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Preview: mlb garbage: dispelling nonsense from columnists

mlb garbage: dispelling nonsense from columnists

Updated: 2015-09-16T12:43:16.895-04:00




2010 Predictions, because someone has to be wrongAL East1st - Rays - They could screw this season up, finish 3rd, lose 3-5 major leaguers, and be just as competitive next season with their army of prospects coming up.2nd - Yankees (wildcard) - I see regression all over the place. No way can Rivera, Posada, Jeter, and A-Rod ALL put up 2009 seasons on 2010 bodies; which is what it'd take to win the division. Vasquez's AL numbers won't equal his NL ones, but at least they're finally starting Hughes.3rd - Red Sox - This division is a complete crap shoot, three 94+ win teams is possible. A downturn in corner power and a possible mid-season Beckett contract controversy may leave this team looking in from the outside.4th - Orioles - 20-30 wins later we have the bottom of the division. Lots of intriguing prospects here, but still not ready to take a run at the mountain.5th - Blue Jays - RIP Blue Jays for the next few years, will anyone in Toronto be watching by the time you turn it around?AL Central1st - Twins - they were || to messing up and putting Liriano in the 'pen. Thome looks great buried in that lineup.2nd - Tigers - if like 5 things bounce their way, they can win the division.3rd - White Sox - how can a team appraise pitchers pretty well but hitters so stupidly? I love their bullpen.4th - Kansas City - If only some intrepid intern could clean this roster up, it'd be a decent squad.5th - Indians - Do they fire Shapiro this season? It'd be too bad, but maybe it's time.AL West1st - Mariners - I suspect most sources will say Texas will win this division, and they very well might. However once Bedard comes back the Mariners have possibly the best Top 3 rotation in baseball, and a deceptively solid lineup. Record vs. the rest of the division will be key in the AL West.2nd - Rangers - Best lineup this side of Yankeetown. If Harden ever throws 200 innings again, he'd be playoff-bound. And will Feliz's bullpen explosion last year translate to the rotation?3rd - Athletics - will be much improved from last year's forgotten season, but still not close enough to contention again.4th - Angels - If everything goes well for them, this pick will look ridiculous. But I see regression in the outfield, Pineiro != Lackey, and a bullpen controversy in the making with Fuentes.NL East1st - Phillies - Ho hum, to the playoffs we go. Halladay maybe has the best season since Pedro? Wait scratch that, best season since Greinke in '09??2nd - Bravos (wild card) - I'm fawning over that lineup, and if Hudson bounces back the rotation will be pretty nice.3rd - Marlins - Already 1 year behind their "win WS every 6 years" pattern, will need Hanley to get back on track in order to contend for the playoffs.4th - Mets - they definitely win the "most boring roster" award; it looks like a fantasy team that someone stopped paying attention to 1.5 months into the season.5th - Nationals - my bet on Strasburg call up - June 1st.NL Central1st - Cardinals - least competitive division award goes to...2nd - Cubs - their core is rapidly aging3rd - Reds - I'm uber-high on this team in 2011-2013, especially if they get rid of Baker first4th - Brewers - I will give them all kinds of Kellys and Westmorelands for just one fat Fielder5th - Astros - zzzzzzzzz6th - Pirates - get a fresh look at tomorrow's contender trade deadline-acquisitions, today!NL West1st - Rockies - This lineup won't be half-bad, even at sea-level.2nd - Dodgers - If someone looks to dump an ace starter this season, Dodgers need to pounce like whoa.3rd - Giants - for every intriguing young hitter/Lincecum, there's a smelly Rowand or Zito gumming up the works.4th - Diamondbacks - if they had a full year from Webb, maybe a different story.5th - Padres - Adrian's gonna get bored this year.[...]



So I won't be making any more posts about baseball, but here's a chart of monthly global temperatures since I've been born.




Playoff Opportunities(?)Mr. Zimbalist at the WSJ is one of a sizeable number of mainstream writers who, in the wake of the Yankees 2009 championship, have recently argued against payroll as the source of New York's advantage. By extension they also argue against the need for a salary cap-like system in MLB, something the other major American sports all possess. Instead, these writers argue alternatively that low market teams pocket revenue money, that other teams outspend too, or in the case of Zimbalist, that parity exists already. In the case of the WSJ piece, in addition to a couple bailout/Geithner jokes we get this gem of Yankee justification -- since 2004 twenty of the thirty MLB teams have made the playoffs! Hurray for parity!He's right, technically speaking. Nine of the fourteen AL teams (64%) and 11 of the 16 NL teams (69%) made the playoffs in the past six years. Here's the list if you're curious:AL: Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Twins, Oakland, Indians, Tigers, Rays, White SoxNL: Dodgers, Mets, Cardinals, Braves, Phillies, Cubs, Brewers, Padres, Rockies, DiamondbacksThat actually seems pretty good ... in isolation. Here's the NL parse:Dodgers - 4/6Cardinals - 4/6Phillies - 3/6Astros - 2/6Braves - 2/6Cubs - 2/6Padres - 2/6Rockies - 2/6Brewers - 1/6Diamondbacks - 1/6Mets - 1/6Wild Card spread: West (3), Central (3)The picture here is pretty rosy. Eleven teams have made the playoffs the last 6 years, and the spread is fairly even. I'm actually a little surprised that no NL East team has won the Wild Card the last six seasons since it's considered the most competitive division in the NL; the teams must cancel each other out via divisional play. All this aside, none of these teams have to contend with the Yankee leviathan until the World Series (besides the yearly interleague drubbing); so it's a little disingenuous to use the NL as evidence of parity if the argument is about the Yankees.Let's turn our attention to the American League.Yankees - 5/6Red Sox - 5/6Angels - 5/6Twins - 3/6White Sox - 2/6Tigers - 1/6Indians - 1/6Athletics - 1/6Rays - 1/6Wild Card split: East 5/6, Central 1/6So, three teams in the American League (the Red Sox, Angels and Yankees) have won 15 of the 18 postseason slots available to them (83% -- they can't win the Central). The only AL parity that actually exists is in the AL Central, where four teams have made the playoffs from that division the last six years. Oh, and guess which are the top three AL teams by average payroll during that period too?Let's expand our sample size a little further and see if Zimbalist's contention works better on a larger timeline (I doubt it). Here's the AL picture in the wild card era, the past fifteen years.Yankees - 14/15Red Sox - 9/15Angels - 6/15Indians - 6/15Athletics - 6/15Twins - 5/15Mariners - 4/15White Sox - 3/15Rangers - 3/15Baltimore - 2/15Tigers - 1/15Rays - 1/15Wild Cards: East 11/15, Central 1/15, West 3/15Now I know that playoff appearances is kind of a silly metric for examining parity (something like winning percentage or run differential is superior without even wading very deep into the sabermetric pool) , but come on. Look at the top spot (and to a lesser extent the Wild Card breakdown). Seems fair to me! How any self-respecting journalist can use playoff appearances to argue that baseball has parity with a straight face is beyond me.[...]



