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Archive for the tag “Brett Lawrie”

Baseball 2012: Oddities and Conclusions, and Odd Conclusions

It’s never too early to draw specious conclusions from incomplete data.  Politicians do it all the time.  Therefore, not holding myself to a higher standard than those fine fellows, here’s what we’ve learned from this year’s baseball statistics thus far in 2012:

1)  Albert Pujols is actually 44-years old, and should be put out to pasture.  Seriously, I think it would be a bit premature to predict that Sir Albert will win this year’s A.L. MVP trophy.  Through nine games he has 40 plate appearances, no home runs, and 12 total bases.  It may take him the better part of a full year to adjust to the A.L., and even when he does, he still won’t automatically be the best player in the league.

2)  Break up the Mets!  They are off to a 6-3 start, including a pair of wins against the Phillies this past weekend.  Now just 0.5 games back of the Nats for first place in the N.L. East, and with baseball expanding to two Wild Card teams this year, it’s time to start printing up playoff tickets, isn’t it?

Well, no, it’s not.  The Mets Run Differential stands at exactly 0, meaning that this is essentially a .500 team, which is the best most of us Mets fans could hope for at the beginning of the year.

3)  The Pirates have the best pitching staff since the Braves when Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz and Neagle were hanging around.  The Pirates four primary starting pitchers: Correia, Bedard, Karstens, and McDonald all have ERA’s under 4.00, and the Pirates have given up fewer runs (22) than any other team in the N.L.

Conclusion:  Although the Pirates offense is awful, their pitching is good enough to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in the N.L. this year, ensuring many low-scoring (especially at home) but competitive ball games.

4)  You can have your Verlander, Kershaw, Lee, Hamels, King Felix, etc., but for my money, the one pitcher who continues to be completely unreal (and a future Hall of Famer) is the Phillies Roy Halladay.  At 2-0, and having given up just one earned run in 15 innings this year, Halladay has a real chance to reach 200 career wins before he loses his 100th ball game.  His career record currently stands at 190-92, and he just seems to keep getting better with age.

Did you know that Halladay has increased his strikeout totals for each of the past seven years?  That he has walked over 40 batters in a season just once in the past nine years?  That he has never lost more than 11 games in any of his 13 full seasons?  He’s as good as they come, folks, so enjoy him while you can.

5)  Matt Kemp is staking his claim as the best player in the National League.  He should have won the N.L. MVP award last season, leading the league in home runs, RBI, runs scored, OPS+, total bases, and WAR.  He also stole 40 bases in 51 attempts, and plays above average defense in center field.  This year, with the Dodgers off to a 9-1 start, thanks in large part to Kemp’s torrid start, there’s every reason to believe he’ll win his first MVP award.

6) The A.L. East is the most mediocre division in baseball.  No team currently has more than five wins, nor fewer than four.  Only 1.5 games separates last place Boston from first place Yankees, Orioles, and Blue Jays.  Realistically, it is possible that no one in this division will win more than 95 games, and it is conceivable that four of these five teams might still be separated by as little as 1.5 games going into the final week of the season.

A look at the current run differentials in this division, where Toronto’s +12 is currently the best, suggests that there are no great teams in this division, just several good ones.

7)  David Wright will be the first player in baseball history to hit .500 this year, while posting an OPS+ well in excess of a KaZillion.  On his way to cementing his status as the best position player in Mets history (if you overlook a little thing called defense), Wright appears to enjoy the newly reconfigured Citi Field dimensions.  Most encouragingly, Wright has struck out just twice in his first 26 plate appearances this year.  Yup, he’s Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Paul McCartney and Brad Pitt, all rolled up in one perfect guy.  Let’s Go Mets!

8)  In the apparent pre-season bet between Bobby Valentine and Ozzie Guillen to see which of them could throw their managerial job away first, Bobby V. appears to have the inside edge so far.  Yes, Guillen committed the worst possible sin in Miami by lauding Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, but, hey, he gets language confused, you know?  What he MEANT was the Castro was a brain-eating zombie who devours small children on whats left of the playgrounds in Havana.  It was the MEDIA who got him all confused, see?  ANYONE could have made that mistake, right?

