Archive for February, 2008

Texas Rangers Preview (Podcast)

Monday, February 11th, 2008

How can the Texas Rangers — a team with one of the AL’s best offenses and a respectable starting rotation — finish last in the AL West year after year? Could it be the ballpark? And will it happen again in 2008?

“The Pitch” puts these questions and more to Lone Star Ball author Adam Morris in an attempt to gauge the root of the Rangers’ inability to reach October. The guys also cover the mystery of Hank Blalock, the difficulty of pitching in Arlington and some trades still in the mix for Texas.

LINKS
Lone Star Ball (Adam Morris, author)

MP3 DOWNLOADS
2008 MLB Season Preview: Texas Rangers

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Five Things For Spring Training

Monday, February 11th, 2008

From Right FieldOK, I’ll be honest, do the catchers and pitchers report Wednesday? Or is it Tuesday, or Thursday? Maybe Friday? I’m so excited about the fact that baseball is just around the corner, I can’t even remember. Whatever day it is, it can’t come soon enough. This fall and winter have been absolutely brutal for Chicago sports fans. The Bears? Yikes. The Blackhawks? Um, yeah, who are they? The Wolves? Even they aren’t up to their perennial winning ways. The Bulls? Don’t ask. There just isn’t much to keep the Chicago fan occupied during these frigid months.

With the pitching staff reporting, along with their backstop mates, the ball is rolling. All of the changes, although there really aren’t that many, bring on a slightly spiffied up Cubs roster. Here are five things I’m looking at for Spring Training.

  1. Centerfield. Does the job finally fall into Felix Pie’s hands, or are we going to see Fukudome in center, with Murton hanging around in Right Field? Felix is capable defensively, but can he get his bat going? Do the Cubs really need a high powered bat, with all the other bats in the lineup?
  2. Shortstop. Which weak shortstop on the roster takes the everday spot? Does Theriot retain his spot with his fan friendly “scrappy” play, or does the incredibly dunderheaded Cedeno take it back? I guess I’d rather see Theriot, but only because he’s the lessor of the two evils. Cedeno makes my skin crawl.
  3. Second Base. Does Jim Hendry get his man, in Brian Roberts, or doe we get to see Mark DeRosa keep his spot? Mark’s been grumbling about the possibility of being moved to a super sub position, and I agree. No need to change this spot. Mark is fine by me, and like my love for Todd Walker, I think there’s no real need for a change. What can I say? I love white second basemen with five o’clock shadows.
  4. The Closer. Who takes it? Marmol, Howry, Wood, or Dempster? As I continuely pointed out last season, I think Dempster’s fine. Yes, he gives up runs when the Cubs are up three, but when the game is on the line, he succeeded more often than most of you give him credit for. I like the Howry, Marmol, set up going into the ninth, and I don’t want to see that messed up. To be honest, I’m not comfortable with Wood just yet. I need to see him pitch back to back days, more than a few times to give him the nod. Keep Dempster as the closer, and see how things shake out.
  5. The back half of the rotation. Looks like a ton of mediocrity. Not just from what we already had, but Hendry’s desire to sign Jon Lieber. Good gosh, there’s no one that frightens me after our number two spot. I’m hoping, dreaming, what have you, that the likes of Rich Hill, or Sean Marshall really turn the corner and at least make that back half of the rotation a bit more scary to deal with. Heck, maybe even have Marquis give a full year of half decent pitching, not one good half, and one waful one. That’s not to take anything away from them, as Joe has shown, this is a formibible rotation.

In short order, The year of 100 will be upon us. How it will shake out, I can’t tell you, but I do have better feelings about this year, than last. Although I felt the same way going into Dusty’s second year, so who knows.

What are your five things to look at for Spring Training? With the Cubs, or with other clubs.

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Fantasy Baseball Challenge

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

Being the founder of two separate blogs (Rays of Light being the second), I’m constantly monitoring which site is doing better. That being said, I decided that it might be fun to see which site had the better fantasy baseball players and have come up with a contest to find out.

