Saturday, April 03, 2010

AL East - The Best Division for Second Base Men

The American League East is already considered to have three of the best teams in baseball with the Yankees, the Red Sox and the Bay Rays. And each team has talent all over the field. Each team has at least one or two advantages at a position over the other. But one position seems to be a draw: Second base. In fact, the AL East probably has the best division in baseball for guys who play second: Cano, Pedroia, Hill, Zobrist, Roberts. Wow. That's a lot of talent this side of Chase Utley. Let's take a look at each of them.

Robinson Cano:
Age - 28
Lifetime Batting Average - .306
Lifetime OPS+ - 113
RF/9 - 5.04
Lifetime Fielding Perc. - .982
2009 RTOT - 9.5
2009 OPS+ - 129

Comments: Cano really improved last year in his concentration and fielding. He's quick on the double play and he hasn't yet put it all together at the plate. He hit .322 last year and many feel he should win a batting title. This could be the year. He needs to walk more. But won't.

Dustin Pedroia:
Age - 27
Lifetime Batting Average - .307
Lifetime OPS+ - 111
RF/9 - 4.73
Lifetime Fielding Perc. - .990
2009 RTOT - 9.8
2009 OPS+ - 111

Comments: Plays all out all the time. Hardly ever makes an error. One of the hardest swingers per pound in the game.

Aaron Hill:
Age - 28
Lifetime Batting Average - .285
Lifetime OPS+ - 102
RF/9 - 5.09
Lifetime Fielding Perc. - .988
2009 RTOT - 9.6
2009 OPS+ - 117

Comments: A bit of a late bloomer, but boy did he bloom. With 72 extra base hits, Hill came out of nowhere to ring up 36 homers. And the way he is hitting this spring, it wasn't a fluke.

Brian Roberts:
Age - 33
Lifetime Batting Average - .284
Lifetime OPS+ - 105
RF/9 - 4.77
Lifetime Fielding Perc. - .987
2009 RTOT - -14.2
2009 OPS+ - 111

Comments: On the downward slope of his career, or at least he should be. Lifetime OPS+ suffers in comparison due to late blooming. But he has averaged an OPS+ of 115 over the last five years. Range has dwindled. Good fielding percentage but rated far behind the others in the fielding category.

Ben Zobrist:
Age - 28
Lifetime Batting Average - .260
Lifetime OPS - 109
RF/9 - 4.64 (at second) He's played a lot of positions.
Lifetime Fielding Perc. - .990
2009 RTOT - 5.8
2009 OPS+ - 146

Comments: Easily had the best year at the plate of the group. Was in the top ten in OPS/SLG/OBP. More versatile than the others in that he can play other positions but second seems to be where he fields the best. The Fan was surprised at his age. He will be 29 in May.

Here are their projected WARP (wins over replacement player) for 2010 according to PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus:

Cano - 4.8
Pedroia - 5.9
Hill - 4.0
Roberts - 3.3
Zobrist - 4.0

So, according to Baseball Prospectus, the value goes by rank: Pedroia, Cano, Hill/Zobrist, Roberts. Sounds about right. Though Hill and Zobrist certainly can finish higher than their projections.

Roberts has had a great five year run and has been a perennial All Star. Due to his fielding, he might be a tad overrated. But he's a solid player and if he is the poorest of the AL East at his position, that's a pretty strong division. Zobrist faded a bit in the second half last year but he had never played in so many games. But it's hard to argue with his final results. Pedroia was the AL MVP and followed it up with a good season. He will be good for quite some time yet. Cano is getting better and better and we haven't seen the best of him. And Aaron Hill has become the star of his team and is no slouch compared to the other four.

The AL East has a lot of riches in talent, but no more so than at second base.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Tribute to Mrs. Fan

If there were ever two peas in a pod, it's in the Fan's house. And today, the Fan wants to take a moment and celebrate Mrs. Fan who celebrates the 51st anniversary of her birth. Two more months from now a new celebration will begin as it will mark the 10th year of an extraordinary marriage.

Mrs. Fan never cared for baseball until that marriage. Now she roots for the Fan's favorite team just as gustily. Her favorite is the catcher. She just likes him a lot. She really likes the shortstop and the closer too.

Mrs. Fan has really proved the "for better or for worse" thing. There have been incredible highs and lately, incredible lows. But it's all good because as long as both are faced together with one resolve and one heart, there will be proof of the Fan's favorite bible verse: "And it came to pass..." This too shall pass. And there will be better days.