Meanwhile, Bobby V. today managed to insult Kevin Youkilis in what was an apparent effort to “fire him up.”  Oh.  And then he apologized to Youk for saying what he said to fire him up.  Look, it is readily apparent that Boston, as a franchise, is still suffering from what they used to call shell-shock from last September.  Putting Bobby V. at the helm of a franchise suffering collectively from P.T.S.D. is like putting serial killer Ted Bundy in a rape-hotline call center (oh wait, he really did have that job.)

Prediction:  Both managers are fired before the season ends, Bobby V. getting thrown overboard first.

9)  Tommy Hanson will never pitch a complete game shutout in his career.  I’m not saying he’s not a good enough pitcher to do so.  Hanson’s a very good pitcher, but he is one of the least efficient pitchers in baseball, regularly going to 2-2 counts on virtually every batter he faces.  That’s not how you pitch deep into ball games.  In fact, Hanson has completed just one of his 79 career starts.  Maybe he’ll eventually learn to pitch to contact more frequently, but until he does so, he’ll always be a fine six-inning pitcher.

10)  Brett Lawrie will be an All-Star for the next twenty years.  Yes, he only has 211 career plate appearances, but here’s his 162 game average so far:  31 home runs, 100 RBI, 93 runs scored, 25 steals, a .911 OPS, and an OPS+ of 142 (the same as Mike Piazza.)  Waive the ten-years of MLB service requirement rule and put the kid in Cooperstown right now so he can enjoy the honor while he’s still young.

I’m sure you’ve drawn lots of early season conclusions of your own.  So please feel free to share them with me, and I’ll publish the best ones in my next post.

Baseball Predictions – 2012

As the calender turns to March, it is that time of year again when we force ourselves to turn away from the latest U.S. Women’s soccer headlines (“U.S. Starts Algarve Cup By Defeating Denmark!”), and turn, instead, towards the rising sun of Spring Training, and a new baseball season.

Which means it’s time for my 2012 baseball predictions.

You know the drill.  I predict, you shake your head sadly, we all forget about it a day later and move on with our lives.  So let’s get on with it.

American League 

East

1)  Tampa Bay

2)  Boston

3)  New York

4)  Toronto

5)  Baltimore

This is the year Tampa Bay begins to take charge in the East.  The pitching, the youth, the coherent plan emanating out of the front office.  It’s a good time to be a Rays fan.

Boston is still a very good team, but I don’t think they’ve gotten last season’s collapse out of their collective heads.  They wasted unbelievable seasons by Ellsbury and A-Gone, Beckett is a head-case, Lester let the team down in the end, and Bobby V. is too much of a lightning rod for this to be a smooth year in Boston.

With the retirement of Posada and the jettisoning of Burnett onto Planet Pittsburgh, The Yankees are going through a kind of youth movement by attrition.  Pineda was a nice pickup, but with two statues on the left side of the infield, a mediocre defensive outfield, and a team that is being heavily courted by the A.A.R.P, the Yankees have to hit a wall, and my money says it happens this year.

Toronto is like the girl on the fringe of her group that you should hit on because she’s the one most likely to say yes.  Not a threat to the others, but just interesting enough to keep your eye on.

Baltimore is the girl whom your best-friends wife insists has a nice personality.  Keep moving; nothing to see.

English: Miguel Cabrera at Dodger Stadium.

Image via Wikipedia

Central

1)  Detroit

2)  Cleveland

3)  Kansas City

4)  Chicago

5)  Minnesota

Not so comfortable with my three middle picks, but confident that Detroit and Minnesota will be the bookends.  I like where K.C. is headed, but I think Cleveland is, for the time being, a step ahead of them.

