Archive for March, 2012

Rafael Dolis: Where Did You Come From?

Monday, March 26th, 2012

If you would have asked me at the end of the season to predict the bullpen for the 2012 season opener, I don’t know that Rafael Dolis would have been on my list. A good spring showing combined with his high ceiling has him in the mix, but who is he and where did he come from?

Who Is Rafael Dolis? – Since most are probably not familiar with who Dolis is, it’s important that we get a quick scouting report on him. This comes from the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook:

The Cubs love to try failed position players on the mound, and their success stories include former catchers Carlos Marmol and Randy Wells. They originally signed Dolis as a shortstop but made him a pitcher before he arrived in the United States in 2006. He hurt his elbow in 2007 and missed 2008 following Tommy John surgery, then claimed a spot on the 40-man roster by hitting 101 mph during instructional league in 2009. Dolis reminds scouts of Marmol, and the similarities became more striking when he became a full-time reliever in 2011. He can make hitters look silly with two pitches, a 93-100 mph fastball with heavy sink and a mid-80′s slider with hard bite. His stuff theoretically should have played up in shorter stints, but Dolis’ strikeout rate dipped to a career-low 5.9 per nine innings. That’s because he focused so much on his command, his biggest shortcoming, that he pounded the bottom of the strike zone and generated tons of ground outs rather than strikeouts. He has a clean high three-quarters delivery that gives him good downward plane with his pitches, but he still needs to throw more strikes. A potential closer if he improves his command, Dolis made his major league debut in late September. He figures to get some Triple-A experience at the start of 2012.

The most exciting parts of that report to me are the velocity as well as the three-quarters delivery. A flamethrower that can get ground balls and can strike guys out. His development could lessen the blow of losing Andrew Cashner, who many thought might end up replacing Marmol in the closer role. This year the bullpen is wide open so there are spots to earn, especially those at the end of the game. We’ve not seen how Svuem uses his relief pitchers as of yet, so it’s hard to make a prediction as to what role Dolis will be used. Even the projections don’t quite know what to do with him. One even predicts him for 12 starts.

I’m not putting a lot of expectations on him. His ceiling is high, but the experience is low. Patience will be the key, but I like the upside.

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The Best Players of 2011 Based on Total Runs

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

by John Dewan

One of the byproducts of our work developing a system to measure runs for defensive play (Defensive Runs Saved) is that we can combine it with runs for offensive play and runs for pitching.  We do this in the book, The Fielding Bible – Volume III, and call it Total Runs.  The goal for Total Runs is to capture a player’s entire contribution to his team in the currency of the game – runs.  Here is the top 10 leaderboard from the book for the 2011 season.  This is a list of the best overall players in baseball in 2011 based on all aspects of the game, as best we can measure them with our Total Runs system.

2011 Total Runs Leaders

Player

Runs
Created

Baserunning
Runs

Pitching
Runs
Created

Runs
Saved

Positional
Adjustment

Total
Runs

Jacoby Ellsbury

131

4

0

7

27

169

Dustin Pedroia

116

-2

0

18

31

163

Ian Kinsler

106

9

0

18

28

161

Matt Kemp

131

4

0

-5

28

158

Ben Zobrist

98

2

0

29

28

157

Jose Bautista

134

5

0

-2

18

155

Alex Gordon

112

6

0

19

17

154

Justin Verlander

0

0

143

5

3

151

Ryan Braun

127

2

0

3

16

148

Adrian Gonzalez

127

-5

0

12

12

14

Both the reigning American League and National League MVPs, Justin Verlander and Ryan Braun, had impressive seasons in 2011, but using Total Runs we find that there were more valuable players in each league.  In the National League, Matt Kemp produced 158 Total Runs despite costing his team five runs in the field.  Kemp was one home run shy of joining the 40/40 club and led the senior circuit in home runs, RBI, and runs scored in 2011.  Jacoby Ellsbury had a tremendous year with the bat en route to 131 Runs Created.  Ellsbury also had positive contributions on the basepaths and in the field.  He led all players with 169 Total Runs in 2011.

Total Runs uses a few different measures of a player’s ability.  We measure offense using Bill James’ Runs Created system.  His system measures stolen base runs, but excludes activity on the basepaths other than that.  We add in Baserunnning Runs to complete the offensive part of the equation.  For pitching, we have an article in the book that describes how we developed our new Pitching Runs Created system so that we can measure a pitcher’s contribution compared with a hitter.  The last part is the Positional Adjustment.  This is a technique we developed three years ago in The Fielding Bible Volume II to take into account, for example, that a shortstop has more defensive value than a first baseman.  Our Defensive Runs Saved system doesn’t reflect the relative defensive importance of one defensive position compared to another, which makes the Positional Adjustment necessary.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com
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GO: Stadium Tour

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

What baseball stadiums have you been to, and where do you still want to go?