Mrs. Fan just seems to get it when it comes to caring for others. She just knows how to make someone else the center of the universe which is all a person can ask for. She has her quirks. She can't hear in one ear, so that takes a bit of planning in seating arrangements. She has a bad wheel as a knee replacement didn't work out very well. And that combined with her penchant for losing her balance momentarily (no doubt due to the ear thing) earns her the pet name of, "Weeble." But those quirks are endearing, which is the true test of this marriage after all.

Mrs. Fan encourages the Fan to play golf on a nice day (how many wives do that!?). She is always pleased when the Fan buys a rare article of new clothing. She likes the Fan's cooking a lot, but doesn't like the puns. Oh well, nothing is perfect. She also defends the dog when the Fan is less than pleased with it. Well, somebody has to look out for the little guy.

Mrs. Fan has two degrees, one in nursing, which she did for over two dozen years and one in teaching. She could make a lot more money nursing, but her knee is a problem. But she loves teaching. She has taught art at the middle school for six years. The kids adore her. Everywhere she goes, they come running with big expectant smiles to see her. But art is always a luxury for a government and when they can't afford it anymore, it's always the first thing to get cut. Heaven forbid that they cut down on the sports expenses. So her job was eliminated in recent budget cuts. Hopefully, she'll catch on as a teacher in another subject. The principal thinks it's a good possibility. But she really enjoys art and it's a real shame.

So anyway, today is her birthday and that makes it a very special day. Because the Fan is sure blessed that she was born today all those years ago. Happy Birthday, Baby.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

You Know It's Almost Baseball Season When...

...Yahoo starts including the MLB link on their home page. Sweet.

The Excitement is Building...

Can you feel it? Can you see it coming? Baseball fans are expectant parents waiting for the baby to arrive. And it's almost time for the new season to be born. It will be a season like others, but it will be totally different. Each team will still play 162 games. The American League will still have the DH. Bobby Cox is still down there in Atlanta. The Cubs are still hoping for the drought to be over. The bases are still formed in that perfect diamond. The familiar will take its place along side the new and ridiculous. Ozzie will still say some off the wall things. But his team is totally different than past teams. LaRussa will still be in St. Louis along with Duncan performing his yearly miracles. Pujols will hit. But we'll still see something we've never seen before and some player or team will surprise us. Scandals will occur. Hotdogs will be over-priced. The regular season is almost upon us. Hallelujah!

One of the best things about being a Fan is making a mental list of hopes for the new season. Each April brings a pie in the sky feeling and euphoria of possibility. Only a few of those wishes will become reality. Some crushing disappointments will occur. But like a typical Sunday on a golf course, the shanks are usually forgotten after the miracles. For each wince at the disabled list, there will be a mental high five to someone having a career year. Some young guy will become the new megastar. Some old guy will finally break down. And despite some of the finest minds in the world predicting the outcomes, nobody knows what is going to happen.

And those mental wish lists? Those things that would happen in a perfect world? How about Jeter getting 200 more hits? How about Hamilton, Vlad, Cruz and Feldman bringing a division title to Texas? How about Jason Heyward finishing with a .950 OPS? How about that switch-pitcher for the Yankees getting a September call? How about one of the Pirates, Nationals, Reds, Orioles, Padres or (God help them) the Royals breaking years of struggle to shine in the sun? How about Braun and Fielder hitting 100 homers between them? How about Strasburg and Chapman finishing their mandatory time in the minors to come up blazing zeroes? How about the Bay Rays topping two million in attendance? How about the Marlins winning the wildcard? How about Tim Hudson being this year's Chris Carpenter? How about Buster Posey getting a shot to hit every day?

Wouldn't it be great if a pitcher threw a perfect game on opening day? Wouldn't it be great if Mike Sweeney had a great year in Seattle? Wouldn't it be great to see another great throw from Ichiro to throw out a runner at third? Admit it. Wouldn't it be fun for someone other than the Cardinals to win the NL Central? Wouldn't it be great if Haeger really got a shot in Los Angeles once they get tired of Padilla? Wouldn't it be fun to watch Phil Hughes live up to his potential? Wouldn't it be great if Miami discovered the Marlins? Wouldn't it be great for fans to have a new stadium in Minnesota? Wouldn't it be a relief to hear good news about the Athletics' future? Wouldn't you be glad if Jose Reyes and David Wright had great years?