Robin Ventura will restore order in the White Sox clubhouse, and they could be better than I suspect, but there are just so many unanswered questions on this team right now that it is almost impossible to predict how they’ll finish.  So let me go ahead and foolishly say they’ll win 79 games.

Minnesota, even if Mauer and Morneau are reasonably healthy, is a bad team in a nice park.

West

1)  Angels

2)  Texas

3)  Seattle

4)  Oakland

If we’re going ahead this year with two Wild Card teams, and as of this writing it looks like we are, then one of the Wild Card teams will be either the Angels or the Rangers.  The other could be either Boston, or even, in a surprise, Cleveland.

Both the Angels and the Rangers have established themselves as the Dreadnoughts of the Western Division.  It should be a heavy-weight slug-fest of epic proportions, you know, like the ones we used to get excited about between the Red Sox and the Yankees.  I have to give a slight edge to Pujols and the Angels.

The Mariners, with Ichiro batting third, finish third by default because Oakland will basically field a Four-A baseball team (again) this season.

A.L.  MVP – Albert Pujols

Cy Young – David Price  

Rookie of the Year – Brett Lawrie  

National League

Bryce Harper

Image via Wikipedia

East

1)  Phillies

2)  Atlanta

3)  Nationals

4)  Florida

5)  New York

It all begins with the pitching, and I think the Phillies will find a way to score enough runs to support their legendary pitching staff.  Their window may not be open for much longer, but they should be able to hold off the competition in their own division.

The Braves have excellent young pitching, but there are some players on that team (Hanson, Jones, Jurrjens, and others) that are good friends with the D.L, and I’m not sure their lineup is sufficient to score enough runs to keep their pitchers from blowing out their arms.  Jason Heyward’s performance will go a long way in determining the overall success of this team.

I really like the Nats.  I think they are only a year or two away from being serious contenders.  I was even tempted to pick them to finish in second place in the N.L. East, but I chose the safe pick instead.  Harper will play at some point, and, for the Nats, the earlier the better.  Strasburg and the two Zimmerman boys (Jordan and Ryan) along with Harper will offer a plethora of choices for Nats fans to cheer about.

It is much anticipated that the Marlins, with all the changes they’ve made (not the least of which is their brand new stadium) will perhaps challenge for the top of the division this year, and perhaps they will.  I think Mike (Giancarlo, please) Stanton will lead the league in home runs.  But I also think  the rest of their best players are all too injury prone to lead this team out of mediocrity.  They’ll win more than they’ll lose, but they won’t see more than 85 wins this year.

The Mets won’t compete until around 2014, but I do like their G.M. and his associates, and Terry Collins was a good boy in Year #1.  Reyes was more exciting than he was highly productive, and I think they’ll be able to replace the runs they lost when he booked town, bogus batting title in tow.  But their pitching is probably the worst in the division, and until a couple of their young pitching prospects develop, and until current ownership is towed out to sea and buried in a lead-lined container, the immediate future looks bleak.

Central

1)  Brewers

2)  Reds

3)  Cardinals

4)  Cubs

5)  Pirates

6)  Astros

I had a hard time picking the winner here, but I like the Brewers starting pitching, and Braun will be back for a full year after-all, so I think they have enough to keep the wolves at bay for 2012.  The Reds are just too enigmatic to predict (though Votto is great)  and, yes, the Cardinals have been weakened by the losses of Pujols, LaRussa and Duncan.  Even with the return of Wainwright, I just don’t see enough pitching there to grab the division.

The Cubs, Astros and Pirates are each in various stages of rebuilding (or, in the Pirates case, re-re-re-rebuilding.)  The Cubs seem to be in the best position to turn things around the quickest of this group, but not this year.

West

1)  Diamondbacks

2)  Giants

3)  Rockies

4)  Dodgers

5)  Padres

The Diamondbacks are for real, and no other team in this division has enough balance to challenge them this year.  Justin Upton could win the MVP award this season.  They are not a GREAT team, but they are perfectly capable of repeating in this mediocre division.