(I know we do something similar every year, but we’ve got tons of new readers and the rest of us forget quickly!) :-)

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AL Central Preview

Friday, March 23rd, 2012


DETROIT TIGERS – (Last Year: 95-67) – I’m going to wonder for a long time what the Tigers would have done if Victor Martinez didn’t ruin his knee for the year this offseason. Would Prince Fielder still have happened? During the Fielder Press Conference Tigers Owner Mike Ilitch nearly made it sound like it wouldn’t have, but then again a nine year deal as a reaction to one player’s misfortune would be a panic move only explained by intoxicating substances or the practices of the insane.

Unfortunately I can’t comment on either theory.

What I can do is take a look at what that move, as well as the others they made this offseason, and provide a realistic expectation for the 2012 season.

Notable Free Agent Acquisitions
Prince Fielder 1B
Octavio Dotel RHP
Gerald Laird C
Eric Patterson CF
Warwick Saupold RHP
Notable Trade Acquisitions
Collin Balester RHP (from Washington for Ryan Perry)
Notable Departures
Magglio Ordonez RF
Carlos Guillen 2B
Ryan Perry RHP (traded to Washington for Balester)
Will Rhymes 2B
Joel Zumaya RHP
Wilson Betemit 3B
Brad Penny RH

The Tigers are overwhelmingly expected to make the 2012 playoffs. That is equally exciting as it is scary. Sure, the Tigers by far have the best team on paper, but the Indians and Royals are both talented organizations and while there doesn’t seem to be much hope for the White Sox or Twins this year, Tigers fans are still new at this “winning” attitude. Remember, the 2003 season is still less than a decade behind us.

However, the powerful combination of Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera hitting 3rd and 4th is a pretty tantalizing remedy to those fears, and young talents like Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch, Alex Avila, and even Delmon Young have a lot to offer on the offensive side.

Justin Verlander anchors a fairly impressive rotation that includes Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello. The 5th spot wide open this spring, although Jacob Turner, the top prospect in the organization, is ultimately expected to win the job.

The bullpen features the always entertaining Jose Valverde at the back end, and a solid stockpile of arms in Dotel, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, and 2011 surprise Al Albuquerque, once he returns from injury around mid-season.

The 5th spot in the starting rotation isn’t the only position battle this spring, as second base is a wide open melee between Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn, and Ramon Santiago. Some think that even Don Kelly and Danny Worth have a shot if they impress enough.

If anything this Tigers team will be entertaining to see, as many critics are having a field day with Miguel Cabrera’s transition to third base. I bring this up only at the end because it must be noted, I personally can’t take any more talk of Cabrera’s potential failure at third base. It will either work or it won’t. It won’t make or break the Tigers season, they’ll just adjust as needed.

The bottom line is this: the Tigers’ main concerns right now are their 5th starter and second base. That’s a pretty good problem to have and a huge reason that fans are optimistic for the season ahead.

I know I am. I predict that the Tigers will finish 93-69, and will win the division by 5 games. ~ Joshua Worn (www.walkoffwoodward.com)


CLEVELAND INDIANS – (Last Year: 80-82) – The Indians had a relatively quiet off-season; their primary acquisitions this winter were Derek Lowe (via trade) and Casey Kotchman (via free agent signing). However, the Tribe brought nearly 20 players to camp on minor league deals, hoping to strike gold on a small budget.

While it seemed like most positions were settled heading into Spring Training, a few contests have opened up. With the loss of Fausto Carmona/Roberto Hernandez Heredia, there is now a competition for the fifth starter slot. The primary candidates to replace Carmona/Hernandez in the rotation are Kevin Slowey, David Huff and Jeanmar Gomez. With the news of Grady Sizemore’s back surgery, Michael Brantley is expected to move to center field and a competition will open up for left field. The Tribe has a ton of outfielders in camp, a list that includes Aaron Cunningham, Ryan Spilborghs, Felix Pie, Fred Lewis, and Ezequiel Carrera. While they may look outside the organization for a replacement, it’s likely one of those players wins the spot.