There is so much to root for. There are so many wonderful reasons to check out the box scores. It will be a treat to read all the Fan's favorite writers. It will be fun to root for all the JMLs that Josh Borenstein has written about every day? Wouldn't you secretly love to see Manny Ramirez have a big year? Sure you would. Wishing and hoping is what this is all about. Waiting to discover how much of it goes beyond our wildest expectations is worth all winter of missing the daily grind of the season.

Through it all, the Fan will be pumping it out. Because this is what the Fan lives for...well, one of the things anyway. Can you feel it? Are you excited? Yeah! The Fan hears you and smiles in similitude.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tigers Take Huge Risk

The Tigers were sort of in a no win situation. Three of their candidates for the starting rotation came in to camp as big question marks. Dontrelle Willis and his problems have been well documented. But the Tigers are on the hook with him for a huge paycheck this year regardless of what he does. Nate Robertson was once a great prospect who in the past showed signs of brilliance. But then his WHIP started expanding quicker than a former Cheers actress and last year missed most of the season. Jeremy Bonderman also had a bright future before struggling with performance and ultimately with injury. The Tigers were in hopes that one or two of those guys would make the rotation. The feeling here is because of his cost, Willis was given every opportunity to make it. Now the Tigers have traded away Robertson to the Marlins in basically a cash dump and that makes the Tigers vulnerable.

While any regular reader of this site knows the Fan's longing for Willis to succeed, it is with some fear that he has actually made the team and the rotation. His last two spring starts started to show the wildness that has plagued him the last couple of years. He walked three in four innings just yesterday. So good spring regardless, the last two starts haven't been moving in the right direction.

Robertson, on the other hand, was having a very good and consistent spring and it looked that he was poised to overcome and pitch effectively in the major leagues again. Jim Leyland was quoted as saying that the move frees up some of the logjam in the rotation. But is it ever a bad thing to have too many starting pitchers? The Red Sox don't think so and stockpile them like end-of-the-world survivalists. The Red Sox are pretty smart people.

Jeremy Bonderman was once a stud with a big arm and a high strikeout rate. Think of Verlander without the success. But despite all that, he's only had one year in his career where he had an ERA+ over 100. So even if he IS healthy this year, what will he be able to achieve? He's still only 28 years old and it's possible for him to still succeed, but it seems like a long shot.

In fact, the entire result of the spring competition seems like a long shot. Will Dontrelle Willis be effective? As much as the Fan hopes it so, it seems unlikely. Will Bonderman be effective? Even before his injury, that seemed to be the never ending question. Trading away Robertson makes the Tigers way too vulnerable and they have taken a huge risk. In fact, don't call it a risk, call it one of the biggest gambles in recent memory.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Defending White Sox Disrespect?

Blog buddy, Josh Borenstein, usually feels much the same about all things baseball as this writer. But Josh took great exception to the piece featured here for disrespecting the White Sox pitching staff and team. While Josh is super high on the Fan's respect list, we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. Let's put some numbers behind the rationale.

According to PECOTA projections, the starting rotation of the White Sox is projected to have the highest value over replacement players (VORP) in the division. They project out to a VORP of 128.6 compared to 100.9 for the Twins and 114.9 for the Tigers. But while the Fan believes some of the White Sox pitchers are rated too highly (more on that later), some of the projections for the Tigers and Twins seem way too low. Kevin Slowey has been terrific this spring and the Fan believes he will come in higher than projection. Rick Porcello was rated very low (5) and he should come in much higher than that. If those two projections alone account for some closure between the numbers, consider the Twins' projected batting order (even with Nick Punto at third!) projects to 209.4 VORP compared to the White Sox' projection of 125.2.

The Fan also believes the White Sox projections are too high. Let's go through each member of the starting rotation:

Mark Buehrle: Despite his no hitter, Buehrle gives up a lot of hits. He's led the league in that category three of the last five years. Plus, his strikeout to walk ratio has dipped for two straight years. Add to that his BABIP which was .283 last year compare to his career number of .291 and Buehrle (which is darn hard to type by the way) should finish with an ERA over 4.00 and a record around .500.

John Danks: Danks regressed a bit last year compared to the year before. His ERA went up as did his walks per nine innings. His homers per nine innings doubled too. You can count on him to strike out seven guys per nine as he has been there consistently, but it's hard to predict his success in not walking people because his last three years show high/low/high. His BABIP was also low last year at .269 compared to his career mark of .291. All that being said, Danks will finish with an ERA of 4 or higher and he will be a .500 pitcher unless he brings his walks down dramatically.

