Archive for March, 2006

2006 NL Central Preview

Friday, March 31st, 2006
  Joe Dave Mark Chris Tommy
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Dave’s Explanation

I hate the friggin’ Cardinals. There. I’m predicting a wild card for my Cubbies based on the following: C, 1B, 2B (be it Walker or Hairston), 3B, CF, Zambrano, the back of the bullpen, and Matt Murton. With luck, Cedeno will outhit Neifi to keep his job, Jacque Jones will hit well, Jerome Williams will pitch well, Glendon Rusch will work his weird magic, Maddux will have one more good year in him, and we’ll get 25 starts from Prior. Oh, and Dempster won’t turn into a pumpkin. Enough question marks for you? I STILL believe. I’m gettin’ scared of Milwaukee; lots of young talent. Houston, on the other hand, I do not fear. Outside of Oswalt, Pettitte, Berkman, and Lidge, they’ve got “Killer Bs” so old their stingers are duct taped on, the Mirage of Ensberg, and Preston Wilson. There’s somebody else in this division – oh, the Pirates! ARRRGH! They’ll be goin’ straight to Davy Jones’ Locker! Shiver me timbers!

Tommy’s Explanation

I may be drummed out of the brotherhood for these picks but that’s the way I see the chips falling. The Brewers rotation rivals the best in the league. Credit the brain trust for an ensemble of players laden with talent as well as a healthy dose of experience. Go ahead and laugh at my
picking the Pirates finishing 2nd. By the end of the season everyone will know the name Zach Duke. Casey and Burnitz will shine in their new digs. There will be no 100 win season in the cards for St. Louis this year. Carpenter and Pujols will shine but the rest of the team is more or less pedestrian.

The Houston trainers will be working overtime once again. Mr. Bagwell, so retire already, will ya? And take that Biggio guy with all of his body armor with you! The Reds might make some noise this year if Milton can get back on track and the club as a whole starts showing some plate discipline. I pray on everything that is holy that I am wrong about the Cubs. The Wood-Prior fiasco continues to deplete this club of any positive energy and needed capital to secure A-list pitchers. Bullpen upgrades are all very well and good. But enough is enough already. Unload and re-tool!

Mark’s Explanation

Okay I’m going out on a limb on this one but I think that Milwaukee will be this year’s darkhorse. The past few years the Brew Crew has been developing prospects here in Nashville so I’ve seen the likes of Prince Fielder, Weeks, Hardy…if anybody falters Nelson Cruz is ready to come up and man the outfield. I’m guessing that the Brewers will surprise most of the experts and take the NL Central. Good GMs find a way to win even during rebuilding years and that’s why the Cards will keep trucking along. They’ve lost a lot in the past two years but I think they’ve still got enough to make it to the playoffs as a wildcard team. Houston will drop off but still have enough gas in the tank to hold off the bottom three teams.

After another rash of injuries and costly field management mistakes the Cubs will be essentially out of the race by Independence Day. Prior will be nursing his shoulder and pitching out of the bullpen because Hendry thinks the Cubs still have a mathematical chance 8.5 back. Neifi will be playing every day at either second or short, the Two Mikes (North and Murphy) will be howling and hopefully Dusty will be gone by August 1st. Cincinnati can still hit but they still can’t pitch – both their rotation and their pen will be rocked on a daily basis. Pittsburgh will be improved but how can the players ramp it up when the 3000 fans that actually show up at the stadium are reading bulldog editions of the morning paper?

Chris’s Explanation

The Cardinals are still good enough to win this division. They lost Larry Walker and Reggie Sanders, but they only played about 100 games each last year, and a healthy Scott Rolen will make a bigger difference than either of those two. I believe that Roger Clemens will go back to the Astros this year, and with roughly the same team, they’ll finish 2nd again. It won’t be good enough to get the Wild Card this year though. The Brewers made a good pickup in Corey Koskie. He’ll provide leadership for their rookies, and keep Jeff Cirillo on the bench. If Mike Maddux keeps working his magic with the pitchers, they’ll finish over .500 this year. If Prior was healthy, I’d have the Cubs 2nd. If Prior and Wood were healthy, I’d have them 1st. But with both guys injured, and the backup plan consisting of Rich Hill and a rehabbing Wade Miller, I can’t see them doing better than fourth. As usual, the Reds needed to get some pitching this offseason, and as usual, they didn’t. they’ll score a ton of runs, and give up even more, unless they finally decide to trade one of their good hitters for a starter. Can Jim Tracy make the Pirates a winner? No, he can not.