Double Edged PlateWatching the world series I developed the impression that Yankee pitchers were more effective at keeping the ball on the outer and inner edges of the plate than the Phillies pitchers were. I investigated with pitch f/x data. First, I defined my 2 "edges" of the plate. The pitch f/x strikezone stretches from about -0.8 ft to 0.8 ft in their coordinate system, so I defined the right edge (inside for righthanded batters) as -1.5 ft to -0.5 ft and the left edge as 0.5 ft to 1.5 ft (inside for lefthanded batters). During the entire series Yankee pitchers hit these edges with 55% of pitches to the Phillies 48%, suggesting that yes, the Yankees were more adept at keeping the ball near but not over the plate. To see if these percents are important, I then graphed opponent on base percent against percent of balls thrown to the edges for each game of the series.As shown above, there was literally no correlation between hitting these edges and the offensive production of the opposing team in this series. This somewhat surprised me but then again I'm not taking into anything like count, type of pitch, stuff, so maybe it shouldn't have. Looking at the edge data however did reveal at least one pretty clear signal. In the series the Yankees pitchers hit the right edge 242 times and the left edge 245 times (out of 889 total), whereas the Phillies hit the right edge 272 times but left edge only 157 times (out of 886 total). The Phillies were much less balanced, as it seems they were trying to keep the ball away from the lefty power on the Yankees. The only game where the Phillies were balanced was game 1 where Cliff Lee hit the right edge 27 times and the left 31 times, which of course was an excellently pitched game.So was balance actually important in the series? First, I defined balance as the difference between right and left edges hit divided by total edges hit (the smaller the number the better the balance). Then I plotted this against opponent on base percentage in the series. The results are below.Now there is a correlation, albeit a weak one. The point which appears to be somewhat of an outlier in the top left is the Yankee pitchers in game 1, which was probably due to Sabathia having great balance and then a small sample size of Yankee relievers giving up a ton of baserunners. If we just look at the Phillies pitchers for the series, balance appears to be very important indeed.In any case, this correlation doesn't prove causation, but it is interesting to see how Phillies pitchers mostly pounded one side of the plate after game 1. Theoretically this just doesn't seem like a recipe for success to me, as it allows the Yankee lefties to sit on the outside corner (Damon's 2 out single off Lidge in game 4 and Matsui's 2 run single off Pedro in game 6 both come to mind).If anyone wants to investigate the data further, I uploaded it here (note: my if statements are in open office format, not microsoft)[...]



Game Full of Vacuum and Air Look the Same?

The argument goes like this:

Delving deeper, from The Book we see the leadoff hitter receives roughly 4.80 PAs per game and the 5th hitter only receives 4.34. Over 150 games, that means that the leadoff hitter receives roughly 70 more plate appearances. Over these 70 plate appearances, the amount of runs gained by switching a player from the #5 spot to the #1 spot who is 20 points of wOBA better is roughly one run. This may be erased by properly leveraging an on-base threat at the top of the lineup, but it certainly will not end up being significant to the point of a win or likely not even half a win.

I have a difficult time fully believing it. I haven't read the details of the simulations but it seems to me like we're looking at the situation in at least somewhat of a vacuum. I can think of several effects that make it important for a good hitter to be batting at the top of a lineup (in addition to having the most atbats).

  1. Puts starter in stretch: It's tougher physically to pitch from the stretch, the more time a pitcher spends doing this during a game, the better for the opposing team.

  2. Starter has to deal with baserunners: It's tougher mentally to pitch with a runner at first since there's simply more to think about, any amount of focus that is taken away from the hitter at the plate has to be positive for the opposing team. In the case of a big stolen base threat at first they're also going to draw more pickoff throws and possibly more fastballs/pitchouts to the batter at the plate.

  3. More pitches (short term): A pitcher who just threw 15 pitches to get out the 1 and 2 hitters is going to more tired while facing the middle of the order than one who got them out with 8 pitches.

  4. More pitches (long term): Having the guys who see the most pitches bat the most often is going to get the opposing starter's pitch count up faster and get them out of the game. Also, the more pitches the opposing team sees, the better to time them.

I don't think any of these effects is huge (since the difference between a good/bad obp and pitches/plate appearance are both only about 15%), but they must make the lineup order somewhat more important than just considering total number of atbats it will produce, so some quantifiable effect is being missed in the fangraphs analysis. Anecdotally, Ricky Henderson having a 10 pitch atbat to lead off the game and then robbing the pitcher's attention has got to put that team in a much better position to win the game than someone making a quick out. I would like to find out how much of a difference this really all makes.