This year we will setup a league on MLB.com’s Fantasy Open. There are a few reasons why I chose this platform to host the league.

  1. As a user of Yahoo for all of my fantasy play, I have grown frustrated with the fact that a user has to pay to have the live scoring be part of the league experience. MLB.com offers that as part of the free game.
  2. I have always enjoyed Fantasy Football because the decisions for the week can be made on one day. Fantasy Baseball has always required daily lineup changes, which can become cumbersome. MLB.com’s league uses the weekly lineup setting.
  3. I can’t stand how people constantly add/drop starting pitchers each day to rack up K’s and Wins. This isn’t much of a strategy if you ask me. In this setup, a team does not draft individual pitchers, but rather a full team’s staff. For example, if you draft the Cubs pitching staff, you get the whole lot of them that week. It’s similar to the system used in fantasy football with defense.

The Fantasy Challenge this year will work as follows:

  • Rays of Light will be represented by Scott Caruso, the site’s editor. He will choose five of his readers to compete for the Rays of Light squad.
  • View From The Bleachers will be represented by myself. I will choose five of my readers to compete for the VFTB squad.
  • Each team member will manage their team with the goal of winning the league. Points will be given based on order of finish with 12 points going for first place and so on down to 1 point for last.
  • At the end of the season, the standings points earned by each team will be totaled up to determine which blog won. The winning blog will see it’s readers receive a book of their choice from the prize library.
  • The league will begin with a live draft on March 24th (my birthday) at 9pm EDT.

If you are interested in representing our team, send me an e-mail and we’ll discuss why you might be worthy. You can contact me at

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Los Angeles Dodgers Preview (Podcast)

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

There’s no way around it: Given the lofty expectations for the new-look Dodgers of ’07, last year was a major disappointment for the Big Blue. And with mostly a new manager and new center fielder as change from last season’s lineup, who’s to say it’ll happen any differently in ’08?

“The Pitch” checks in with Dodger Thoughts author Jon Weisman to see if he’ll say differently in the Los Angeles Dodgers edition of the show’s 30-team 2008 MLB Season Preview. Weisman and the boys covers the new outfield setup, health concerns in the rotation and Alyssa Milano’s affect on the team’s bottomline.

LINKS
Dodger Thoughts (Jon Weisman, author)

MP3 DOWNLOADS
2008 MLB Season Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

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San Diego Padres Preview (Podcast)

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

Most teams hate it when a bigger-market team gets all the attention for something their team did, too. This, of course, is not the case for the ’07 San Diego Padres, who share with the Mets the dubious honor of choking what looked to be a stranglehold on a playoff spot at the end of September, losing seven of their last 11 games, including an extra-inning Wild Card playoff game in Colorado.

But what could’ve prevented it?

The Pitch’s Brandon Rosage takes his case to Ducksnorts.com’s Geoff Young in the Padres edition of the program’s 30-team 2008 MLB Season Preview. Young answers questions about the attention GM Kevin Towers has paid to San Diego’s flat offensive production at Petco Park, after the team scored fewer runs at home last season than any team in the National League and batted just .235 in front of its home fans.

Young also tells the show about his upcoming Padres annual book and where Mark Prior fits in what is already perhaps the best pitching staff in the National League.

LINKS
Ducksnorts.com (Geoff Young, author)

MP3 DOWNLOADS
2008 MLB Season Preview: San Diego Padres

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Top 100 Prospects

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

Ben Lipson of Top Prospect Alert posted the top 100 prospects in baseball on his site.

The Cubs were able to put three players in the list: Josh Vitters, Tyler Colvin, and Geovany Soto. To view the full list and see where these Cubs placed, take a look at the site.

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Get Your Season Preview

Friday, February 8th, 2008

In November, I was asked to participate in the annual preview book put out by the Hardball Times. I don’t make money on if you buy the book or not, but it would be nice to know people are enjoying what I wrote. Here is the post put up over on their site detailing what the book is all about. Feel free to let me know that you are buying it and what you thought.