Joe’s Explanation

My explanation of this whole NL Central mess can be hear on my recent appearance on Sports Bloggers Live. Here is a link to listen to the 7 minute MP3.

Upcoming Schedule
Saturday – NL West
Sunday – Awards and Playoffs
Monday – Book Review “The Last Nine Innings” & Guest Stats Column

Trade update: The Cubs have traded LHP John Koronka to the Texas Rangers for utility player Freddie Bynum. Freddie appears to be a jack of all trades type of guy. He’s only had seven at bats in the majors; last year for Sacramento he hit .278 2 HR 40 RBI with 23 SB. He struck out 22% of his at bats. Ryan Theriot has been sent to Iowa, thus completing the Cubs’ 25 man roster.

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2006 NL East Preview

Thursday, March 30th, 2006
  Joe Dave Mark Chris Tommy
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Dave’s Explanation

I see this division as up for grabs. The perennial winner, Atlanta, might have enough in the Jones boys, Hudson, and little Marcus Giles, but Francouer isn’t going to be that good again, Mazzone’s Menagerie of Miracles has pulled up stakes and gone to Baltimore, Renteria’s an overpriced turd (yes, I would rather have Cedeno), and Smoltz is an injury risk. So Philly has a chance with Brett Myers, Slobby Bobby and Pat the Bat, and Ryan Howard. Somebody from the Wolf/Lieber/Lidle camp has a good season and Jimmy Rollins gets on base, and they win the division. The Mets are relying on the balsa arm of Pedro, a surgeon’s dream in Floyd, a declining Glavine, signed Julio Franco, and still have OBP holes at SS and 2B, and CF if they play Chavez a lot. On the other hand, they also added Delgado, Wright is a year older, Beltran will have a better year, and I like Nady, too, so they could take it. Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera, suddenly the experienced old hands on a very young team, will keep the Marlins from losing 100 games, but not much more than that. As for Washington…here’s what I like: Livan, Schneider, and Marlon Byrd’s return to form. The rest of the roster looks a lot like a fantasy team that some guy created but hasn’t checked back on since the automated draft.

Tommy’s Explanation

Pressure is on New York. Sizable investment in balanced attack means they are built to win NOW! Pedro’s Shea ERA – 2.29. As for Philadelphia, getting close but will fail to catch the Mets. Great at home, just so-so on the road. No blue chippers on the mound, either. Soriano’s public discontentment will affect his offense and cost the team needed wins. The Atlanta magic turns black this season. Leo Mazzone’s departure will have debilitating effects throughout the organization. Watch Smoltz begin his Greg Maddux slide to mediocrity. Down in Florida, rookie manager Joe Girardi deserves better than a squad that resembles a half way decent AAA club but that’s about it.

Mark’s Explanation

Okay here we go. Admittedly for the first time in three years I’m actually gonna predict Atlanta as the division winner. And it’s not a question of hindsight being 20/20 – rather, it’s the fact that Atlanta has successfully rebuilt itself without losing a step. You’ve gotta respect John Schuerholtz – he makes Jim Hendry look like chump change. The Atlanta new talent attack will be led by Francoeur and McCann and they’ve got plenty of returning talent as well. The Bravos will run away with this division.

I had originally thought that the Mets would mount a significant attack in the NL East but they should realistically orient toward the wildcard. Beltran is going to start earning his salary and I love Wright and Reyes on the left side. The Phils’ offense rocks and I even took Utley again for my fantasy team with an early pick. But their starting pitching just ain’t gonna cut it – after Leiber they’re in serious trouble. Hope their bullpen can hold up because they’re going to get plenty of work.