Monetary RealignmentAs the only major American sport to fully embrace the free market (the largely ineffective luxury tax aside), a frequent discussion topic regarding MLB is payroll disparity. Both between the high and the low (think Red Sox/Mets vs. Pirates/Marlins) and the high and the absurdly high (Yankees vs. Everyone Else). While a salary cap is the ultimate solution, there is no sign that Selig would embrace such a measure; nor that there are even many owners behind it. The Yankees give enough in revenue sharing to cover the bills of the low-market teams; the high markets get the salary flexibility to generally compete against New York; and there is far too much interest in short-term TV/revenue gains to make MLB worry about the systemic damage near-zero competitiveness will do to 1/3+ of its franchises over time.So here's another avenue I pursued as a weekday diversion. What if we realigned MLB based partly on money? First, a look at the numbers:Avg Team Payroll, last twelve years (2009-1998, date of last MLB expansion)NYC Yankees $151,877,338.67 BOS Red Sox $107,635,951.92 NYC Mets $100,632,173.50 LA Dodgers $93,413,092.08 ATL Braves $88,513,588.33 CHI Cubs $84,316,535.75 SEA Mariners $81,486,898.17 LA Angels $81,007,832.50 STL Cardinals $77,536,459.17 TEX Rangers $73,998,363.33 SF Giants $73,004,887.67 HOU Astros $72,274,090.17 PHI Phillies $71,805,386.50 BLT Orioles $71,582,849.17 CHI White Sox $69,609,277.67 AZ Diamondbacks $69,236,991.33 DET Tigers $68,282,048.00 CLE Indians $65,302,489.83 TOR Blue Jays $64,658,291.42 CO Rockies $59,318,811.50 CIN Reds $53,961,987.08 SD Padres $52,990,266.83 MIL Brewers $50,342,928.67 OAK Athletics $47,262,457.58 MN Twins $45,407,544.83 KC Royals $43,619,569.42 WSH Nationals $40,843,305.50 PIT Pirates $39,368,957.42 TB Rays $38,703,228.50 FL Marlins $33,454,107.75 Avg Payroll, last 6 years (2009-2004)NYC Yankees $197,888,942.83 BOS Red Sox $128,177,616.17 NYC Mets $116,908,463.33 LA Angels $107,318,109.17 CHI Cubs $104,140,432.83 LA Dodgers $100,307,640.00 SEA Mariners $96,710,247.00 PHI Phillies $96,286,106.50 CHI White Sox $94,845,138.67 ATL Braves $92,196,560.00 DET Tigers $91,081,262.67 STL Cardinals $88,623,819.67 HOU Astros $87,402,221.83 SF Giants $85,284,181.83 TOR Blue Jays $71,321,083.33 BLT Orioles $70,995,994.67 CIN Reds $64,333,087.83 AZ Diamondbacks $63,930,177.67 TEX Rangers $63,889,646.33 MN Twins $61,139,756.33 OAK Athletics $61,123,095.67 SD Padres $60,682,365.00 MIL Brewers $59,523,027.83 CLE Indians $59,012,633.17 CO Rockies $58,852,277.83 KC Royals $54,610,888.83 WSH Nationals $50,926,416.67 PIT Pirates $42,166,549.17 TB Rays $37,651,805.33 FL Marlins $34,450,479.33 *Keep in mind the Nationals moved in 2005 from Montreal to DC.* Payroll Source: USA TodayI examined both the 12- and 6-year period to check if any team(s) jumped up or down the list more recently. So, we can pretty clearly see where most of our 30 teams stand. There's still 4 in the middle that I'll get to momentarily. For now we have...Pulled Up By Their Bootstraps: Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Angels, Cubs, Dodgers, Mariners, Phillies, White Sox, Braves, Cardinals, Astros, GiantsToo Lazy To "Better" Themselves: Marlins, Rays, Pirates, Nats, Royals, Rockies, Indians, Brewers, Padres, Athletics, Twins, Diamondbacks, RedsThis leaves 4 teams that could sort of go either way: the Blue Jays, Orioles, Rangers and Tigers. The Tigers have started spending a lot more money recently, so I'm inclined to promote them to the big show. While the Rangers have recently lowered their payroll some, this is mostly due to their owner's recent financial struggles; and considering their history and his habit of spending, I'm putting them up too. So that means the Blue Jays and Orioles join the unwashed ma[...]