About a year-and-a-half ago, I spent a good number of hours trying to convince Dave Studeman that publishing book a year wasn’t enough, that in addition to The Hardball Times Annual, our annual review of the previous season, we needed to publish a second book that looked forward to the next season, and so The Hardball Times Season Preview was born.

This year’s effort includes 240 pages of team essays, player comments for almost 900 different players, projections, and other goodies. We’ve adopted Bill James’ “Team-in-a-Box” format for the essays and tried to maintain a similarly short and incisive style in the player comments.

The team chapters are written by bloggers and THT writers who follow their team every day, and the result is the kind of commentary you can’t get from just looking at the numbers or some news stories.

And if you want to look at numbers, we have plenty of those too. Chris Constancio and I spent thousands of hours revamping the THT projection system, and the results look really good. Besides projecting all the normal statistics, we’ve projected fielding performance for hitters and fantasy values for all players.

We also extended our projections three years into the future, so for each player (save for a few very old ones for whom projecting more than one year is an impossible exercise) we’ve listed their projected change in performance between 2008 and 2010. Reds fans will be heartened by those numbers.

By purchasing the Season Preview, you gain access to a spreadsheet with numbers for all the players included in the book, and many more. We’ll try to update that spreadsheet a couple times as the final free agents pick teams and spring training sorts out the depth charts.

We’ve also included a couple of essays in the back of the book. The first, by yours truly, attempts to predict career statistics and players’ odds of getting to various milestones—basically an attempt to improve on the Favorite Toy. We provide those predicted numbers for a few hundred players in the appendix, and purchasers can also download a spreadsheet containing that information for every player who appeared in the major leagues in 2007.

The second essay highlights prospective rookies, and makes for great reading for prospect watchers, fantasy players, and all those who just want to know which young players they should be watching in 2008.

And of course, since this is THT, we’ve scattered some graphics throughout the book. Tuck drew up a phenomenal series of his own predictions for the coming season in cartoon form, and we also have some graphs that will help fantasy players better understand which hitters provide value in which categories.

Since I’m afraid of leaving loose ends, I will also add that the book contains our projected standings and a player index to make it easy to track down which page your favorite player is listed on. Now I think I got it all, but honestly, there’s so much material in the Season Preview, I still might have missed something.

If this sounds all sounds like something that would interest you, please get on over to our publisher’s website, and pre-order it—the book will ship in a couple weeks (and please support THT by ordering from the publisher). If you feel like you want to learn more, go ahead and read my article previewing some of the more interesting projections in the Season Preview and see the sample pages we provided from the World Champion Red Sox’s section.

I think you’ll agree that two books are better than one.

References and Resources
In case you’re wondering who are authors are, here’s the rundown:

Jeff Sackmann of The Hardball Times
Ben Jacobs of The Hardball Times
Larry Mahnken of Replacement Level Yankees Weblog
Cork Gaines of Rays Index
John Brattain of The Hardball Times
Mike Pindelski of The Bard’s Room
Ryan Richards of Let’s Go Tribe
Brian Borawski of Tiger Blog
Bradford Doolittle of Kansas City Star
Will Young of Will’s Title is Too Long
Sean Smith of Anaheim Angels All the Way
Sal Baxamusa of The Hardball Times
Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing
Scott Lucas of The Ranger Rundown
John Beamer of Chop-n-Change
Craig Strain of FishStripes
Dave Studenmund of The Hardball Times
Jason Weitzel of Beer Leaguer
Chris Needham of Capitol Punishment
Joe Aiello of View From the Bleachers
Justin Inaz of On Baseball & the Reds
Lisa Gray of The Astros Dugout
Eric Johnson of Brew Crew Ball
Pat Lackey of Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke?
Larry Borowsky of Viva El Birdos
Jim McLennan of AZ Snakepit
Brandi Griffin of Purple Row
Aaron Sapiro of Rockin’ the Ravine
Geoff Young of Ducksnorts

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Two weeks til pitchers and catchers

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Those are some of the most beautiful words in the English language. How long is it until pitchers and catcher report to spring training? Right now it is right around two weeks. I don’t need to wax overly poetic (as if I even could) but the dawning and new life of spring brings the dawning and new life of hope for a team that would like to win their first World Series in,l what was it?, Oh yeah 100 years. I am looking forward to the new baseball season so that I can stop hearing about whether or not the Cubs will trade this guy or that, and whether or not they will embrace or ignore the fact that this is their 100th year since winning the World Series. I am also looking forward to pushing the terrible playoff series against the Diamondbacks out of my memory.