Gavin Floyd: Floyd had a great season in 2008, his first year as a featured starting pitcher. But he fell to a .500 record last year with an ERA of 4.06. It's hard to figure though because his strikeouts per nine and his strikeout to walk ratio numbers were the best of his career. His WHIP and homers per nine were also the best of his career. So one would have to assume that Floyd was very unlucky last year (though his BABIP was dead on for his career average). All that being said, Floyd should fare close to his projections.

Freddie Garcia: Garcia has been a serviceable pitcher for most of his career. He's a veteran and he knows what he is doing. But he's also 35 and has missed major portions of the last three years. He is a gigantic "IF" in this Fan's book. At least he can't be any worse than Contreras...

Jake Peavy: Peavy is a stud, or at least he's been one. And that's the concern. Will he hold up? Was his brilliant 3-0 look-see last year an indicator of things to come or was that a function of hitters not being familiar with him? Time will tell. But Peavy has been a great pitcher and could be again. The Fan will go this far to meet Josh in the middle: If Peavy is Peavy and puts up prime Padres-like numbers, then the White Sox edge out the pitching staffs in the rest of the division. But they still won't hit enough to win the division.

Hey, at least the Fan came halfway, right?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Some Teams Will Surprise Us

Spring Training is a lousy indicator of who is going to do well in the regular season and who is going to fare poorly. There are just too many variables to consider. First, you could have an average to poor pitcher facing a line up of youngsters and fringe players trying to obtain a job. A good result is fairly meaningless there. The Yankees, for example, have rarely had a game this spring where their regulars all played. The Tigers on the other hand, play their regulars often. Then throw in split squad games and what, if anything, does that tell you? But despite all of that, there are small indications that a team will be better than thought or worse than expected. Let's look at a few of those here.

On the plus side:

Cleveland Indians - The Indians have rarely lost a game this spring and for all the reasons stated above, you have to look at that with a skeptical eye. But there are a lot of positive things going on for the Indians. The biggest of those positives has been the pitching of Francisco Carmona. A few years ago, this guy won 19 games and then lost it. He couldn't throw strikes, and when he was forced to, he got cuffed around. While it's a small sample size, Carmona has been outstanding and has only walked two batters all spring. That's a very good thing for the Indians. He is joined in the rotation by Jake Westbrook, who missed most of the last two seasons to injury. He's throwing well this spring and was a very solid starter before he got hurt. Masterson and Carrasco have great arms and if they can put it together, can be very effective for the Indians, Masterson especially. Talbot will get his starts and has had a good spring too. The Indians have to find a way not to start Sowers. The guy is just not effective.

The Indians could also have a formidable line up too, especially if Hafner is back and can come close to his past glory. But even if he can't, a healthy Grady Sizemore, the ever improving Choo, Peralta and Asdrubal Cabrera and a couple of guys who could have career years and this team can be quite dangerous. The Fan has a gut feeling that the Indians will be in the fight for the AL Central.

Tampa Bay Rays - Well, this may not be a surprise as everyone knows the Rays have talent. But looking at the spring statistics (yeah, yeah, the Fan knows), the Rays are in the middle of the pack in offensive and pitching stats and have still won at a .700 clip. These guys are scary good.

San Diego Padres - The Padres will have more offense than last year. Adrian Gonzalez also has Venable and now Kyle Blanks joining him in a lineup with possibilities. Tony Gwynn Jr. might finally break out to a good major league hitter and Ley Brothers, Hundley and Headley seem poised to become productive every day hitters. But it isn't the batting that is exciting about the Padres, it's their pitching. Yeah, they have Garland, who is a gritty and determined pitcher of mixed results, but at least he is a known quantity. But Correia has only walked one batter all spring, LeBlanc might just outshine Peavy for a long time and Latos, a golden arm, is their fifth starter. That's pretty exciting stuff. Here is a bold prediction. The Padres will not end up in last place and might just be in the hunt this year.

On the down side...