For the Indians to find success this season, they need comeback years from Ubaldo Jimenez and Shin-Soo Choo and they need the offense to find its stride. The Indians struggled to score runs after the first two months of the season in 2011, but with a healthy productive year from Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner and Jason Kipnis, the offense could potentially become the team’s strong point.

At our local SABR meeting in early February, one of our members gave an excellent statistical presentation on the 2012 Indians and predicted 85-88 wins this season. If they can keep everyone whose name is not Grady Sizemore off of the DL for most of the year, I see no reason why they couldn’t earn 88 wins this season; an 8 win improvement over last year. ~ Stephanie Liscio (www.itspronouncedlajaway.com)


MINNESOTA TWINS – (Last Year: 63-99) As they look to right the ship after a disastrous 99-loss season, the Twins know they have plenty of obstacles to overcome. Injuries decimated the roster in 2011, and while the boys have had an offseason to heal their wounds, ongoing health concerns will continue to be the club’s top story entering the new campaign.

The additions of Josh Willingham, Jamey Carroll, Ryan Doumit and Jason Marquis help negate the losses of Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Joe Nathan and Kevin Slowey, but it’s returning players that will be under the microscope here in 2012. Can Justin Morneau and Denard Span shake the concussion symptoms that haunted them last year and persisted into the winter months? Will Joe Mauer’s balky knee hold up well enough for him to stick at catcher? Can Scott Baker put an achey elbow behind him? What will become of the enigmatic and inconsistent Francisco Liriano? These are the questions that will dictate whether the Twins can return to contention in the AL Central. I predict 80 wins. ~ Nick Nelson (www.twinsdaily.com)


KANSAS CITY ROYALS – (Last Year: 71-91) – The influx of youth in the lineup last season means the Royals are fairly set as 2012 approaches. The lone change to the starting nine from 2011 is in center field where Dayton Moore sold high on Melky Cabrera and shipped him to San Francisco in exchange for starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez is supposed to shore up a rotation that was among the worst in the league in ERA last summer, but the move away from AT&T Park and to the American League has me skeptical. Sanchez was the only major move the Royals made this winter, although they did bring Bruce Chen back on a two year deal and signed Yuniesky Betancourt to be a utility infielder. Also, they added Jonathan Broxton to an already solid bullpen as insurance in case their starters stumble once again. Last year, Royals relievers threw the third most innings in baseball. It can’t hurt to have a few extra arms in the pen.

With the youngest roster in the majors, there will be some growing pains in Kansas City, but it should be an exciting squad with tons of potential. Gone are the days of watching veterans play out their career with bloated contracts – I’m looking at you, Jose Guillen – and in it’s stead are a bunch of guys who are part of The Process. The biggest question mark is how the starting pitching will hold up as the young bats of The Process are about a year ahead of the young arms.

The Royals are an up and coming team in the AL Central but they’re still a year away from seriously thinking of contention. For 2012, 80 wins seems a reasonable expectation. ~ Craig Brown (www.royalsauthority.com)


CHICAGO WHITE SOX – (Last Year: 79-83) – I don’t know what the Sox motto is yet for the 2012 season, but it could be, “What if”. The Sox season, unlike any other since 2004, is full of question marks.

Will the real Adam Dunn stand up. Is he the guy who knocked 40 bombs with regularity, or the guy who had mostly wall power in 2011? I think he’ll come back to hit right around 30 home runs, while driving in about 90. His average should be in the low .200′s. What if his career continues to slide…That quite a deal the Sox will have to swallow.

Same with Alex Rios. Rios has all the tools, but it’s the mental game that does him in. He gets down on himself when he doesn’t perform, which leads to extended slumps on both sides of the ball. What if he plays this year like last year?

What if John Danks wilts under the pressure of his huge new contract, and being the number one guy. Danks will win around 16 games

What if Jake Peavy is never the same. Peavy has the fire of 20 ball players, but injuries have derailed many a career. I expect no more than 14 wins from Peavy

What if the Sox can’t replace Sergio Santos? My opinion, by mid-season at the latest, Addison Reed will be the closer. He followed the same path as former Sox farm hand Daniel Hudson. Reed has electric stuff, and a good head on his shoulders.

What if Paul Konerko starts showing his age? He can’t hit 30 home runs, bat .300 and drive in over 100 runs every year, can he? As the Captain goes, so goes the Sox.

The Sox made no real moves this off-season, unless you count Fukudome, and I am not.

The expectation, I believe is for the Sox to take the next step, with the thought of truly contending in 2013.

Oh, I should mention the mounting pressure on Chris Sale, who is being anointed, unfairly, as the future ace. Let him start a game before retiring his #.