I’m going to pick the Marlins ahead of Washington because they’ve got some serious talent that’s going to bloom as they gain experience. Hermida is a potential Rookie of the Year and Vargas is a real sleeper if he’s available in your fantasy league. Everybody knows about Mike Jacobs, and Willingham and Hanley Ramirez are darkhorse RoY candidates. It’s a real shame this team plays in Miami.

Not to denigrate the Nats but they’re not going to cut it this year because of all the distractions (stadium and some dufus named Alfonso.) Perhaps there’s light at the end of the tunnel – Dusty might end up in the nation’s capital in 2007 and Robbie might finish his career in the Friendly Confines. One can only hope…

Chris’s Explanation

Omar Minaya must have lived his life’s dream this offseason. He finally got a chance to take advantage of another team’s fire sale, and the Mets came away with a good haul in Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca. They’ll also have an excellent outfield, if Carlos Beltran can rebound from last year, and a good bench with Julio Franco and Xavier Nady. So this will be the year that the Braves are finally knocked off the top of the division, but not out of the playoffs. Kelly Johnson, Ryan Langerhans and Jeff Francoeur will take a step back this season, but I think they’ll have the Braves back on top in a few years. I like the Phillies pickup of Aaron Rowand, but they didn’t address their starting pitching in the offseason, which will be a problem, as there isn’t much there beyond Jon Lieber and Randy Wolf (and they’re not great). Washington didn’t make enough improvements to better their .500 record from last year, and I don’t like the Soriano trade, as Alfonso hit badly away from cozy Ameriquest Field and Washington’s park is much bigger. The real excitement in DC will be watching to see when Frank Robinson finally gets fed up with Soriano (I’m taking Memorial Day). There isn’t much I can say about the Marlins, as most of their players have no big league experience, but they’ll probably win the World Series in 2012 as the Las Vegas Bandits.

Joe’s Explanation

When will people learn not to pick against the Braves. When you’ve won 4632 division titles in a row you think that would be enough. I’m going to pick them because i’m tired of looking like a fool each year. As far as the rest of the pack, I think Philly is just a hair better than the Mets and because the Mets never seem to buy guys that gel as a team, I think they come in a close third. As for the bottom, Joe Girardi is going to do a lot with the kids, but they won’t have enough experience to squeak into 4th.

Upcoming Schedule
Friday – NL Central
Saturday – NL West
Sunday – Awards and Playoffs
Monday – Book Review “The Last Nine Innings” & Guest Stats Column

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2006 AL West Preview

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006
  Joe Dave Mark Chris Tommy
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Dave’s Explanation

The time is now! Oakland will rise to the Big Stage, losing to the Cubs in 6 games. The Multi-Municipal Angels will give them a run for their money, but fall short. Colon will miss time, Molina the Lesser will be a downgrade at catcher, Edgardo Alfonzo, Orlando Cabrera, Erstad, and Juan Rivera will gum up the offense, and they’ll lose out. Texas still doesn’t know what the heck they’re doing, but their rising offensive stars will make them respectable. Ichiro, Beltre, and Sexson will mask the fact that the Mariners are a couple injuries away from being Kansas City.

Tommy’s Explanation

With talented youth to burn & extraordinary potent Chavez, A’s poised to grab the division title. Angels look unbeatable on paper. Figgins could be the most versatile player in the majors. Rotation must maintain 05′s effort and then some. Rangers rotation Texas sized concern. Millwood
should help. Blalock fizzles after the break. Seattle needs to power up to compete. Team prays Beltre’s debut bust just a fluke.

Mark’s Explanation

Oakland will continue doing what they do best – making the most out of superior starting pitching and a balanced offensive attack. Injuries could have a lot of say as to how this team performs – anticipate another late season onslaught from the A’s. Imagine what Billy Beane could do with the Cubs payroll… Anaheim (or whatever they are called these days) has a solid foundation with Figgins, Guerrero and Bartolo Colon. Casey Kotchman will be on my fantasy team, I like this kid.

