Archive for March, 2011

Who’s the Next Jose Bautista? Predicting 2011’s Breakout Players

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

A few years ago, we researched the predictive significance of Spring Training statistics. For the most part, a player’s spring stats aren’t predictive of regular season success. For example, Ichiro Suzuki hit .257 (19 for 74) last spring but still wound up hitting .315 and leading all of baseball with 214 hits during the regular season.

However, we did find that extremely good Spring Training numbers often indicated that a breakout season was on the way. In the study, about two-thirds of hitters who had spring slugging percentages at least .200 higher than their career total went on to best their career average that season.

Last year, Jose Bautista topped our list of potential breakout players with a spring slugging percentage near .900, nearly .500 points higher than his career slugging percentage of .400. The rest, as they say, is history: Bautista went on to slug a league-leading 54 home runs in one of the most surprising performances in recent memory.

Where can we find the next Jose Bautista? Well, the following list is a good place to start. Here are the 36 players whose Spring Training slugging percentages (minimum 40 at-bats) exceed their career totals by at least 200 points:

Possible Breakout Players
Slugging Percentage 200+ points better in Spring Training
Hitter, Team Difference Spring Career
Jake Fox, Orioles .413 .836 .423
Kila Ka’aihue, Royals .406 .804 .398
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees .381 .952 .571
Coco Crisp, Athletics .373 .783 .410
Chris Davis, Rangers .363 .822 .459
Travis Buck, Indians .359 .783 .424
George Kottaras, Brewers .351 .745 .394
Ian Kinsler, Rangers .350 .816 .466
Melky Cabrera, Royals .348 .727 .379
Rajai Davis, Blue Jays .328 .711 .383
Carlos Gomez, Brewers .318 .667 .349
Alcides Escobar, Royals .316 .651 .335
Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians .306 .700 .394
Starlin Castro, Cubs .304 .712 .408
Ryan Langerhans, Mariners .301 .675 .374
Russell Branyan, Diamondbacks .293 .783 .490
Brandon Wood, Angels .278 .538 .260
Michael Morse, Nationals .271 .727 .456
Ryan Roberts, Diamondbacks .270 .659 .389
Willie Harris, Mets .262 .614 .352
Jason Michaels, Astros .259 .674 .416
Josh Thole, Mets .258 .628 .373
Andy LaRoche, Athletics .253 .591 .338
Lyle Overbay, Pirates .253 .700 .447
Pete Orr, Phillies .250 .585 .335
Aubrey Huff, Giants .249 .725 .476
Matt Kemp, Dodgers .248 .720 .472
Aaron Miles, Dodgers .246 .600 .354
Alex Rios, White Sox .242 .688 .446
Chris Heisey, Reds .241 .674 .433
Alex Gordon, Royals .241 .646 .405
Scott Hairston, Mets .239 .674 .435
Buster Posey, Giants .236 .725 .489
Jonathan Herrera, Rockies .227 .556 .329
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays .206 .659 .453
Jason Kubel, Twins .204 .667 .463
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Roster Cuts

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

We got another round of roster cuts that trimmed the roster down to 31 players. It’s broken down to 16 pitchers, four catchers, six infielders and five outfielders.

The players cut:

  • Fernando Perez
  • Bobby Scales
  • Scott Moore
  • Augie Ojeda
  • Matt Camp

Discuss.

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My Opening Day Pitching Staff

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Since we’ve yet to get an announcement on who has made this pitching staff heading into opening day, I thought I’d share my opinion just in case Jim Hendry is looking for some advice.

Starting Rotation

1. Ryan Dempster – I don’t consider him the best pitcher on the staff, but he’s earned the spot more than any other choice over the last few years. He gets the top spot just due to consistency, not due to his ceiling.

2. Matt Garza – This guy has the best stuff on the staff and will be the best pitcher this season. Don’t worry about what we’ve seen this spring. He was throwing fastballs the majority of the time.

3. Carlos Zambrano – I want to believe he’ll be better this year. I really do. Deep down inside, I want to like Zambrano. Please, Z, just show me something this year.