And that’s leaves us with Gordon Beckham. If his on field playing catches up to his off field personality and charisma, the Sox will soar.

My opinion, too many question marks for the Sox to contend this year. However, if a few pieces do fall in place, watch out. The Central, past Detroit, isn’t that strong, so the Sox could surprise. ~ Bill Mahoney (www.whitesoxgab.com)

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Chris Volstad: The Big Subtraction

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

What do we know about Chris Volstad? Well, for starters, he’s really tall. At 6’8”, he’ll have at least three inches on anyone else on the Cubs roster (and a full foot on the miniature Tony Campana). However, before visions of a young Randy Johnson start dancing in your head, you should probably keep this in mind: after three seasons, his numbers seem to indicate that he’s potentially not all that good.

As most (all?) of you know, Volstad was the Miami Marlins’ contribution in the “Addition by

Chris Volstad, the 25-year old, former first round pick joined the Cubs in the off-season as part of the "Addition by Subtraction" trade sending Carlos Zambrano to Miami

Subtraction” trade that sent perpetually distracting CarlosZambrano to South Beach. Getting rid of Big Z was the story of the trade, with Big V expected to be nothing more than a serviceable back of the rotation starter with a young arm, a smallish salary and enough potential to be an intriguing addition to a rebuilding team.

Quantitatively, what exactly does “not all that good” mean? How about a career ERA of 4.59 with a winning percentage to match at .451? Not good. How do fewer than six strikeouts per nine innings over his first three full seasons in the majors sound? Meh. Do you like a starting pitcher that has averaged nearly one and a half home runs per nine innings in two of three seasons? Me neither. Does a career WHIP of 1.4 get you excited? Of course not.

So, is there anything good to say about Volstad (other than that he’s really tall)? Absolutely…it’s not all doom and gloom. For a 25 year old, he has already racked up quite a bit of MLB experience and has proven to be able to stay healthy, logging at least 29 starts in each of his first three seasons. Durability was certainly not an attribute that was in surplus for the Cubs’ rotation last year. Additionally, while he doesn’t strike a lot of batters out, he also doesn’t award many freebies, walking 60 or few batters (right around 3 BB/9) during his first three full seasons.

At just 25 years old, Volstad still has time to realize the potential that made him a first round pick in the 2005 draft.  I’m a big fan of looking at age similarity scores on Baseball-Reference.com and dreaming about what could be (much like purchasing a lottery ticket and envisioning what I’m going to do with all that cash), and the comps for Volstad show there is definitely some reason to believe that he could wind up being a great pick-up for the Cubs. The following are the ten players that ranked most similar to Volstad through age 24:

  1. Jeff Weaver (986)
  2. Ben Sheets (981)
  3. Scott Olsen (977)
  4. Melido Perez (974)
  5. Frank Viola (969)
  6. Johnny Cueto (968)
  7. Don Cardwell (966)
  8. Kyle Lohse (964)
  9. Tom Glavine (964)
  10. Ryan Dempster (961)

What to expect in 2012? Based on the way he’s pitched thus far in the spring, I expect Volstad will end up with one of the final spots in the rotation when the Cubs head north for the summer and will be an unspectacular but consistent presence at the back of the rotation every five days between April and September. My dream scenario? His age 25 season is a hybrid of Ben Sheets’ who jumped from 6.4 to 10 K/9 and Tom Glavine who improved from 10 wins to 20. A season like that and we might start calling it the “Volstad Trade” instead of the “Zambrano Trade”.

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AL East Preview

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

 


TORONTO BLUE JAYS (Last Year: 81-81) – It was a pretty boring off-season for the Blue Jays. Despite being linking to just about every free agent out there, from Yu Darvish to Prince Fielder, they didn’t make any really big moves. The only changes they made were to the bullpen, where changes were badly needed, and some of the spots on the bench. They traded for Sergio Santos, to take the closer role, and Jason Frasor and signed free agents Darren Oliver and Francisco Cordero to join holdovers Casey Janssen, Carlos Vilanueva and Jesse Litsch in the bullpen. Hopefully they will manage to cut down on the 24 blown saves from last year. The only other additions to the team were Jeff Mathis, to back up catcher J.P. Arencibia, and Omar Vizquel (because it is really important to have someone that remembers Neil Armstrong walking on the moon).The starting rotation looks to be the same guys we finished the season with: Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez, Brett Cecil (our obligatory player that came into camp in the best shape ever, he lost 33 pounds over the winter) and Dustin McGowan (back pitching after missing three years with various arm injuries). If one of them run into problems, Kyle Drabek is waiting in the wings for another chance.