They’re good but I don’t think they’re good enough to beat out Oakland’s pitching. Look for Texas to be greatly improved with Kevin Millwood and Vincente Padilla, but they’re still playing in a shoebox. The effect that a disproportioned stadium has on Texas is comparable to what Coors does to the planners in Denver. Finally and least noteworthy are the Seattle Mariners. Even Ichiro is tiring of this game, forget these guys because their ownership certainly has. The Seattle Mariners are the baseball equivalent of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Chris’s Explanation

Oakland looks to have the best combination of pitching and hitting. If Frank Thomas and Bobby Crosby can stay healthy, I think they’ll run away with the division. LA seemed to bank their offseason on picking up Manny Ramirez and they didn’t do it. Vlad Guerrero is the only scary hitter in their lineup. Texas on the other hand, can score runs, and Millwood and Eaton will improve their pitching, but it doesn’t look like enough to me. Seattle finished 26 games out last year, and they added Matt Lawton and Carl Everett. If I was Jim Hendry, I’d start calling about Ichiro, now.

Joe’s Explanation

While I agree with everyone that Oakland is probably the most solid on paper. I feel really good about the Angels for 2 reasons. 1) Casey Kotchman is going to have a bust out season at first base. 2) Ervin Santana will make a strong run at 20 wins. Those two factors combined with a better lineup have me picking the Angels over the A’s in a dogfight.

Upcoming Schedule
Thursday – NL East
Friday – NL Central
Saturday – NL West
Sunday – Awards and Playoffs
Monday – Book Review “The Last Nine Innings” & Guest Stats Column

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2006 AL Central Preview

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006
  Joe Dave Mark Chris Tommy
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Dave’s Explanation

Now is the time for the Indians to take over. They look pretty good at every position not manned by Aaron Boone, and they have players on the uptick with no red flags on the injury front to worry about. The Sox will return to earth a little; too many things went just right for them last year, and i’m not convinced that Thome’s not done. The Twins have Joe Mauer, a good bullpen, and reason to expect Cuddyer and Morneau to come up big. They have a lot of good-enough guys like Lew Ford and Shannon Stewart to hang in there, but if Mauer/Cuddyer/Morneau have big years they could take the division. In Detroit, Bonderman’s for real, Maroth’s career seems like a workhorse/journeyman type rather than a star, and I gotta believe Pudge, Guillen, Magglio, and Dmitri will miss playing time. I dont know what KC is thinking, signing all the 4A All-Stars to play regularly. they’re the Veeck-less St. Louis Browns reborn.

Tommy’s Explanation

Sox make playoffs, but that’s it. Got career years last year from their starters. Encore? Hmmm. New Indians Hollandsworth and Dubois together cannot fill departed Coco Crisp’s shoes. Twins’ hopes of reclaiming division may rest on Rondell White’s health. Sorry, Minnesota. And Santana’s 2nd consecutive Cy Young snub could start having discouraging consequences. Leyland and Polanco give Tigers some bite but in this division not enough to shake things up. And the biggest shame in baseball (Other than Barry Bonds, that is)? Watching the decline of the once proud organization known as the Kansas City Royals.

Mark’s Explanation

Not much change in the pecking order in this division but the bottom of the division should improve. Cleveland and the Chisox will duke it out all year long and the Indians will squeak by at the end. I know Sox fans are going to howl at this prediction because the Indians lost Crisp, Millwood, Riske, Howry and Rhodes. But I’m expecting Jason Michaels to exceed Crisp’s impact and I like the addition of Marte, who will take the 3B job away from Boone. Look for emergences in the Tribe’s bullpen from Fernando Cabrera and Matt Miller.

The Sox will provide a formidable opponent to the Tribe, but I anticipate a bit of a sophomore slump and a few more injuries.
Minnesota will take third just because they haven’t changed all that much; look for Detroit to improve slightly because of the impact of future star Curtis Granderson. Kansas City will be vastly improved so it’s possible that they could surpass the Tigers for fourth.

Chris’s Explanation

If Jim Thome really is healthy, the White Sox offense will be better than last year. Some people say that they’ve messed up their chemistry by trading Rowand and El Duque, but if their top 4 starters all pitch 200 innings with sub 4.00 ERAs again, it won’t matter. Cleveland almost caught the Sox last year, but I think their pitching is a little worse. I see them winning the Wild Card. The Twins still have good pitching, and Luis Castillo fills a hole at 2nd base, but they needed a power hitter and they got Tony Batista?!? I cant pick them higher than 3rd after than move. I think Detroit’s pitching will improve but their main problem is that their best hitters are Carlos Guillen, Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Dmitri Young, and all are starting to break down physically (none of them played 130 games last year). Anyway, this division is too good for them to break through. Kansas City is bad. Real bad.