Chasing MannyWhile there are multiple reasons for the Red Sox's stumbles during the 2009 season (starter injuries, significant decline from some veterans, fatigued bullpen, arguable game-to-game mismanagement, etc.), my personal theory is that the Red Sox have not suitably replaced the dominant lineup presence provided by Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz during most of the Epstein Era. Obviously this is no mean feat -- there are few 1-2 hitter combinations like that in history -- and if the goal is "just" to be a playoff team 8 out of every 10 years then the Red Sox are doing fairly well.However, in many respects the expectations for a team with the salary and acumen of the Red Sox is to be a more significant playoff threat -- if not a routine title-contender. If so, the offense needs to be more imposing to succeed. Assuming that (1) JBay can maintain his career-best 2009 numbers for the next 3-5 years and (2) The Yankees or Mets don't cut in line to sign him first, keeping him is a major piece of the hitting puzzle. A full season from V-Mart (which also lets the Sox rest Tek's wobbly body more often, keeping him fresher) will also help cover some offensive vulnerabilities. The problem with these two players though is they're both in the nebulous 31 years-old range, still in their prime, but close to the age where many (but not all) ballplayers start to decline (esp. catchers). While the Sox are much stronger financially than almost all of their MLB compatriots, if the only real opponents these days are the Angels and Yankees, they can't risk long-term albatross contracts for short-term gain.What I feel the Sox need is an uber-bat, capable of hitting 40+ homers with the extra thrust of Fenway behind him. The problem is that our outfield is occupied already; presuming we regain JBay, Drew is here through 2011 and still productive, and while Ellsbury isn't a homer-threat there really aren't any CFs who are. Unless the Red Sox are convinced Papi has had it, they won't risk carrying two defensively-useless leviathans either. This means someone who can at least serviceably play the infield (sorry old man Thome or Delgado).Here's a list of possible suspects (I'm ignoring players who are under long-term deals or who are highly unlikely to be moved), with the benefits and hazards of each:Matt Holliday (2007-2009: 0.400+ average OBP, hits the 40 2B range)- He is more likely a fall-back option if another team steals Bay from the Red Sox. He's still young enough (29), a free agent this year, and he hits righty with power and patience. There are a number of alarm bells however. His power has dipped the past two seasons, it was Coors-inflated to begin with, and his brief stay in the AL was a bit of a roller-coaster. If we sign JBay, I doubt we'd take Holliday as a first-baseman, but if we lose Jason this is the quickest fall-back option.- Desire meter: 2.5/5 Heath Ledger Resurrections- Ease-of-Acquisition meter: 4/5 Dumb McCarver CommentsRyan Howard (one of only two players to average 35+ homers 2007-2009)- Howard is a free agent in 2011. Crazy power, decent patience, used to playing in media-heavy markets. Even if he doesn't ever reach his 2006 line again, he's still a major force and is only 29 despite being stuck in the minors for 100 years. He does face inferior NL pitching which must be factored in, and he already plays for a franchise capable of a few big contracts who have greater means to re-sign him.- Desire meter: 3.5/5 Heath Ledger Resurrections- Ease-of-Acquisition meter: 1/5 Dumb McCarver CommentsCarlos Pena (2007-2009 averages: 37 HRs, 0.934 OPS)- Pena is the prototypical prospect who figured it out "late" in his career. He's gone from an average power hitter with nothing else to offer to one of the best mashers in the league, raising his homer total while generally increasing his contact and patience. He's already proved himself in the AL East as well. While a [...]



Research Idea

I feel like players who move from the AL to NL midseason enjoy an irregular level of success (this feeling biased by Holliday/Lugo/Smoltz/Penny from this year). My idea is that playing against tougher competition for half a season makes you better through practice (if true this would have large implications, like players could get better if they practiced harder). I don't have any idea how to measure this though (as in what would the control be here?), how to measure specifically this (as in how to isolate the league change effect), or how to normalize for sample bias since you'd think players that other teams are interested in would be somewhat undervalued (ie unlucky) so far that season.



A Penny Saved Is 1 Too ManyReading fangraphs usually produces a catharsis from bad baseball reporting such that no writing occurs on this blog. You can therefore imagine my horror the morning of August 27th when over my cup of coffee I clicked to fangraphs only to discover an abortion of a post ripping the Red Sox for releasing Bradley Wayne Penny. The jist here is that the Red Sox overreacted to a recent stretch of bad pitching and made a quick hook, overall Penny has been unlucky on balls in play and "ZIPS projects a 4.44 FIP from Penny going forward" so they should have held onto him.First of all, the Red Sox front office does not do anything hastily, if anything their thoughtfulness usually results in hanging on too long (and sometimes way too freaking long) based on past success. And secondably, I am having some difficulty locating this "recent poor stretch of results", not because Penny hasn't been terrible lately (he has, with a 5.93 era in July and a 8.31 eyesore in August), but because he really hasn't been good at any time this year to start with. His one "good" stretch in June consisted of him facing 3 NL East teams and not throwing a single pitch in the 7th (now I'll admit his 6 shutout innings against the Yankees was notable even in 55 degree weather, but that being his one scoreless start of the year kind of makes this a total outlier. additionally one must remember that I jinxed this game by betting my entire centsports balance against Penny).Let's also look at another measure of luck beyond simply webthumbing to FIP and calling it a day, that being situational pitching stats. The relevant (available) split is OPS with bases empty/runners on/runners in scoring position. Penny this year is sporting a quite remarkable .888/.771/.681, lopping 200 points of OPS off the opposition whenever he feels like it, evidently. A little research reveals that he has been up to this trick before. My common sense alarm screams that Penny is pretty crappy and really lucky, but my scientific sense wonders whether he actually has this certain ability to up his game in tight spots. If this clutch ability is really possible (and any list that labels Jeff Suppan as clutch and Johan Santana as not, as the leverage index suggests, is probably suspect), then pitchers should be able to demonstrate the same ability year after year.So are those clutch pitchers from 2005-2007 still being clutch this year (and yes obviously I find it funny that 9 of the 10 unclutch starters are currently playing while only half of the clutch ones are still in the majors despite the un-clutch group averaging an older age at 32 to 35 or 32.5 without Moyer and Wakefield)? Penny certainly is, as illustrated above, Jake Peavy shows a strong reverse split (.603/.734/.941) as does Chris Carpenter (.539/.646/.674), Jeff Suppan is still better from the stretch (.984/.813/.877), and Jason Marquis shows no split (.684/.694/.754). Johan Santana, meanwhile, is now clutch (.752/.592/.566). From this sample it appears, as David Appelman and many others have already reported, there isn't any such thing as clutch pitching.That's a nice tight conclusion, but the cynic in me wonders if something else is going on here. Penny clearly shouldn't be able to suddenly pitch better than 100%, but what if the rest of the time he's only giving 80%? After all, one has to be pretty lazy to go from this to this while being paid tens of millions to perform physically, so perhaps Penny just doesn't care until runners get close to scoring? I can't think of any easy way to test this, so I am just going to have to assume it's right. In my defense, I wouldn't exactly be the first one to question Penny's work ethic.In short, Brad Penny is neither unlucky this year or "quality major league pitcher." If he's been unlucky on balls in play, he has made up for it [...]



