bad. Rios and Dunn will more then make up for that and this team will again score 750.

On the pitching side of the ball the rotation is excellent, arguably the best in the division. Is there a #1? No. Maybe not even a #2. But there are easily 4 #3s which is more then enough when you have the bats this team possesses. 90 wins will be enough to win this division and that's where the ChiSox will finish.

2. Cleveland Indians
I'm coming around on the rotation and I like how they built their infield around defense. The club is going to be pesky and get starters out early as they will get on base a lot. Lot's of areas for improvement top to bottom and the team couldn't possibly be less healthy then they were last year.

The rotation is nice and I'm looking forward to seeing them develop as a unit. Not having a lefty just feels weird, as does not having a closer, but that's what makes this team a #2 instead of a #1.

However, this club is thin and another injury to one of their stars and the season is over.

3. Detroit Tigers
What was the difference between 2011 and 2010? Or 2009? Career years. Top to bottom this club received career years from their players. Jose Valverde didn't blow a single save last year. he probably should be expected to blow at least 5. Let's be lazy and call those 5 losses. Now we're a 90 win team. How about Fister, what were his numbers last year? Verlander has to be expected to take a step back. So on the pitching side I can see this team dropping 8-10 wins.

How about with the bats? Who sees Jhonny Peralta having another career year? At age "30"? How about Avila? Did they really improve with Fielder over Martinez? Let's not even talk about the infield defense.

Like I said, 2011 had everything go right for this team. Not only did everything click for them in-house, but the club also got lightning in a bottle from the other clubs in the division who were no-shows from June on-wards.

4. Minnesota Twins
I don't hate this team. It's not great, but it has what the Sox have in that they can't possibly be as unlucky as they were the previous year. The hitters will improve top to bottom as nearly everyone was injured or had a career year, albeit in the wrong direction.

The pitching staff is shallow, but it too has upside. And the bullpen again has some depth.

In all honesty, I could see the Twins overtaking the Tigers in this division.

5. Kansas City Royals.
This team has no rotation. None. And like the Orioles, the highly regarded arms they did have in the system haven't looked too great. It's going to take some clever work by Moore to get this club moving up the ladder. Fortunately they have the chips in the cupboard to make some noise with trades like they did with Sanchez.

The hitting should be solid for this team, but like the Tigers, there were a lot of career years for this club. The difference, those career years were from hitters that are in their prime. Still, it's tough to see Francouer or Gordon being as good as they was last year, same goes for Hosmer who should be a star, just not yet.

West

Everyone is taking the Rangers but as you have seen, I have my reservations against teams coming off of career years.

1. Anaheim Angels
You add Albert Pujols to an already playoff caliber team, you make the playoffs. You swap Bobby Abreu with Kendry Morales, you dominate your division. This club even had a fair amount of down years from their hitters. Which is why their additions should add about 100 runs, which will also be enough to get them in the playoffs.

Then, there is their rotation. The best in baseball in my opinion. It is young, durable, and absolutely deep, with 4 studs. The issue is if an injury creeps up on them. However, that shouldn't be an issue given the history of these pitchers. This could be an easy 100 win team if there ever was one.

2. Texas Rangers
We're probably looking at a Wild Card team here. More because of what they have to play against half of the time then on actual talent. Yes this team has a lot offensively, but it also has a lot of problems. I'm not banking on Josh Hamilton not falling off the wagon again. Where there is smoke, there is fire. Napoli far exceeded expectations. So too did Beltre. Cruz was a monster. Young isn't young. Just like the Yankees and the Tigers a great deal of regression has to be expected.

The pitching should be interesting to watch and may be enough to put this team over the top. Darvish sounds like he is a monster, but let's see how the workload and weather stateside fairs on him. Keep in mind he was pitching most of his games in temperature controlled ballparks. Texas is hot! The rest of the rotation is also a bunch of question marks, something a word-series bound team doesn't need to face.

Anyone who picks this team for the World Series is just copy and pasting last years results.

3. Seattle Mariners
A lot went wrong for this team last year. Not a lot will go right this year. However, it won't be as bad as last year and there is reason for hope. Offensively they should be better across the board, just look at Chone Figgins and Justin Smoak. They also added a dangerous prospect in some guy named Jesus Montero to improve on the worst DH spot in the league from a year ago, tough to imagine his OPS is less than .650.