The starting line up also looks to be the same as the group that ended last season. The only spot up for grabs is left field, where Travis Snider and Eric Thames will be battling it out. Thames seems to have the upper hand at the moment. The offense revolves around Jose Bautista, but they are hoping for a bounce back year from Adam Lind and for good seasons from mid-season pickups Kelly Johnson and Colby Rasmus, who seems very happy to be a Blue Jay after having some troubles in St. Louis. The best news, for our offense, is that we will get a whole season of Canadian Brett Lawrie. Brett hit .293/.373/.580 with 9 home runs in 43 games, in his first look at the majors. Getting him start the season at third can only make the team better.

The Jays seem to be the trendy pick for the team most helped by the extra wild card, but a lot of things would have to go right for them to improve enough upon their 81-81 record, from last season, for them to make the playoffs. I’d think the team should be fun to watch and end up in the 86-88 win range, many not quite enough to grab one of the wild card spots but a step in the right direction. ~ Tom Dakers (www.bluebirdbanter.com)


NEW YORK YANKEES – (Last Year: 97-65) – The Yankees came off a 97 win season last year with most of its roster coming back in 2012. Jorge Posada retired, but Jesus Montero was expected to step up in his place and only the rotation really needed to be addressed.

But it was a quiet winter for the most part as GM Brian Cashman didn’t like the prices of the free agents like Yu Darvish and C.J. Wilson and didn’t like the demands teams were making for pitchers on the trading block. So the Yankees sat back and waited for most of the winter before landing Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda in one night.

Now the Yankees have a new veteran starter and a promising young 23-year-old. Throw them together with CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and the inconsistent but once promising Phil Hughes and they have a strong rotation. With the offense mostly in tact from last season and one of the best bullpens in baseball 97 wins is another realistic goal.

The biggest concern is the new playoff format and the Red Sox. Both teams look very good going into this season but only one can win the division. 2012 could be a dog fight until the very end, but the Yankees have a team built to go all the way. It could be their last with Mariano Rivera closing games too so they need to take advantage of it. ~ Rob Abruzzese (www.bronxbaseballdaily.com)


BOSTON RED SOX – (Last Year: 90-72) – The Red Sox went into the 2011 season as the prohibitive favorites to win both the AL East and the American League pennant. After a rough 2-12 start, they rebounded to go 81-41 over their next 122 games. Then September hit, and everything came crashing halt that culminating in them getting knocked out on the final day of the season. What happened next was…well, surreal to say the least. Terry Francona and Theo Epstein left town for greener pastures, and the media went on a four month barrage where they fixated on everything from chicken and beer in the clubhouse to the Red Sox’s inactivity in the offseason.

Looking to 2012, the Red Sox come into the season with largely the same core in tact. Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Jacoby Ellsbury return to anchor the lineup, but many questions remain. Carl Crawford will try to bounce back from a disastrous 2011 season, while simultaneously trying to recover from torn cartilage in his wrist. This could be a tall order for Crawford as players are notoriously slow to recover from these types of injuries. Still, he’d be hard pressed to be less productive than he was last season. In right field, Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ross each have their flaws, but they seem to perfectly compliment each other. At the very least, they should be able provide an upgrade over J.D. Drew and Josh Reddick. Shortstop is another area of concern. The untested combination of Mike Aviles and Nick Punto have holes both offensively and defensively that could easily be exposed. Despite these concerns, there’s enough talent in the lineup to overcome any flaws that might exist.

On the pitching front, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz will return to front the rotation with the final two spots still to be determined. That thought is a little unsettling considering their $180M payroll. Daniel Bard should take one of those spots, but he’ll be limited to 150-170 innings at most. Replacement level talents like Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla, or a dark horse candidate will take the final spot. The bullpen is somewhat unproven, but should remain solid. Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon, recently acquired in shrewd trades, will fill out the closer and set-up roles. While they won’t outperform the Bard/Papelbon combo from 2011, they should hold their own.

I expect the Red Sox to battle it out with the Rays and Yankees through the end of the season. I predict they’ll win one of the two Wild Card spots, edging out the Rays for second place, with a 92-70 record. ~ Chip Buck (www.firebrandal.com)


BALTIMORE ORIOLES  – (Last Year: 69-93) – The main theme to the Orioles acquisitions this off season has been acquiring solid depth while letting go of nothing of much importance. They signed hit-or-miss, mostly glove Endy Chavez, righty killer, ground ball hugger Wilson Betemit, and AAA OBPer Matt Antonelli. That is a solid bench, but they likely will see more playing time than should be warranted to players of that caliber. All hope lies in players like Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, and Nolan Reimold taking the next step, JJ Hardy and Robert Andino repeating their performances, and Nick Markakis, Matt Reynolds, and Chris Davis rekindling their past expectations.