2009 Predictions – Now with twice the incompetence!AL East – Toughest division in baseball only getting tougher.1. Yankees. Pains me to do it, but there’s just too much talent here. How are people actually predicting that they’ll miss the playoffs?2. Red Sox (WC). Is anybody else scared by how critical the large father is to this season? And hopefully Lester is immune to the Verducci effect.3. Rays. Dream season last year, so a step back seems pretty likely. Still, it’s unfortunate that one of the 4-5 best teams (possibly best 3) teams in the majors will miss the playoffs because all 3 are in the same division.4. Blue Jays. Careful Jays, you’re getting closer to O’s territory than Sox/Yankees. Watch out next year.5. Orioles. The AL East is going to be really scary once the Orioles start to become relevant again (not that far off).AL Central – would all give the Jays a run for their money in the East.1. White Sox. Why am I picking all the teams I dislike the most to win their divisions?2. Indians. Search for the real Travis Hafner continues.3. Tigers. Who wants to trade for Verlander?4. Royals. That’s right, the Royals ride the coattails of sir Greinke to a non-last-place finish, meaning…5. Twins. Mauer injury torpedoes the season.AL West – No longer the Angels’ division for the taking1. Oakland. Significantly improved offense, and the perpetual crop of promising young pitchers. Of course, having made the prediction, they’ll probably deal Holliday at the deadline.2. Angels. Too many injuries to their top pitchers. Tough to win the division with 3-4 #5 pitchers.3. Rangers. Can we give them some pitchers, just for one season, just for fun?4. Mariners. King Felix counting the days until he can get the heck outta dodge.NL East – Can the Mets collapse for a third year in a row?1. Mets. It just has to happen this year, right? Still, that rotation is scary (and not in a good way).2. Phillies (WC). The Hamels elbow situation is enough for me to bump them down.3. Marlins. This team can hit a little bit. Watch out with Hanley in the middle of the order.4. Braves. Top of the rotation is solid. Rest of the staff and lineup, well, not so much.5. Nationals. Over/under on average IP per outing for starters: 3 1/3 (chicks dig the long ball). Would dominate at AAA.NL Central – I suppose somebody has to win.1. Cubs. Seriously, Gritz? I suppose if this year is finally the year Big Z’s arm falls off, then they don’t win, but I don’t see it otherwise.2. Cardinals. If Ludwick follows up on last year hitting behind Pujols, this team can score some runs. Then again, they do have a Molina…3. Reds. Promising young pitchers and hitters + Dusty Baker = EPIC FAIL.4. Brewers. Had their shot, and it’s gone. Where is Fielder going to end up after 2010, and who’s going to be stuck with a Giambi contract?5. Pirates. Picking both the Royals AND the Pirates to not finish last? I oughta check my meds.6. Astros. Cornering the market on players who were good in 2001. And they have Darin Esrstad.NL West – See NL Central comment1. Dodgers. Chad Billingsley is going to become much more widely known really soon.2. D’backs. Maybe Webb is much more fragile than he looks?3. Giants. Attack of the over-the-hill lefty starters.4. Padres. Remember when I picked them to win the division last year? That was fun. Both Peavy and Oswalt could be dealt midseason – who wants to win the World Series?AL Wild Card: Red Sox, but neck-and-neck between Sox and Yanks.NL Wild Card: Phillies (coin flip between Phillies and Mets, depending on the how many starts Hamels makes).AL Cy Young: Sabathia.NL Cy Young: Santana. Should have had it last year.AL MVP: Longoria (ou[...]



Predictions....They're Gritztastically Unerring!

AL East: Is it going to be a 2-team or 3-team race this season?

1st: Yankees - Money > Skill
2nd: Red Sox - All your pitching are belong to us. I liked this team better when it had power hitters.
3rd: Rays - I'm really interested in seeing how Burrell responds to DHing and switching leagues.
4th: Blue Jays - Remember when Toronto had a good roster? They're just a Roy Halladay away from being the O's at this point.
5th: Orioles: Some good hitters, but that rotation is spelt U-G-L-Y.

AL Central: Some can hit, some can pitch, none can really do both.

1st: White Sox - It pains me, but they're the most solid of the bunch. Love that bullpen on paper.
2nd: Indians - This team would rock the socks .... of the NL.
3rd: Tigers - Remember when everyone thought they'd win the Series last year?
4th: Twins - Mauer is cratering fast.
5th: Royals - The best last-place team.

AL West: Does Oakland unseat the Angels this year or next year?

1st: A's - This year. Might still trade Holliday mid-season!
2nd: Angels - I'd pick them for first but a rotation with this many injuries already is in deep trouble.
3rd: Rangers - If I was one of their awesome hitters I'd be so annoyed at the lousy starters
4th: Mariners - Zzzz.

NL East: Four of these teams could probably win divisions in the NL Central or West.

1st: Philies - better pitching depth will carry them to the end, will need to add offense
2nd: Mets - Fixed innings 8 and 9, but who besides Santana can handle 1-7?
3rd: Marlins - How many years until the Yankees give Hanley The Big Account and I have to stop liking him?
4th: Braves - This team needs to get out of the NL East.
5th: Nationals - most competitive they've been in a while.

NL Central: Why are there still 6 teams in this division but 4 in the AL West!?

1st: Reds - I know, it's bold. But this team has an intriguing mix of hitting and pitching.
2nd: Cubs - Harden might have the best 125 inning season in history against these weak NL lineups.
3rd: Cardinals - Chris Carpenter is an uber wildcard, this team could possibly win the division.
4th: Brewers - Not as sexy as they used to be.
5th: Pirates - Moving on uppppp ... to the second floor cellar.
6th: Astros - Does whichever contender make the trade for Oswalt win the World Series this year?

NL West: Barry Bonds is still looking for work!