Chicago White Sox - The White Sox have molded a new kind of offense for Ozzie Guillen and it just doesn't seem to be working. They are faster than before but seem vulnerable to power arms. A lot will depend on guys like Rios and Teahan, guys who were basically given up on by their former teams. Juan Pierre leading off doesn't scare anyone. And just what do guys like Andruw Jones, Paul Konerko and A. J. Pierzynski have left in the tank? Beckham and Quentin are rising stars, but the rest of the offense just doesn't scare the Fan. And their pitching? Peavy and Buehrle will be okay, but Danks, Floyd and Freddie Garcia are a frightening collection of the rest of the rotation. The Fan just doesn't see the White Sox contending and they will finish behind both the Twins and the Tigers.

The California Angels - Forget that the Angels lost Figgins and Vlad and replaced them with lesser beings. The Angels real problem is their pitching. Jared Weaver just isn't an ace and he is the opening day starter. Ervin Santana can't stay healthy, Saunders is always a train wreck waiting to happen, Pineiro might be decent and then who? This just might be their weakest starting rotation in a decade and this will be the year the Angels fall off the tracks.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tripping Through the Transactions - 2

This is the time of year that gets really tough for major league hopefuls as the nail biting has long begun on who will head north with their teams and who will be left behind. There were some surprises. But you weren't expecting a serious look at the week's transactions were you? Oops if you were because here at the FanDome, we trip on the transactions in our own unique way. Here we go.

  • Andres Blanco didn't wine when the Cubs traded him to Texas.
  • Heard someone Seay that Detroit's pitcher, Bobby, was headed to the disabled list. Zach Minor's injury was major enough to put him on the disabled list too. The Fan thinks that MLB needs to make a rule where all Zacks and Zachs agree to spell their name the same.
  • Meanwhile, over at Minnesota's camp, Mike is headed to the minors like a Maroth to a flame. Also, the Twins don't seem invested in Dennis Lehmann and they sent him down. Ben Revere will also be riding to a different destination.
  • At the Athletics' complex, Michael seems to be Taylor-made but is driving to a lower level of play. Last year it appeared that pitcher Vin's career path was straight as a Mazzaro, but his quiver is empty and he's headed to the minors.
  • Cardinals' pitcher, Adam, will have to make his Ottovino-mobile trip to Memphis. Wow, that was bad, no?
  • Derek Holland tried like heck to have his tulips remain shut when he was told he was being demoted. Craig Gentry was also sent down. Shouldn't someone with his last name be playing for the Royals?
  • As written about here, Duente Heath would have used a sheath, but since he was going to pay for that usage, he is suspended.
  • In Baltimore, one family's Stockstill is rising as David and John were given directorships.
  • Also in Orioles' news, infielder Hughes thought it was sillier than a nursery Rhyne that he was being sent down after his hard work. The Orioles also laid the groundwork for Florimon and finally for the Orioles, Sarfate it is for me to say, but Dennis never had a shot to make the team.
  • Meanwhile, the Red Sox spit out one LOOGY out as Shouse is outta the house, but they swallowed another one as Scott Schoeneweis was signed to replace him.
  • The Cubs were busy. Pitcher John wasn't Gaubs full of good feelings when he learned his fate. As for Chirinos, Robinson grew so frustrated when he didn't make the team. Pitcher Bobby just can't get the Scales tipped in his favor when it comes to his major league career. Darwin Barney lost the survival of the fittest when he was sent down. And finally, the Cubs said Ariv-Adduci to Jim.
  • At the Marlins' camp, Andrew Miller's hopes were sawed off when he had to go to the minors.
  • In the Astros' complex, Oswaldo was assassinated via demotion, Navarro to return. And Wesley spoke to God because he didn't think it was Wright that he had to go to the minors.
  • The Red Sox paid cash to the Giants to get a present for their Frandsen.
  • Jon Jay will fly to Memphis.
  • The Brewers didn't want to put their pitcher at Riske, so David is on the disabled list.
  • The Yankees of New York naturally have that accent. That said, they took Chad out of their Gaudin and put him the compost pile.
  • Seattle's Mike will take a magic Carp-et ride to the minors.
  • Pitcher, Ron, Mahay pitch for the Twins or he Mahay not as he signed a minor league contract.
  • The market for Hernan was Inbarren as he cleared waivers.
  • Edwar, what is he good for? Absolutely something as the Rangers got Petit in a trade for Ramirez.
  • The White Sox were busy. Jordan said, Danks a lot, when he was sent down. Brent didn't like the Morel of his story when he heard the same news. Oh, and Ryan Braun was sent down...WHAT!? Oh wait, it's a different one.

There were more, but the Fan senses you aren't having pun anymore, so we'll wrap it up here. Have a good week!