Joe’s Explanation

The White Sox have the best SP in the AL Central and perhaps all of baseball. When you factor that in with a lineup that is slammed full of guys that can just flat out play baseball, you have got to like the Sox chances. I personally believe it’s a no brainer in the division there and it could turn into a repeat of the Sox winnin’ ugly days if the Central is not careful. Where I differ from my partners is that I have the Twins slightly ahead of the Tribe based totally on the young players in Minnesota. When you look at Mauer and Morneau, they just seem ready to shine. I think they’ll propel the Twins just past the Indians. As far as Detroit and KC, the Tigers have some decent pitching and KC is just plain BAD!!!

Upcoming Schedule
Wednesday – AL West
Thursday – NL East
Friday – NL Central
Saturday – NL West
Sunday – Awards and Playoffs
Monday – Book Review “The Last Nine Innings” & Guest Stats Column


In other news, I was on Sports Bloggers Live last night talking about my take on the NL Central. If you can’t wait until Friday to hear about it, go to www.sportsbloggerslive.com and find the link.


Todd Wellemeyer has been traded to the Florida Marlins for two minor league pitchers.

Marquis Grissom has announced his retirement.

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2006 AL East Preview

Monday, March 27th, 2006
  Joe Dave Mark Chris Tommy
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Dave’s Explanation

New York will ride Chacon, Jeter, A-Rod, Damon, Godzilla, and Sheff to victory. Their injury risk factor is pretty high, so I docked them a little. Torontos pitching looks good. Their position players have competent players at many positions; a big year from Glaus and a resurgent Vernon Wells could catapult them past the aging Yanks. But if Alex Rios gets 450 at-bats, Ill take that back. Boston needs some luck (healthy Beckett and Schilling, Wells continue to defy his age, a healthy Trot Nixon, Varitek not breaking down at 33, an age when catchers show their age, Alex Gonzalez not sucking down the offense) to get back on top. I actually like the addition of Lowell, Loretta, and Crisp, but They just have so many risks that i’m skeptical. The Mazzone Factor is enough to push the Os over .500, and Tampa Bay is improving. All in all, a good division.

Tommy’s Explanation

Young and hungry, Toronto added enough depth and experience to leapfrog the Big Two. Halladay leads the charge. Ed McMahon should introduce New York’s lineup Opening Day. Heeeeere’s Johnny!! But then the President of AARP should throw out the first ball. Yankees getting old fast. The afterglow is dimming in Boston. The two year old miracle is already losing its luster, Good thing for them, they are playing in the AL’s worst division.Tampa needs to put Julio Lugo in the leadoff spot and keep him there. The team actually wins more than they lose when Julio bats first. Tejada should fire his agent for talking him into going to Baltimore. Is it too late to make that Prior/Tejada trade?

Mastrick’s Explanation

Oh well, it’s deja vu all over again. The baseball gene pool has combined it’s financial resources to create the 2006 version of the New York Yankees. This should be one of the better Yankee teams to play in some years. I like the team chemistry with A Rod, Sheff, Jeter, and Matsui – the pitching will be on a par with any team in baseball. This team will combine it all to win a championship in 2006.

Boston gave up a lot but it gained a lot too. I like Coco in center and second base looks like a plus move too. Youklis at first….no movement, perhaps Hee-seop Choi will take over and at least give them a solid defense. The Boston rotation might be the best starting rotation in the league.

Look for Toronto to be the most improved team in baseball, along with the Milwaukee Brewers. The Blue Jays will do it with decent pitching and balanced hitting – despite the currency disadvantage of having to collect receipts in Canadian dollars and pay salaries in American dollars the Blue Jays are back.

Baltimore is always an enigma to me. They play in one of baseball’s palaces and they have good fan support. But their management team is always going for guys like Palmiero, Sammy Sosa, Corey Patterson…the Brian Roberts and Erik Bedards are few and far between. Look for the O’s to do their usual midseason swan dive albeit with better pitching numbers.