In light of all of this I want to compose some thoughts about questions that I think will be pivotal as we look at this year:

Question 1: Will the Cubs finally get off to a good start?

Last year the Central Division was much closer than it should have been. I am amazed that even though the Cubs fell way behind the Brewers at the start of the season, most people never seemed to waver about the Cubs winning the division (Aside from jump off the bridge Cubs fans). There was little doubt that the Cubs were the best, most complete team in the division and that they should be able to come back and win it. They did and we start the season and the clear division favorite again.

So ho can we avoid another bad start? You hear often that you need two teams to win at Wrigley Field: The team that can win in bad weather when the wind is blowing in and the second team that can win in good weather when the wind is blowing out. It seems that we have a mix of big bangers and scrappy little guys. Hopefully, we can avoid the team wide slumps that we had last year. It would be nice to be one of those teams who take control of the division early and keep the foot on the gas to where we’re cruising through September. When you look at the team and look at the division this really is possible.

What about the Brewers?

How well will this team do as it matures? Milwaukee has a fun young base. It would be great to watch Prince Fielder, and JJ Hardy, and Ben Sheets and other guys. I feel bad for them because they play for Milwaukee. Even though they have a good base and a beautiful ballpark and some money to spend now, they struggle attracting the free agents they go after because they are Milwaukee. Are the Brewers stronger or weaker on paper? Well the team has not improves very much except that they have matured more. Young guys are getting older and will seemingly be better. How much better can the Prince be? Or will he turn into Funnel Cake like his dad? I think the Brewers have the most potential to compete and hang around. I just don’t know how much and how long?

Will the power return?

A reader once questioned the drop in power and how real it was. I think that clearly the team hit many less home runs and without the strong September they had it would have even been worse. Power numbers were down for Lee and Ramirez. We had almost no power from Right Field or Center Field. Think about this Lee, Ramirez, Murton, Floyd, Jones, Barrett, and maybe even Soriano hit less home runs and drove in less runs than most of us would have ever thought. Will the power return to Wrigley this year. For the Cubs to win a World Series it will probably have to.

Who will own this team and Wrigley (McDonalds or buy this name) Field?

The team has yet to be sold and the sale seems far away. Will Sam Zell put the brakes on spending when we need it most? It seems like we could have at least been in the Santana discussion except for money issues. I keep hearing that the new owners will need to lease Wrigley Field which will be owned and run by a separate authority. I don’t understand all of this but it has something to do with getting Zell more money. What it practically means is that the new owner will need to pay between 10 and 20 million per year for renting Wrigley. This probably means 10 to 20 million less in payroll. Not good.

Who will bat lead off?

Supposedly the Brian Roberts deal will be finalized after the Erik Bedard deal supposedly gets done this week supposedly. We will see. Until then Alfonso Soriano is our lead off hitter, but noticing how hard the Cubs seem to be pursuing Roberts, it seems that Soriano is the lead off hitter by default. I really don’t know if we can win the World Series with Soriano batting lead off. I don’t know how long it will be until Lou blows a gasket over some of the bad lead off stuff. I think the Cubs are working real hard to get someone else to lead off. I wonder if they can do it.

Fukudome

I think he is so key to who we are. The Cubs pursued him more than anyone else this offseason and it paid off. They got their man. But who is he and how will he do? How will he adjust to a new country and a new team and a new league and new players? He is so critical and yet we know so little about him.

Who is in our five?