1st: Dodgers - Almost didn't pick them, but taking Pierre and Jones out of the starting lineup makes that team a lot more competitive.
2nd: Diamondbacks - best top 3 rotation in MLB? If LA gets serious injuries AZ will take the title.
3rd: Giants - Lincecum and Lincecum and pray for Lincecum.
4th: Padres - Mr. Towers, I'd trade Buchholz and change for Peavy any day of the year. Call me.

AL Wild Card - Boston, but it's a coin-flip between them and the Yankees weighted against Ortiz's HR total.
NL Wild Card - I guess the Mets? Or Cubs. Why do we care about the NL again?
AL MVP - TeixMeix
NL MVP - Wright
AL Cy - C.C. "this left arm will self-destruct in 1.5 years" Sabathia
NL Cy - Lincecum



How Many MVPs for Pujols?

Through 8 seasons and age 28 he's got 2, so it's reasonable that he could finish with several, or second all-time to Bonds. But I think he could pretty easily already be tied with Bonds for the record of 7.

2001: With 0 mlb at bats previously, Pujols finished behind Bonds, Sosa, and Gonzalez in the voting. Bonds and Sosa were both cheating badly. Gonzalez was either cheating or had one of the most flukey years of the 90s. Now it's conceivable that even without the drugs Bonds would have still outperformed Pujols, but Bonds is always at a disadvantage in awards voting due to his personality. This wasn't one of the years Pujols clearly got jobbed, but he certainly would have had a good shot at it given a clean playing field.

2002: He only finished behind Bonds, so I'm giving him an honorable MVP.

2003: Only behind Bonds again, another honorable MVP.

2004: Pujols was third behind Bonds and Beltre (who put up one of the most flukey years ever). Without Bonds the vote would have been extremely close, Pujols outhit Beltre (in a better hitting environment), while Beltre had more fielding value. Another year he could have easily won it.

2005: Barely won it this year, narrowly edging out Andruw Jones' career year. Given the performances on the field though, Pujols should have won this in a landslide.

2006: Pujols outperformed Howard in every important offensive category but for some reason finished 2 in the MVP for the 3rd time. Honorable MVP the third.

2007: An injury influenced somewhat off year kept him from running away with the award in June but he was still in the conversation at years' end. He was 9th in the voting, but would have been a better choice than the winner, JRoll. Out of the candidates I'd say only Hanley Ramirez and Wright clearly deserved it over him.

2008: MVP the second.

So that's 5 theoretical MVPs in his first 8 seasons, with 2 close calls and a top 5 finish in the other years. With so many years of consistent greatness, it's a possibility that his typical MVP type performance doesn't get as much attention as it should. Given the last several years of voting it seems Pujols has been handicapped by past levels of excellence. I hope this stops because it's a travesty not recognizing fully exactly what Prince Albert is accomplishing so far.



2008 Guessing Game Follow-upAL East1. (3) Tampa Bay Rays: What? Even as the biggest Rays optimist on this blog I only had them at 3rd and predicted the most value coming from their hitters. Their lineup was actually pretty mediocre (9th in the league in runs scored, 7th in OPS) but the pitching and defense took an unbelievable step forward (2nd in WHIP, 3rd in OPS against.) Being 29-18 in 1-run games also helped.2. (1) Boston Red Sox - WC: Another year, another Pythagorean underperformance. Only by 2 games this year but it cost them the division. They addressed a key issue going forward by replacing Manny with the underrated (younger) Bay. And with the best run differential in the tougher league, they just might be heading for their 3rd title under Epstein’s Reign.3. (2) New York Yankees: I called them missing the playoffs. Booyahhhhh.4. (4) Toronto Blue Jays: Their Pythagorean record says that in a kinder world they could have made the playoffs. Would Halladay have gotten serious Cy Young consideration then? Eh. Probably not.5. (5) Baltimore Orioles: Baltimore. You were bad this year. But without the decent hitting you could have been historically bad. What were you thinking?AL Central1. (5) Chicago White Sox: Heh heh, um. I guess I was a little off. Thanks for Game 163 though, those are always fun. Oh and stay classy Ozzie.2. (3) Minnesota Twins: 3rd in the league in runs scored? Huh. Their lineup wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.3. (2 - WC) Cleveland Indians: Power outage at the V-Mart. Carmona regression. Sabathia traded. Betancourt and Hafner missing, presumed dead.4. (4) Kansas City Royals: They crawled out of the basement but I thought the team would be better than it was. Greinke keeps making progress but the lineup was awful. I have a bad feeling that even when they make progress they’ll be the Blue Jays of this division.5. (1) Detroit Tigers: The polar opposite of the Rays this year. High expectations but their pitching and defense imploded.AL West1. (1) LA Angels: Dear Angels. Please don’t ever change. Hugs & Kisses, Red Sox Nation.2. (4) Texas Rangers: So close to allowing 1000 runs. So close.3. (3) Oakland Athletics: OH MY GOD IT’S A (2) Seattle Mariners: Remember how Ben had them winning the division and then they said “Yeah right bitch!” and lost 101 games?NL East1. (3) Philadelphia Phillies: Lidge’s outstanding year and Moyer’s extremely old (also good) year are two things I did not expect.2. (1) New York Mets: This was not a bad team. It was just slightly less good than it needed to be.3. (4) Florida Marlins: How crazy is it that the Marlins final record would have won the NL West?4. (2) Atlanta Braves: This pitching needs to get better in a hurry if they’re going to start their climb back to the top.5. (5) Washington Nationals: Now if only the clowns in congress could bail out this lost franchise amiright??NL Central1. (1) Chicago Cubs: Even when the team was on autopilot it won games. Writing this after their Division Series sweep makes me wonder how many other teams were like this one: built for the long haul of the regular season but pretty flawed in the playoffs.2. (2) Milwaukee Brewers - WC: I predicted that the Crew’s pitching would be their weak point. Including Sabathia’s post-trade domination, the staff finished 5th in OPS-against and 4th in WHIP, ranks that seem alright for a wild card squad. The lineups OBP ranked 10th and 7th in runs scored.3. (5) Houston Astros: Bad teams get streaky too. With a little luck and some vintage Oswalt they got sports-writers to inject some fake excitement into an already exciting NL wild-card race.4. (4) St. Louis Cardinals: I called it right but they were a better team than I thought. A ra[...]