The most interesting aspect of this season is whether Dan Duquette pulled out of his sleeve a new market inefficiency: league average Japanese League starters. Tsuyoshi Wada and Taiwanese Wei-Yin Chen both profile as average or slightly below pitchers. Both pitchers are receiving about 4MM a year for their services. If projections are accurate, a similar established Major League pitcher like Aaron Harang or Chris Capuano would get a million or two more per year. Of course, this approach might be more interesting if used for a team with a greater likelihood of reaching the playoffs. We can all hope though. 78 wins should be what we can expect. ~ Jon Shepherd (www.camdendepot.blogspot.com)


TAMPA BAY RAYS – (Last Year: 91-71) – The 2012 Rays will look strikingly similar to the 2011 Rays. In Tampa Bay, it all begins and ends with pitching. The Rays bring back all five starters from 2011: 2011 Cy Young candidate James Shields, 2010 Cy Young candidate David Price, 2011 Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis. Just to make things interesting, the Rays will add uber-prospect Matt Moore, who had wins in the pennant race and playoffs before ever throwing a pitch in a big league spring training, to the rotation as well. Most likely, Tampa Bay will break camp by sending Niemann or Davis to the bullpen and then going to a 6-man rotation after the slate of days off in the first month.

The Rays lineup, like its starting rotation, will look remarkably familiar in 2012. The Rays ended last season with gaping holes at shortstop, DH, first base and catcher. They added Luke Scott and re-added Carlos Pena to fill the spots at DH and 1B and to provide some protection for Evan Longoria. Unfortunately, they were unable to find a catcher this winter and, unless they pull a rabbit out of a hat and sign Pudge Rodriguez, they will break camp with a career backup (Jose Molina) and a minor leaguer (Robinson Chirinos, Jose Lobaton, Chris Gimenez, or Stepehn Vogt) in the bucket. ~ Mark Heilig (www.therayarea.com)

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GirlieView (03/22/2012)

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Here’s something super exciting I just realized right this minute. By the time I publish the next GirlieView, the Cubs will be at Wrigley Field preparing for their opening game which will start a brief few hours later! Yay! We’re almost there!