Right now I don’t even know who our four and five pitchers are, do you? I think we need to have reliable four and fives and not just guys. It would be nice to have four and fives who you have pretty good confidence that they could usually beat other teams four and fives, often bet their three, and occasionally surprise their ones and twos. As of now I don’t even know who they are. I would just like to remind Hendry that just because your holes are in the four and five slots it does not mean you have to go out and sign a four or five pitchers. Think about the great Braves of the 90′s. Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux, all ones. That’s how you go to multiple World Series.

Those are my questions for the season. What questions do you think hold the keys to killing the billy goat?

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I Found the Key to Fantasy Baseball Success

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

I consider myself a semi-avid fantasy sports participant, but fantasy baseball hasn’t appealed to me near as much as fantasy football has in the past. Every year, I buy a Lindy’s annual for football, but have never found something with the same or better quality on the baseball end…until now.

I try not to bombard you with meaningless promoting of products or books that I don’t really recommend. If I mention something on this site, which I have in the past with books and websites like The Hardball Times, Baseball Prospectus, and pretty much anything from Acta Sports. This time, I was sent a copy of the very thing I’ve been craving all along. In my mailbox last week was a copy of Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster, along with it’s little brother, The Minor League Analyst. The forecaster does what a lot of other previews does in the sense that it projects, using their methodology, the 2008 season for each player. Obviously any time you try to predict the future, you set yourself up for failure. However, 90% of the product users have reported increased success in their fantasy leagues.

What’s in the Book???

  • Unlike projection annuals, the Forecaster also include research based articles which, if you know anything about me, is a big turn on. They talk a little about how to evaluate players, the importance of the ground ball pitcher, what GM’s are lying about, etc.
  • Projections for any player in the league along with statistics from the past and a brief 50-100 word comment about each. Keep in mind that when I say statistics are included I don’t just mean the basic ones. There are stats like contact %, expected ERA, etc. It appeals to the common fan while not alienating the sabermetric fan as well.
  • Perhaps the most exciting part of the book for me as a writer is the 5-YearInjury Log. The log lists the name, year, # of days missed, and type of injury in table format for every player as well as an offseason injury update on important players. Just for fun, the first thing I did was look up Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Here is what I found:

Kerry Wood
2004 – missed 52 days due to tendinitis in the lower right triceps
2005 – missed 108 days due to a strained right shoulder and surgery
2006 – missed 162 days due to a R/C tear and post surgical recovery
2007 – missed 124 days due to shoulder stiffness

Mark Prior
2003 – missed 23 days due to a right shoulder contusion
2004 – missed 61 days due to an inflamed right Achilles
2005 – missed 38 days due to a fractured right elbow and inflammation
2006 – missed 122 days due to right shoulder tendinitis and two strains
2007 – missed 183 days due to shoulder surgery

Underwent surgery in April to repair a significant tear to the labrum in his pitching shoulder. Prior says he’ll be ready for Opening Day 2008. Recent DL history numbers state he could struggle next spring and into the 2008 season.

  • Major League equivalent stats for minor league prospects are an interesting concept that I hadn’t seen before this book. They allow you to compare what the player is doing at the current level they are at using various factors like age to see what type of ML player they are projecting to be. Does this mean that if a player is in Low-A and posts numbers that are ML equivalent to 40 HR’s that he would have hit that in the Majors? No, it’s simply a way of tracking development. Are guys getting better or worse.
  • Rankings and mock drafts are a part of any good publication and this one takes it to the next level with all kinds of mock things. There are too many to list and still do it justice.
  • Benchmarks and explainations of various sabermetric stats. I’ve wanted to learn more about rate stats and things like that, but the hard part for me is to know what is good and what is bad. They provide a handy detachable bookmark that has benchmarks for various stats (saber and common) to allow you to give the numbers some meaning.

On the whole it may seem like the book is just like any other book, but I can’t tell you enough how superior this book is to any other I’ve seen. I highly recommend it as a tool for a fantasy player or a writer in general. Go out and pick up a copy today. You’ll be glad you did.


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