On the pitching side this club will be okay. Most of the starters are just biding their time until a flux of young, high upside arms. This team is poised for a big move in 2013 and with deep pockets, the rest of the West should be alert.

4. Oakland A's
The worst team in the American League in my opinion. There aren't going to be a lot of runs scored at McAfee Collesium, at least not for the green and gold. The plus side, they might sell some additional tickets which won't force them to close the middle deck as well (my attempt at a joke, but do they even have a middle deck?)

The pitching is all prospects so whoever is throwing today doesn't really matter except for who they flip them for in a couple months. I can't see anyone being off-limits.

The hitting is starting to show some signs of development, but I expect a lot of strikeouts from these guys, which doesn't bode well when you are in a pitchers park.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dear Yahoo/Experts League Organizers

May you please allow me to join a league with Brandon Funston?

Yesterday Yahoo released their starting pitcher preseason ranks. Mr. Funston tabbed Jon Lester as his 11th best starting pitcher. That's right, 11th! Meaning there are 10 pitchers that are superior to Lester.

Now I know it is common for experts to undervalue pitchers, claiming that there are soooo many, and I will admit that I easily overvalue Lester - I have him as my #1 or #2 starter entering this season, I'm extremely bullish on him.

Here's the line I'm thinking for Lester for 2011 season - his age 27 season:
20w, 240k, 2.80, and 1.15

Honestly, I feel as though 20w might be a couple low, but it's tough to project more then 20 wins for any pitchers under any circumstances.

Now, the argument for why I see an improvement. First, the defensive squad behind Lester is arguably the best in baseball. While he pitches in a hitter friendly environment, his ground ball tendencies, that got even better in 2010, should negate the environment. This should then help decrease his ERA and WHIP.

Second, the wins. This Red Sox team is loaded, as I previously mentioned, in a defensive perspective, as well as it's bullpen (at least the top half), and the hitters. Speaking of the hitters, if Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury return to the form of 2009, this is going to be a devastatingly strong lineup. In other words, stay away from pitchers from the AL East this year.

Worst case scenario is that Lester puts up the numbers he did in 2011. While the ERA and WHIP were not the strongest of the top 10 pitchers, he easily made up for that with strikeouts and wins.

Let's look at Funston's top 10 and their 2010 numbers:
  1. Roy Halladay
  2. Tim Lincecum
  3. Adam Wainwright
  4. Felix Hernandez
  5. Clayton Kershaw
  6. Cliff Lee
  7. Josh Johnson
  8. Ubaldo Jimenez
  9. Tommy Hanson
  10. Zach Grienke
I'll ignore the top 5, even 6. But where the question marks begin to pop up are with the seventh through 10th players.

Josh Johnson is coming off of a season where his ERA and WHIP were incredible, neither of which are sustainable given his left on base percentage (LOB%). Further, we're talking about a guy that is fresh off of an end-of-season stint on the disabled list due to his shoulder flaring up and tightness in his back. Both of which are terrible signs for a starting pitcher that has only once logged over 200 innings and never put up 200 strikeouts. Add to the fact that the Marlins are a middling at best squad, and it's easy to think that Lester and Johnson could have similar rate stats with Lester logging an additional 40 strikeouts and 8 wins.

Next, Ubaldo Jimenez. I love the pitcher in real life and his stuff is unreal. However, he's yet to harness his control and until he does so, it's tough to rate him above Lester simply because of another unsustainable ERA. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Funston traded for Jimenez the first week in June - where his from that point out ERA was approaching 5.00. I would expect Lester to have Jimenez is all four starting pitcher categories.

Now we come up to the biggest head scratcher. It's obvious to me that Funston made this selection based on Tommy Hanson's second half, completely ignoring the fact that aside from a nice walk rate, Hanson did nothing to deserve the numbers he put up. If those second half numbers are extrapolated over the course of a full season, we're essentially looking at Kevin Slowey. That's right, Brandon Funston feels Slowey is a top 10 pitcher.

I like Hanson, but I don't see his second half numbers as a sign of things to come nor do I see him as the next Slowey. He's still got a lot of upside, but it's not enough to peg him as a better starter than Lester for this season.

Lastly, Funston picked Zach Greinke over Lester. We can easily conclude that based on the teams around these respective pitchers, Lester will chalk up more wins. Yes, I understand Greinke is moving to the National League and that two years ago he put up monster numbers, but to simply assume that his one monster season is the norm is a mistake.