Lizzies

  • Theriot was only close to being Mr. Cub like in one person’s mind.
  • The NHL could implement automatic playoff berths for all non-playoff-bound MLB teams.  They might already have that in place…I don’t follow hockey.
  • The number of long fly outs Soriano will admire from home plate, thinking they are home runs: 35
  • We’ve all had our boiling points reached with Soriano but with that being said, I think Cub fans that boo Soriano from the 1st inning of the 1st game are obnoxious
  • His sin is that he is a mediocre player that is being paid like an All-Star.
  • Whether he is unwilling or unable to make any adjustments to improve in those areas is not for me to decide–just know that he hasn’t, and that’s what I find most irksome about him.
  • perhaps the best place to start is choosing a bat that weighs less than his over-inflated ego
  • Cubs game on in the cubical…all is well.
  • I am loving the Cubs new “player development” angle.
  • I would rather the Cubs take the slow road to sustainable sucess than the quick fix of bad contracts.
  • When [Marmol] is on, they say he is untouchable.  When he is off, well, he is so far off it makes you wonder if he should go back to being a catcher.
  • To me, the best case scenario is that Marmol looks absolutely dominant in the first half of the season and the Cubs are able to trade him and most of his contract for above market value in July.
  • If I can squeeze the game onto one of our three DVR’s, without disrupting the princess’ 40 episodes of Dora The Explorer and Go Diego GO, I’ll watch the game late Sunday night.
  • If Cosmopolitan is the playbook for my gender, then heaven help us all.
  • bench players just aren’t very exciting.
  • My son asked for his autograph and he said he wasn’t Jeff Baker, if it wasn’t him it is hard to believe 2 guys at Wrigley that day had identical big  square jaws.
  • My name’s…uh…Beff.  Beff Jaker.
  • While he can play five positions (1B, 2B, 3B, LF, RF), he’s not particularly good at any of them.
  • That is a tough spring training assginement, 500 words on Jeff Baker. “Mediocre utilty defender, only hits lefty’s” would of done it for me.
  • Reason number 5,287 we’re all glad Doc doesn’t write for VFTB.
  • No appreciation for being succinct around here?
  • your team is your team, even when they sign Milton Bradley to an ill-advised $30M contract.
  • If Paul Sullivan makes a prediction, I’d bet the opposite.
  • Smarja will also be starring in the Cinemax flick “Golden Dome of Love” this month just in case his baseball career goes limp.
  • Three innings doth not a starter make.
  • why wouldn’t we hope he gets better? Don’t we all hope that EVERYONE gets better?
  • It’s that time of year. Everyone who is anyone is doing previews of the season. Some are good and some suck. Ours will probably suck.
  • My hope is that as Castro matures, so will his judgement.
  • “What can Cubs fans look for in 2012? Answer: 2013″
  • Everyday that I can I’ll be abusing my priviledge as a regular in my local sports bar to get the Cubs game on amid groans and heckles from the masses.
  • Same here, but replace “local sports bar” with “living room” and “masses” with “wife and daughter.”
  • A wise man once said, “Even the worst baseball game I ever watched was great.”
  • Would have been nice if somebody had organized a bracket to fill out, you know, just for fun.
  • Careful with those blanket statements about fanbases–you’ll start to sound like White Sox fan.
  • There are a lot of ways this team can improve without any manifestation of it in the win column, knowing and handling our pitchers is definitely one of them.
  • I consider it a good sign that someone considers my book worthy enough for toilet seat reading.
  • The Cubs strike a deal to move Alfonso Soriano and shift Bryan LaHair to LF to make room for Rizzo.
  • Joe teases me with this Soriano elsewhere stuff.
  • Crazier things have happened.  Today in fact…Pettitte just resigned with the Yanks.
  • I guess Ron Guidry wasn’t available.
  • A million dollars for nothing? Geez, that’s tough. I’d have to ask Soriano for advice.
  • I like Soto–not nearly as much as Lizzie, but certainly more than Joe.

Lizard

  • Not a star.  Does not suck.  Sums up the 2012 Cubs.

2012 Standings (1 point for each Lizzie, 3 points for the Lizard)

  • jswanson – 32
  • Jeremiah Johnson – 31
  • Doc Raker – 28
  • cap’n Obvious – 26
  • Jedi Johnson – 22
  • Buddy – 21
  • Seymour Butts – 21
  • Chuck – 20
  • Chet – 9
  • Dustin Godsey – 9
  • JoeAiello – 9
  • Doug S. – 8
  • Kris – 8
  • Noah – 5
  • Norm – 5
  • 29 others with < 5. I’ll post the full list every few months.

Shout Outs

Congrats to the following folks who got their first  2012 Lizzie this week!

  • Doug Bagley
  • Hardball Times
  • Lee Panas
  • Scott P

Lizzie’s Kitchen

Because it’s been (unbelievably) warm around here lately, we’re grilling even more often than we do in the wintertime!

March Madness

The VFTB March Madness tournament is in full swing, and here are the standings before any regional semi-final action beginning on the 22nd. (Total points so far followed by total possible points in parentheses):

  • Joe Aiello – 48 (168)
  • BSCTS FTW! – 46 (146)
  • Doug S. – 44 (164)
  • Allan Bendert Bracket – 42 (162)
  • Tom_C – 42 (150)
  • GirlieView – 41 (105)
  • Pugperro – 38 (118)
  • Tony #GoCubsGo – 38 (58)
  • THE BOLT – 38 (162)
  • Flyslinger2 – 38 (154)
  • Beckman’s Exercise in Futility – 36 (156)
  • SC Cubs Fan – 35 (147)
  • Speedo Emporium – 32 (92)

Good luck as the Tournament continues!

Further Fantasies

Don’t forget to contact Josh if you’re interested in a VFTB fantasy baseball league. His series about his forays into fantasyland begins here, and his contact information is on our author page.

Chit Chat

You be Dale. What’s your lineup looking like these days?

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Reed Johnson: The Fourth Outfielder

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Following a sub-par 2010 season with the Dodgers, the Cubs brought Reed Johnson back to the friendly confines on a minor league deal in 2010. Johnson won a spot on the active roster during spring training, and rewarded the Cubs by posting a .309/.346/.467 in 266 plate appearances. The Cubs then rewarded Johnson by bringing him back for $1.15 million this season.

Following a strong return to the Cubs in 2011, the Cubs brought Reed Johnson back as their fourth outfielder. Can a repeat of his 2011 results reasonably be expected? If not, what is his role with the Cubs?