You have to respect Devil Rays fans. We think we’ve got it bad – we have an inept management team with Hendry and Baker but those poor folks have us beat bigtime. Lou Piniella was a good leftfielder for the Yanks and he did okay with the Mariners. But he sure didn’t turn the Tampa franchise around….oh well, perhaps he can ‘manage’ but he sure can’t lead.

Now the D-Rays have a ‘newer better improved’ management team – let’s wish ‘em the best of luck. This will not be a bad team but I still expect ‘em to finish dead last in the East. Eventually I see the Tampa franchise contracting or combining with another franchise such as the Marlins.

So sayeth Mastrick.

Chris’s Explanation

New York improved an already good offense with Johnny Damon, which should keep them on top of the division. I think that Toronto may have added enough to get to second place. AJ Burnett was considered their big pick up, but i’m more impressed with how they’ve improved their offense with Molina Glaus and Overbay. Boston added a proven playoff pitcher in Josh Beckett, but the problem is, Beckett cant handle the long haul of the season. I think that Schilling, Wells and Wakefield may have too many miles to pick up the slack. If Tampa was allowed to play 7 outfielders at a time, they might have a decent hitting team. Eventually they’re going to have to trade one of those guys, right? Their pitching staff is mostly rookies and cast-offs.

Joe’s Explanation

When you look over the AL East, it seems to me that George Steinbrenner may have finally been able to buy himself the missing piece. Damon should be the key part that will win the Yankees the division. I’m not really using logical sense when I pick Boston over Toronto with all the money the Jays spent, but something about the Red Sox lineup this year just looks good to me. I think they have enough with Coco Crisp taking over the leadoff spot to get by Toronto. Where I go totally crazy is picking the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to finish 3rd in the division. I’m going out on a limb on this one based on the amount of young talent in that organization. Crawford, Baldelli, Gomes make up a very nice young OF. I think with the if the young pitching can come through, Tampa will make a major move this year. Baltimore and Toronto appear to be the odd teams out and will finish the year a disappointing 5th and 4th respectively.

Upcoming Schedule
Tuesday – AL West
Wednesday – AL Central
Thursday – NL East
Friday – NL Central
Saturday – NL West
Sunday – Awards and Playoffs
Monday – Book Review “The Last Nine Innings” & Guest Stats Column

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Corey Can’t Catch a Break

Sunday, March 26th, 2006

This comes from the Baltimore Sun

It’s becoming more likely that Markakis starts in center field. And I heard again how the Orioles have grown disenchanted with Corey Patterson and would like to move him, though his contract and brief stay in the organization make it difficult.

Patterson came to the Orioles expecting to start in center field, but it looks like Markakis has moved ahead of him. Starting in left field today, Patterson couldn’t run down Carlos Delgado’s towering fly ball near the left field line, and it dropped in for a single.

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Danger Will Robinson!

Sunday, March 26th, 2006

Scott Williamson had to leave the game today after one batter – he accidentally hit that batter. It remains to be seen how serious this injury is; bear in mind that Williamson has had two Tommy John surgeries.

On an unrelated note, condolensces to the family and friends of Rahal Letterman driver Paul Dana, who died today during the IRL race in Homestead, FL. Paul was a resident of Indianapolis, IN and a graduate of Northwestern University.

Update:

I’m adding to this article because the AL East projections should rightfully be at the top of our page. But I still feel compelled to vent a little bit about what’s happening at Spring Training. First of all, I’m absolutely thrilled about the job that Sean Marshall is doing; let’s hope he breaks camp with Iowa and gets 1-2 starts in before being called up to fill the fifth starter spot. Angel Guzman pitched well the last time out and I think John Koronka has beat Michael Warts out of a job. I’ve had my fill of Wuertz and Wellemeyer, we need to drop those players like a bad habit.

But at the same time I’m starting to be a bit concerned about Juan Pierre. Until now I’ve kept my yap shut because Juan puts out 110% – but given last year’s rather mediocre results I’m starting to get real concerned about Pierre’s pathetic .200 average and .233 OBP. Juan, it’s time to step on the gas peddle and show us what you can do.