Basestealing in the '08 AL Playoffs

Something to pay attention to during the '08 SoxRayTwinAngSoxtober is baserunning/basestealing. In a playoff atmosphere managers/fans/media are much more focused on the play-by-play of a game than they may be in the regular season. Furthermore, all of these teams have some decent basestealers.

(Steals, Steal %)
Red Sox: Ellsbury (49, 82%), Coco (20, 83%), Pedroia (20, 95%)
D-Rays: Upton (44, 73%), Crawford (25, 78%), Bartlett (20, 77%)
Angels: Figgins (32, 71%), Hunter (19, 79%)
Twins: Gomez (32, 74%), Span (17, 71%)
Ozzie Sox: O. Cabrera (19, 76%)

Now, let's look at the team's respective catchers to see if we have any wizards or goats amongst us.

(PB, CS/SBOpp, CSteal %)
Red Sox: TekMoney (4, 16/70, 23%)
D-Rays: Navarro (6, 28/73, 38%)
Angels: Napoli (7, 11/63, 18%) [500+ fewer innings than the rest, mostly due to injury]
Twins: Mauer (4, 28/77, 36%)
Ozzie Sox: Pierzynski (5, 21/112, 19%)

I'm going to spare Kevin "Nation Wishes I Was Shoppach/Bard/Mirabelli/Mxlpxl" Cash and his Sisyphian grappling with Wakefield's knuckler to the side for this post. The league average CS% for this season is around 27%.

So, assuming that the playoff matchups are going to be Red Sox-Angels and Rays-CentralDiv winner, is there anything to keep in mind watching these games? While Napoli didn't get to log a full season, he's going to be facing one of the best baserunning teams in the league, and he seems to be one of the weaker catchers in our sample when it comes to throwing out base-thiefs. A.J. Jerkwad for the ChiSox is going to face a similar problem if his team holds the division and faces the fleet Devil Rays. The league clearly knows that both catchers struggle with the long-throw, because both are run-against a lot more than their brethren (Napoli would have 111 attempts if he had Pierzynski's innings). So I would anticipate one of the narratives during the ALDS (if the faster team ends up winning) being related to some sort of barrage of base-running. Varitek is a fairly pedestrian base-thrower, but the Angels aren't nearly as crazy on the base-paths as they used to be.

Conversely, Mauer and Navarro are above-average at throwing out would-be stealers (as comparison, keep in mind that I-Rod's basethrowing is not overrated, his career percentage is almost 47%!). That said, neither the Twins or the White Sox are as aggressive on the basepaths as one might have guessed, so Navarro may not have too many opportunities to flash his arm. However, one interesting ALDS matchup would be the Rays vs. Mauer, and if the Twins end up winning a close game (or losing one, for that matter), it might very well rest on a flick of their prized possession's wrist.

In terms of passed balls, they're fairly infrequent, but if any occur during a playoff game it will be greatly magnified. Napoli appears in the greatest danger of falling victim (he would have almost twice as many passed balls as his peers if he faced a similar inning-load), and of course the estimable Mr. Cash will have a similar quandary thanks to his batterymate.

Last, are there any juicy "speed vs. vigilance" storylines to wax poetic about? If Mauer faces the Red Sox or Rays, or if Navarro faces Boston in the ALCS, we could see some very close calls ripe for Sportscenter showings and instant replay debates.



If Olney this was his first offense...

Sometimes Buster forgets his place and actually tries to think: "If the Reds are serious about reconstruction, here's the first thing they should do: Reconstruct the ballpark. Blow out the first 10 rows of seats in left and right field and make the place play bigger, for the benefit of pitching. As currently constructed, Great American Ball Park is as conducive to winning as Coors Field was in the 1990s, before the humidor."

I'll actually just refer to one of my first blogs, where I pointed out that the Rockies always did well at altitude. I assume he didn't see the blog since he doesn't have internet access, because if he did he would probably know that the Rockies career home winning percentage is 0.548, while on the road it is 0.392. Clearly the detrimental affects of playing at altitude are in the inability to adapt to playing at lower altitude.

The Reds are a completely different situation from the Rockies, as dimensions shouldn't affect play on the road. And why would a smaller park at home only hurt the Reds? Balls fly out of Philly and they've done fine in the new park. Does Petco park make the Padres automatic winners because it's impossible to hit a homer there? Doesn't seem like it. The Reds need better players (and probably better managing), they don't need to hit less home runs.



Optimal Baserunning
I've seen a few stories lately on how the Red Sox are stealing a lot of bases at a high success rate this season. So far, led by Ellsbury, they're stealing at a pretty amazing 84% rate. Considering the breakeven point for hurting your team in the runs department is around 65% (this is the percent the defense is trying to keep the running team below), that looks pretty good. But I was wondering what is an optimal number for a team success rate? I can't seem to find this information anywhere, so I'm going to make it up. Let's assume there is a flat distribution of stolen base opportunities, ie the same amount of situations where a baserunner will be safe 0% of the time, 25% of the time, 50%, 100% and all points in between. The distribution is probably normal around the break even point in real life but flat is much easier to work with. Runners on base should be trying to go any time a steal gives their team an edge so they should be running in all situations where the anticipated success rate is >=65%. If the distribution of opportunities is flat, then a team which runs the bases perfectly will on average steal successfully (.35/2)+.65=83% of the time.