I considered picking the Rockies to finish third, but Tulowitzki is due to carry this team into the playoffs (and, with a second Wild Card, he still might.)

I love the Giants top three pitchers:  Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner, but this team reminds me a little of the Mets in the early-to-mid ’70’s, excellent starting pitching with a well-below average offense.  They should win 80-something ballgames, but until they locate another serious bat, their fans will be treated to a lot of 3-2 pitching duels.

Even the magic of Kemp and Kershaw couldn’t lift the Dodgers out of mediocrity last year, and I don’t expect things to change much this year.  Another proud franchise undermined by horrid ownership.

The Padres play in lovely San Diego, so even if they suck, their fans will enjoy the day at the park.

N.L. MVP – Joey Votto  

Cy Young – Yovani Gallardo

Rookie of the Year – Bryce Harper

Fantasy Baseball Sleepers, 2012: The Hitters

A few posts ago, I wrote about sleeper fantasy baseball pitchers you should keep in mind come Draft Day.  This post will focus on ten hitters that should also provide above average value relative to their expected Draft Day ranking.  I have listed them in no particular order.

1)  Ike Davis – First Baseman Ike Davis was enjoying a very productive first six weeks of the season for the Mets before a bone-bruise to his ankle shelved him for the year.  Six weeks are a small sample-size, but Davis was on his way to 28 homer, 100 RBI season with about a .290-.300 batting average when he went down.  While that pace may have been a bit more than he would have sustained over the course of an entire season, he was also hitting in a more pitcher-friendly park last year than he will be this year.

Considering that first basemen Mark Trumbo and Paul Goldschmidt will probably be drafted a bit higher than Davis, you should be able to get better or equal stats at a cheaper price / lower round.

Matt Wieters

Image via Wikipedia

2)  Matt Wieters –  A few years back, Wieters made the cover of Sports Illustrated as baseball’s next great catcher.  The conventional wisdom is that Wieters, the fifth overall pick by the Orioles in the 2007 draft, has been something of a bust.

The conventional wisdom is wrong.  Catchers often take a bit longer than other position players to fully develop their craft, and besides, Wieters, a big kid at 6’5″, 225 pounds, won’t turn 26-years old ’till May.  Last year, he won his first Gold Glove and made his first All-Star team.  He slugged 50 extra base hits, including 22 homers, 68 RBI, and 72 runs scored.

Fifteen of those homers came in the second half of last season, so it is not out of the question that Wieters  could approach 25-30 homers, 80-90 RBI, and a .275 batting average.  Other catchers will be drafted higher, but Wieters should provide better overall value.

3)  Dexter Fowler –  Fowler, a fleet-footed Rockies outfielder, will, like Matt Wieters, turn 26-years old this season.  And like Wieters, his track-record to this point has been a bit underwhelming.

But again, like Wieters, there is reason to believe that Fowler’s best days are ahead of him.  Although he still strikes out a bit too often (130 last year), he did set career highs in doubles (35), triples (15), runs scored (84), and OPS (.796).  It has been reported that Fowler has been working out with Matt Kemp this past off-season, and has gained some muscle.

With the decline in offensive production throughout the Majors, Fowler doesn’t have to improve a lot more to become a serious force among MLB outfielders.  And with Coors Field as his home park, you should bet on further improvement.

Desmond Jennings

Image via Wikipedia

4)  Desmond Jennings – Jennings, another young outfielder, has already made Rays fans forget about Carl Crawford.  In his first 63 games in the Majors, Jennings has already produced 64 hits, scored 44 runs, stolen 20 bases, and hit ten home runs.  Even with a slump in September, Jennings projects as a top 20-25 outfielder this year, with potentially a much higher ranking next year.  If you are in a keeper-league, Jennings is a must-own.

5)  Carlos Santana –  How much value does a catcher who hit just .239 last season have?  If that catcher is Carlos Santana, the answer is, quite a lot.