I’m also greatly concerned that a washed-up old grizzly old veteran, Marquis Grissom will make this club. To give a guy with a .200 batting average a spot over others that have fought for a roster spot and achieved better (Pagan and Restovich) would be a travesty. The Cubs need to give Grissom every at bat possible to redeem himself, then advise him to either retire or cut loose. Because his current level of performance is *not acceptable.* Let’s hope the Cubs management gets this right instead of sending the wrong message to the fans and players.

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Root, root, root.

Saturday, March 25th, 2006

Mastrick’s post about Choi got me thinking. I was a Choi fan from the start; based on an idea of him rather than a reality: that of a power-hitting, patient, mysterious otherlander who would deliver a championship to the team. We’ve seen that there are flaws in his swing, but there’s still time for him to have a very good career…I’m still rooting for him.
There are guys like that all around the league. Guys I hope do well, regardless of a) what they’re physically or mentally capable of, and b) what they have done in the past. Like the Cubs themselves, they’re guys I’m pulling for. Here’s one for each position, and if you notice a Cub bias, allow your eyes to wander to the top of the blog for an explanation.

C: Todd Pratt. Like Mark Parent before him, I was always hoping somebody would give Pratt 400 at-bats, let him hit .280 and hit 25-30 homers. Sure, his defense would be adequate, at best, but the offense would make it worth it. When he homered in place of Piazza in the ’99 NLDS I was saying, “See? See?” to all my annoyed friends. Ignore most of the rest of his postseason play and I was right. Now an Atlanta Brave, he’ll be caddy and Crash Davis to Brian McCann.


1B Hee Seop Choi. Before he ever faced an opposing pitcher, I took Choi’s build, patience, reputation, and big smiley face and anointed him my Next Favorite Cub. I blamed the collision and resulting concussion, and then Dusty, for his failure to blossom as a Cub. Then I blamed the Dodgers. Now I guess I’ll blame the Sox unless he makes a star out of himself, but he’s always above reproach in my mind.

2B Marcus Giles. Forget the Prior collision. He’s a little guy with power and patience. He’s the kind of guy regular guys should root for — the guy scouts don’t notice. I know Giles is already a big name, but I was rooting for him before he got a chance and I’ll be supporting him long after he’s productive.

SS Alex Cintron. I know his limitations, but in Baseball Mogul he was a great player for me many times. I’ve formed an irrational connection with his name (Brian Lesher, Aaron Ledesma, and Mike Holtz are 3 others I rooted for because they served me well in the ‘Mogul universe). In the sideways world of Baseball Mogul ’98, he would hit .310 with 15 homers, a .400 OBP, a .480 SLG, speed, and defense. I loved that version of him. I’m always hoping the real Cintron turns into that kind of player. Even though he couldn’t possibly.

3B Sean Burroughs. I hope this fatboy turns into a post-millenial version of Tony Gwynn. I hope he starts hitting, stays healthy, stays fat, and makes the hall of fame. I can’t explain why except for that I kept getting duplicates of Jeff Burroughs baseball cards when I was a kid and the name stands out, and that he was a Little League champ.

LF Hideki Matsui. He has an intimidating face. He looks like a guy who could whoop up on you. And he has a funny, middle-parted, thick head of hair that looks somehow off sitting above his scary face. Plus, his nickname is “Godzilla,” and he was the first power hitter from Japan to play in MLB, so he was a stereotype-breaker. Go, go, Godzilla! (Also, Matt “Punkinhead” Murton, for obvious reasons.)

CF Gary Matthews, Jr. I know. Bad choice. But he’s the Sarge’s son! The Sarge, man! Plus, he’s so fast! And he made some diving catches! I’m still rooting for him, even though I was half-rooting, half-dreading him as a Cub.

RF Dustan Mohr. This guy has power and patience. I wish him the best, but I get the feeling he’s going to get jerked around his whole career and possibly turn into Jeff Manto.

SP (3)
Carlos Zambrano. Easy pick. I’m behind him 100%. I hope he’s a Cub for 20 years, I hope he wins 20 games for us several times, and I hope he never quite gets control of his temper. Which usually I hate, but it fits him.