4. Randy Wells – Came ready to pitch this spring and earned his spot. He’s got to rebound from last year’s sophomore slump.

5. Carlos Silva – This one will probably spark some disagreement from you guys, but I believe in Silva. Let’s not forget that from opening day through July 6 of last year, Silva posted an 11-5 record with an ERA of 2.96. That would be outstanding for a # 5 starter.

Bullpen

This is where things get shaky. I’d feel a little more comfortable with some baseball favorites courtesy of BetUS. Instead, here is how I’d arrange my pen.

1. Jeff Samardzija – He’s out of minor league options so he has to make this team or be placed on waivers.

2. John Grabow – I think 2010 was a fluke for him. He’s been a good reliever in his career. If he really is healthy, you have to give him the first shot over James Russell.

3. Marcos Mateo – This guy is not getting any talk and I can’t figure out why. He’s had a good, albiet limited, spring training and I think he deserves a spot.

4. Sean Marshall – He’s the number one lefty in this pen and I wish he’d get a chance to start. Sadly, I think those chances have come and gone for Sean.

5. Andrew Cashner – I believe in his stuff, but not his endurance. Because of that, I groom him to be a closer and hope I can one day trade Marmol in his prime.

6. Kerry Wood – Primary setup man for Marmol.

7. Carlos Marmol – Closer and owner of the best stuff in the pen. Because we have guys like Cashner and Wood in the pen as well, I’d like to see Marmol used in non end of the game situations as well if the situation warrants.

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Chet’s Corner: Five Burning Questions

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

We are officially 10 days away from the launch of the 2011 Cubs season.  Spring training is in full bloom and some questions are starting to find answers.

Below you will find the first installment of Five Burning Questions for the 2011 season.  We like to know your thoughts on the issues, so feel free to respond in the comments section with your answers.

Question #1 (multiple choice)

If you were GM of the Cubs what would you do with Carlos Silva?

a) Release him

b) Give him the five spot in the rotation and see what he can do

c) Move him to the bullpen

d) Fake an injury and put him on the 60 day DL….over and over again

I go with “A”.  If the Mets can dump multiple players and pay them out then we can do the same.  I am pretty sure Silva’s 15.88 ERA scared off even the most desperate of trade partners.

Question #2

Mike Quade was recently quoted as saying he’s had a few “healthy arguments” with Jim Hendry and Randy Bush.  The arguments center around the players being considered for the opening day roster and which ones need to be sent down to minor league camp.  Occasionally, they don’t see eye to eye on who should be playing.  This sets up my question…..

Is Jim Hendry pulling the strings in the dugout, or does it seem that Mike Quade and his coaching staff have full reign?

I am sure this is a delicate balance, but to me it seems Jim has a tighter grasp on this team then he did when Piniella was manager.  I just hope when  it comes time to manage Hendry doesn’t pull an Al Davis and start calling the plays from the box. 

Question #3

It was rumored (lightly) that the Cubs might sign Luis Castillo after he was released by the Mets this past week.

Considering the Cubs current situation at 2nd base would you have given Castillo a shot?

The Cubs did not sign him and I think they got this one right.  See why in the next question……

Question #4

Based on last season and what we have been witness to so far this spring, who should be the Cubs opening day 2nd baseman?

You would not have convinced me of this two weeks ago, but I would go with Darwin Barney.  I honestly thought Blake DeWitt was a break out star waiting to happen, but I am starting to realize he may just be a flop of sorts.  The once first round draft pick of the Dodgers has had a rough spring batting below the Mendoza line.  You have to reward production, right?

Question #5

Rank the following by order of likelihood…..

a) The Cubs finish the season with 87 wins and make the post-season as the NL Central champs.

b) The Cubs finish the season with 90-plus wins and make the Post-Season as NL Wildcard team.

c) The Cubs finish in last place in the NL Central

d) The Cubs battle until September but fade and are denied a Post-Season birth

D,C,A,B……I see a good fight but no playoffs.