In his first full season last year, Santana drew 97 walks, slugged 27 homers, added 35 doubles and scored 84 runs.  Even with the low batting average, his OPS was a nice .808.  Look for significant improvement in that batting average as Santana vaults to the front ranks of the catcher position in this, his age-26 season.

You may never again have an opportunity to draft a .239-hitting catcher with this much obvious talent.

6)  Jose Tabata –  Things to like about Jose Tabata:  1) Because he plays for the Pirates, no one will even notice him.  2)  He is only 23-years old. 3) He has excellent speed and the ability to steal at least 30 bases this year.  4)  He hit .290 as a lead-off hitter last year.  5)  He could still develop moderate power.

Sometimes, players with Tabata’s skill-set just don’t quite pan out.  But sometimes, growth happens more quickly than people expect.  Use a late-round pick on this young player with upside while others waste their picks on old-timers on their way out like Bobby Abreu, Magglio Ordonez, or Vernon Wells.

7)  Michael Morse –  Morse is probably the best-hitting 1B / OF in the N.L. that few people outside of Washington, D.C. have ever heard of.  But Morse, already 30-years old, is one of those players who once given a chance, provides far more value than anyone expects.

Morse should, at the very least, with an improved Nationals team on the field, come close to equaling last years 31 homers, 95 RBI, .303 batting average.  He also posted an excellent OPS of .910.  Some fantasy owners in your league will be betting against Morse reaching that same level of production again this year.  Most magazines list Carl Crawford, for example, significantly higher than Morse going into 2012.  And that’s fine.  That’s how you land a very good player in a lower round while others draft a slightly better player (if they’re lucky) in a much higher round.

Brett Lawrie

Image via Wikipedia

8)  Brett Lawrie – Several fantasy baseball magazines already have Lawrie rated as the 10th-12th best overall third baseman in the Majors.  By this time next year, he will be rated in the top five at his position.  So don’t wait until next year to discover Lawrie.  Draft a top-five player at his position the year before everyone else realizes how good he is.  A 20-homer, 20-steal season with a .300 batting average and 90 runs scored is not out of the question for Lawrie in what will be his first full season.

Lawrie, still just 22-years old, will make many All-Star teams in years to come.

9)  Mike Trout – Many years ago, back in 1993, in my first season of fantasy league baseball, I drafted a rookie outfielder on the Angels named Tim Salmon.  Salmon went on to win A.L. Rookie of the Year honors, and the lesson I learned that year was never be afraid to gamble on solid young talent, if they are given the opportunity to play everyday.

The only caveat, then, I offer regarding Trout (an even more highly rated prospect now than Salmon was back then) is to keep in mind that as of this writing, the Angels outfield is a bit crowded.  If their manager is wise, however, he will put his best players on the field.  Trout is already better than either the remnants of Bobby Abreu or Vernon Wells.

If  20-year old Mike Trout gets to play everyday, he has the talent to hit 20+ homers, drive in some runs, and even steal some bases.  Watch the situation carefully in Spring Training, and draft accordingly.  Who knows, you may have the next Tim Salmon on your hands, and, unlike Salmon, Trout doesn’t even have the added burden of having to swim upstream.

10)  Lucas Duda – In about half a season’s worth of at bats last year, the Mets’ Lucas Duda hit 10 homers, 21 doubles, drove in 50 runs, hit at least .300 in each of the last three months, posted an impressive .370 on-base percentage, and slugged nearly .500.  Already 26-years old, he’s probably not a superstar in the making, but late bloomers are not unheard of, and Duda will benefit (as will all Mets) from the cozier dimensions at Citi Field in 2012.

Expecting a line of .290 / .365 / .490 with 20+ homers, 80-90 RBI, and 30-40 doubles over the course of a full season from a player who also qualifies at two positions (first base and outfield) makes Duda a nice later-round pick in your draft.

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