Jamie Moyer. Another guy I dreaded as a Cub, but I love that he had a great career afterwards. And he did it all with deception and smarts. Obviously he’s a jock and was probably dominant in high school and the envy of all, but in my febrile mind he’s “Revenge of the Nerds” in real life. I imagine him as a bookish twerp who the jocks beat up on all the time (unlike me, of course). Then, one day, he comes out for baseball practice and nobody does anything better than hit a weak grounder off of him. Yes, these are the kind of criteria I’m using for this list.

Tim Wakefield.
I don’t ever want knuckleballers to go away. I want him to pitch until he’s 60 with that ridiculous “windup” and floatin’ knuck.

RP
Now that Jesse Orosco’s gone, I’m pulling for Travis Driskill (another everyman), Huston Street (a UT closer while I lived in Austin), Jae Seo (is he a starter or reliever this year? Anyway, I wanted to mention his name), and Jesse Crain (a success story from Out of the Park Baseball –if the data version of him can be great, why not the real one?)

So without regard to logic and/or reality, who are you rooting for?


In unrelated news, Ryan Klesko’s comment on the Padres site caught my eye. He’s been having some shoulder issues and said

“It’s something I have to deal with until I get it fixed at the end of the year,” Klesko said on Friday night before the Padres hauled out the heavy lumber against the A’s. “It’s bone on bone. The AC joint’s 65 to 70 percent damaged.

“It crunches and pops every time I move it. When it gets caught, it’s going to cause me discomfort. But with the treatments we’re doing to keep the inflammation out of the joint, we’ll get through it. It feels pretty good right now, knock on wood.

“Hopefully, I can get through the year without any setbacks.”

That does sound ok. When it starts to snap and crackle, then you have problems.

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Reason For Hope?

Saturday, March 25th, 2006

Let’s face it, when you said “I Do” to the Cubs as your team, you essentially locked the ball on your leg for life. My writers on this site seem to be trying to jump ship on the season before it has begun. Me? I’m an eternal optimist who honestly believes the Cubs have a shot at the World Series every year. But that does not mean that I am not also a realist as well once the season begins. I just don’t see how you cannot have hope as the season starts. That’s the great thing about baseball. You never truly know what your team will do that year until the games play out. With that being said, I decided to take a look at last years performance and see what type of improvement we needed this year to get where we need to be.

One particular concept I have been looking at a lot lately is a Bill James formula for predicting a team’s record based on their runs scored and runs allowed.

Pythagorean Record (Link)
A formula for converting a team’s Run Differential into a projected Won/Loss record. The formula is RS^2/(RS^2+RA^2). Teams’ actual won/loss records tend to mirror their Pythagorean records, and variances can usually be attributed to luck.

You can improve the accuracy of the Pythagorean formula by using a different exponent (the 2 in the formula). In particular, a sabermetrician named US Patriot discovered that the best exponent can be calculated this way: (RS/G+RA/G)^.285, where RS/G is Runs Scored per game and RA/G is Runs Allowed per game. This is called the PythagoPat formula.

What I decided to do was assume the worst and expect the Cubs to allow the exact same runs as last year. Once I assumed that, I basically asked the question “What kind of offense would we need to counteract that defense from last year and boost us to various win plateaus. Here is the basic math explaination of my research using the formula.

Last year the Cubs allowed 714 runs. What I did was plug in that number in the runs allowed section and left Runs scored as X since we didn’t know how many it would take. Then, I plugged in various win percentages to solve for X and find the runs needed to achieve that win percentage assuming the runs allowed stay the same. I put together some numbers to illustrate how minimal the difference really is.

Wins Runs Needed Increase R/G Increase
81 714 11 0.07
85 750 47 0.29
90 798 95 0.59
95 850 147 0.91
100 907 204 1.26

As you can see, the Cubs really need only to score a little above one extra run per game. When you think about the fact that 1) The offense wasn’t that good last year. And 2) The pitching staff has to get better, right? You start to realize that the margin between good baseball and bad baseball is a slim one. Let’s hope the Cubs are on the winning end this season.

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