Managing a fantasy baseball team is about understanding expectations. I agree that Joey Gathright should have become the next Juan Pierre, but it didn't happen. It is out of the question that any of these pitchers, or even another five not mentioned here jump over Lester this season? Certainly, but when we are looking at a pitcher with a clean bill of health that has dropped in 225 strikeouts for two straight seasons, pitches for a phenomenal team in all aspects of the game, and has strong groundball and control numbers, why take the risk on these others with question marks. These others that have to show a semblance of certainty.


So Brandon Funston, I'm asking you to explain yourself here. Fill us in as to why you would let Jon Lester be, in a 10 team league, someone #2 pitcher.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Let's Try This "Blogging" Thing Again, Again

I've been thinking that it's time to try getting back into writing. I truly did enjoy it when I was at my heyday of putting out an article a day and part of me misses it. While time may play a role in not allowing me to write as much as I would like, I'm going to give it a go, again, again.

The focus however will shift, it will shift to "Fantasy" baseball. While writing about Major League Baseball from an outsiders perspective providing feedback and breaking down trades provided a good starting off point, I feel as though I can't offer anything to the baseball community and the fans at large - at least at this point.

As such, I will focus on fantasy baseball and essentially provide my two cents. Of course I will try to remain open-minded, albeit with a bias towards ex-Bisons, past and present Indians, Canadians, and Koreans, my objective is to provide some insight and strategy for my readers, something I feel is currently lacking. That is, outside of the major media outlets, there is very little in terms of authentic fantasy baseball writing.

Where is this coming from? Today I purchased a "fantasy" guide, USA Today's 2011 publication. Honestly, it isn't to give me an inside edge over my peers in my leagues, rather to give me something to read while otherwise preoccupied. I've went through a few articles and one specifically stood out to me. The author of the article was discussing how fantasy managers "chase" pre-rankings, and average draft positions (ADP). The author made out as if it was foolish to follow these or use them as a guide and instead, owners should create their own set of "values".

While I won't disagree with the author's assertion that owners ought to create their own set of values - I for one have no interest in paying for a Jayson Werth unless he costs $10-12 or is a mid to late round draft selection - I caution an owner who strictly follows their own set of values.

Here's an example. I am in a 13 team, 5x5, mixed auction dynasty league. Two years ago in that league I took a "flyer"on Gordon Beckham in the reserve round. As you know he turned into a very promising keeper, one who cost me a very affordable $5 for the 2010 season. Unfortunately this $5 "bargain" ended up being a terrible disappointment and a huge over-expense.

Here we are just weeks before I am due to select keepers and Beckham's price tag for the 2011 season is now inflated to $11. This is where I'm torn. Had Beckham had the 2010 season I expected him to have (or, essentially the season he is projected to have this year - .273-15-81-77 - Bill James via FanGraphs) there's no question I keep him at $11. However, after his awful sophomore season, it got me thinking that I could potentially land him for a couple dollars less, after all, his 2011 season was disastrous before a mid-season turnaround.

In any event, even though I value Beckham as a $15-18 player and that's where I would take him in a re-draft league (I see 25 home run upside in him) I must adjust my strategy on Beckham based on his pre-draft rankings and "book" auction values. Instead of being torn whether or not to keep him at $11, a price I see him being more then worthy of, I must make a decision based on my league, not based on how I value my player.

That is, do I feel that $11 will be a "value" in my league, or do I feel that it will be too costly? I had originally pegged Beckham at $5-7 based on feedback I had received from my league mates. However, now that I see a lot of his expert values up over $11, it's tough to imagine I'll get him at $6 below cost.


Boiling this down to one quick conclusion, while the magazine I was reading suggested that average draft position should not be your be-all end-all, and there is some merit to that, one certainly has to consider the general consensus of a player when creating his value.

Next up, I will write about knowing your opponents.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Worst Blogger Alive....

Since the worst blogger died.

Quickly, San Francisco is still my pick to take the World Series. The Rangers have faired well to this point while not having to face the caliber of pitching that they will see from the Giants. Further, four of the possible seven games will take place in a pitchers ball park, where those can'o'corn homers will be more along their rightful lines.

I'm going with San Francisco in five, although I want to say six.

Either way, Giants win.

I think Panda has a huge series.
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