Link of the Week: Cot’s Baseball Contracts

For those who don’t know this is a handy little site when in search of contract information.

That will do it from the corner this week.  Let us know what you think!

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Buddy’s “Red-Hot Picks”

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

It’s never too early to break down the divisions. Here’s how I see the upcoming season, in snap-shot form of course:

NL East–Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Mets, Nationals

Not even a Chase Utley injury can derail the Phillies train. If pitching wins championships, Charlie Manuel and company appear to be in great shape for 2011. A healthy Chipper Jones and the addition of Dan Uggla will keep the Braves in the wild card race. Florida has an interesting club, led by young sluggers Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton, and Gaby Sanchez. The Mets and Nats will slug it out for the cellar.

NL Central–Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, Pirates, Astros
The Brewers were busy this offseason, adding quality arms in Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. Milwaukee looks like a balanced club, and Ryan Braun is primed for a huge season. The Cards will find a way to overcome the Wainwright injury and keep it close. An improved Cubs team should still be playing meaningful baseball in September. The Reds will see a serious market correction. And then there are the Pirates and Astros. Pittsburgh is finally heading the right direction, but 2011 won’t be the year they approach .500. I can’t even begin to describe the mess that is the Houston Astros.

NL West–Rockies, Giants, Dodgers, Padres, D-Backs
This should be a fun division to watch, as the top four teams all have a realistic shot. The Rockies appear to be a cut above the rest, but you have to be afraid of the Giants pitching staff. The Dodgers should see better days, as Loney, Kemp, and Broxton can’t be as bad as they were in 2010. Billingsley and Kershaw are solid rotation building blocks. The Padres overachieved last year, but I won’t make the mistake of writing them off again. Mat Latos and Heath Bell lead an impressive pitching staff. The D-backs should be better, but they still have a huge mountain to climb.

NL Wild Card winner–Braves
NL MVP–Ryan Braun
NL Cy Young–Tommy Hanson

AL East–Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles

Adrian Gonzalez will solidify an already solid offense. I see Beckett bouncing back, which means bad news for the American League. Lester and Buchholz are fabulous young arms. Great staff, great team. I’m not sure why so many people are down on the Yankees. I’d love to see them struggle this year, but there is WAY too much talent in the Bronx.  Speaking of talent, the Rays lost a ton of it. However, they still have more than enough to be competitive. I see 85 wins or so for Tampa Bay. The Jays and Orioles might have a shot in another division, but such is life.

AL Central–Twins, Tigers, White Sox, Royals, Indians
The Central will be a dog fight, but I can’t bet against Minnesota. Even if Justin Morneau misses more time with that lingering concussion, the Twins will be playing in October once again. The Tigers are certainly improved, but they still have too many holes. I love Verlander and Scherzer, but the rest of the rotation could be problematic. Adam Dunn will beef up the White Sox lineup, but their offense is still challenged. I do see a nice bounce back year for Gordon Beckham, however. Hang in there Royals fans! The young stars should arrive soon. In the meantime, it will be another crappy year in KC. Cleveland will likely lead the league in losses. Terrible offense, terrible pitching staff, terrible defense, and an injured Grady Sizemore. Ouch!

AL West–Rangers, Angels, A’s, Mariners

Texas isn’t exactly a lock, but the Neftali Feliz and Michael Young questions won’t be enough to keep the Rangers from repeating. Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler have “superstar” written all over them. I like the Angels pitching, but they could be offensively challenged. Here’s hoping Kendry Morales heals soon. The A’s are the trendy pick this year, but I don’t like their offense either. However, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and Gio Gonzalez look like the real deal. The Mariners can’t be as bad as they were last year, but they still look like cellar dwellers. Hopefully Dustin Ackley makes the big club out of spring. It looks like another year of poor run support for King Felix.

AL Wild Card–Yankees
AL MVP–Joe Mauer
AL Cy Young–Jon Lester

World Series–Red Sox over Phillies

Keep in mind, I picked Boston last year. I also picked the Ravens to win the Super Bowl. Maybe I should retire the crystal ball.

Now, let’s get to your 2011 picks…



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