Johnson was actually not expected to be the fourth outfielder in 2011. That role was supposed to be filled by Tyler Colvin, who many anticipated would get fairly regular playing time against right handed pitchers in both corners of the outfield, as well as some spot duty for Marlon Byrd in center field. Barring injury, Johnson was only expected to get regular playing time subbing for Kosuke Fukudome against left handed pitchers. But a typically hot start by Kosuke Fukudome and a 10 home run April by Alfonso Soriano provided only limited playing time for Colvin, who struggled mightily all season and spent much of the year in Iowa.

Johnson, on the other hand, had his best offensive season since at least 2008, and Mike Quade clearly considered Johnson his fourth outfielder by the end of April. With that said, no one should expect Reed Johnson to be able to match his 2011 numbers, particularly against right handed pitchers. For his career, Reed Johnson has posted a .266/.324/.382 against right handed pitching. In 2011, Johnson put up a .312/.361/.468 in 157 plate appearances against right handed pitching.

How did Johnson do this? As is typical in an outlier year with a small sample size of plate appearances, the answer is BABIP. Johnson posted a .410 BABIP against right handed pitchers last season. The odds of him repeating that performance are extraordinarily slim.

It would be more reasonable to expect Johnson to put up numbers in line with his .305/.330/.467 against left handed pitching in 2011, with significantly worse numbers more indicative of his career averages against right handed pitching.

This doesn’t mean that Johnson has no value to the 2012 Cubs. David DeJesus, who will be the regular starter in right field against right handed pitching, struggles against left handed pitching. And while age has reduced Johnson to a fringy fielder in center, he is still solid in both corner outfield positions.

Considering Dave Sappelt and Tony Campana are essentially ready to fulfill their roles as career bench outfielders, this is likely Reed Johnson’s last season with the Cubs. But Johnson is the sort of guy the Cubs might want to transition to their coaching staff if he retires after the season. He is a smart player who has turned pretty unremarkable tools into a ten year major league career, and guys like that tend to make pretty good coaches.  Johnson is also an easy player to root for, which I will be more than happy to do in a season that will probably be his swan song with the Cubs.

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Chet’s Corner: A Glance Ahead to April

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Spring training excites me for about 4 days.  It’ s the unofficial official start of a new season.   The excitement starts to subside when I realize that the band of new players brought in over the summer is nothing to get real excited about.  Even when a new player flashes some serious potential it’s still only spring training.  It’s as if the training wheels still need to come off to see the proof.   It reminds me of fake baseball.  It’s not real.

All this being said, three players have actually caught my attention this spring so far.  Those players are Travis Wood, Joe Mather, and Jeff Samardzija. 

Let’s start with Samardzija.  Earlier I posted asking folks to list this years breakout player.  There were a few who chose Shark purely because he was due, yet it seemed as though they regretted it.   So far in Spring ball, Shark has delivered.  A lot of people may not be so high on Jeff, but take away that 10 million dollar albatross signing bonus and possibly being rushed to the majors a bit, and you have a guy coming into form.  Then again, it is only spring training, this is yet another perfect example of what could be a desert oasis that could turn into a dry bed of sand once we remove our spring goggles.  All that aside,  I am pretty sure he will secure one of the 2 remaining spots in the rotation.  See you in April Jeff!

Joe Mather is yet another in a long line of utility guys, who I have never heard of, that light up spring training pitching.  Do I trust that Mather will keep this going come April? No.  Should I? No.  He is the carbon copy of spring fling.  He looks great in a scaled down uniform, but throw on those pinstripes and he will probably fade back to reality.   However, with the likes of Tony Campana getting one hit so far it looks as though the squad could use a speedy outfielder on the bench.  Joe Mather, see you in April!

Where to start with Travis Wood?  A lot of people wanted to see this guy shine.  Spring training has been a personal hell for Travis on the field however.  He currently totes a 25.00 + ERA in three outings.  I know it’s early and ERA doesn’t say everything, being an overrated stat and all, but that number is a little too large to ignore.  I personally wanted to see Travis get that fifth rotation spot if for no other reason than I didn’t get excited with the other candidates.  Oh well, we still have half of spring left.  He could always have an epiphany and turn this thing around. 

Other then these observations I took a look at our schedule.  Feast your eyes on April and you will notice we play a heavy diet of NL Central teams to start the year.  I will be curious to see where this team sits at the end of the month.  I think the question on everybody’s mind right now is, will they be competitive?

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