I can't say whether the goal this season was to steal around 85% or whether it's just because the Red Sox suddenly have some guys who can run but are still relatively conservative (compared to other teams), but to me it looks like right now the Red Sox are taking the optimal advantage of the opposing teams' defenses. In a league where most other teams are stealing at the equilibrium rate where the net value added is 0 (in other words trying to steal as often below the breakeven point as above it), the Red Sox result looks like a pretty huge edge. It will be interesting to see if A. other teams start copying their optimally conservative/aggressive approach and/or B. if opposing defenses ever adjust to the fact that the Red Sox have been robbing them blind.



Fire Bland of the Red Sox Blogging World There are a lot of good blogs following specific baseball teams out there, but Fire Brand of the American League isn’t one of them (despite being endorsed by the suggestionable Peter Gammons). Sure I read them and asked them to link to my blog at one point, but that was mostly because at the time identifying some sort of brain function along with Red Sox talk was exciting. Now that I've been around the internet and seen actual good writing I see it’s just kind of organized blandness frosted with half-ass research, as if there weren’t enough internet tubes being filled with Red Sox game recaps, bone-headed opinions, and general blather already. In what might (almost certainly will not) become a regular feature here on mlb garbage, I’m going to mlog (tube speak for meta-blog) their current front page blentries Let’s see, meta recap of drunk mother who committed murder. Nothing to see there. Poll question about pitchers and ERAs (who has studied up on their1930s baseball cards???)…overplayed Old School clip…description of Kevin Cash that includes the word “dynamic”…game recap from Wakefield’s brilliant start because most people reading this blog probably had no idea that happened…insightful game 3 preview where Shawn says he thinks the Red Sox winning (and losing?) streak will continue if Buchholz allows 3 or less runs...I notice that the word analyze is in the blog tagline...let’s see moving on...some queer podcast shit (too long; didn’t listen) about Matsuzaka not officially qualifying for the incredibly subjective term “ace” (because he walks too many guys when he’s sick I assume)… ah here we go, the first attempt at analysis in 6 posts, a blentry entitled “I’m fed up with Julio Lugo.” Of course this is a post most casual Sox fans could have filled in ala mad libs last May, but watch for the fun and exciting twist…Shawn actually was intending to write a Lugo-defending article, the irony! Basically the challenge was for him to build a statistical case for Lugo being a good player, but what he found was that Lugo sucks. Let me set one thing straight (and I hear the counter from politicians, business people, news people, and other idiots all the time), you can’t make stats lie. Stats are information. Information cannot be a lie, or else it is bad information, which really isn’t information at all. What you can do however is analyze stats ignorantly, which is apparently what Evan set out to do in this entry in order to spark a debate on whether Lugo is in fact good or bad (because the tubes aren’t filled enough with debates on whether we landed on the moon or not). Now to confirm what any Fenway drunkard would yell at me, I probably would have used information from Lugo’s entire career (or at least the last few years), but Evan somehow manages to fuck up this trivial exercise by only looking at his stats from a month this season. Ok fine we’ll analyze him stupidly. Evan says that Lugo’s average is good (useless non-statement since even though batting average is information on how often Lugo has reached safely on a ball put in play so far this season, it tells us virtually nothing about how good of a baseball player he is) and he had a bad night last night (ok....), but he doesn’t walk much (conclusion is correct by accident but sample size is not ripe for conclusion-making) or hit for power. Well lucky for Evan Lugo hasn’t hit any wind-aided pop-ups over the monster or inside the park homers so far this year so his conclusions are the same as would be reached from looking[...]



Clay Buchholz Pitch F/X DataThis is ultimately an exercise in an untrained eye having too much data to play with and drawing some uninformed conclusions. So with that out of the way, we’re off. The following plots show some of the pitch f/x data for Clay Buchholz’s first four starts of 2008. The gamelogs for these games can be found here. Most would agree that of the four starts, he had two pretty good ones (the two Fenway starts) and two mediocre-at-best starts (@TOR, @NYA). I’ve used symbols accordingly (filled symbols for good, crosses/hatches for bad). Colors correspond to date. Also, when looking at these plots, remember that the pitch tracking systems in place at various parks may have some inconsistencies in the calibration, so with this small sample size, it is possible that some outliers may not be statistically significant due to systematic errors in the measurement system. For an explanation of the pitch f/x data and system, here is a good place to start. This plot shows vertical break (relative to a pitch with no spin) vs. pitch speed. The pitch type assignments are mine. This plot shows the separation between pitch types very well. Overall, it appears that Buchholz does better when he’s throwing harder, at least for his curveball and fastball (especially for his fastball). I guess that’s not too surprising. His curveball is interesting; he has had better success (apparently) when throwing it harder and with slightly less vertical break. What this plot doesn’t show you is where these pitches are located. Taken abstractly, it would seem to me that a slightly slower curve with more break would be better, but if those pitches are going into the dirt while the harder, smaller-breaking curves are dropping in for strikes, then obviously you’ll do better with the latter case – we’ve seen what happens when Beckett can and can’t throw his curve for strikes, so it’s probably not all that different here. The changeup is interesting – it almost looks like he’s throwing two distinct types of changeup, as the small separate cluster indicates. Those may be pitches that Buchholz is having trouble throwing (as John has suggested), though we really can’t assess that from this plot.This plot is similar to the previous plot, but shows horizontal break rather than vertical break. These plots are from the catchers’ point of view; positive horizontal break is to the catcher’s right. It’s pretty clear that Buchholz struggles when his fastball has too much negative horizontal break (in on right handed hitters). Not sure why this would be unless he’s throwing it too much over the middle of the plate and letting it come too far in on righties. He appears to have more success when his fastball is essentially straight (while a straight fastball isn’t necessarily a good thing, it appears to be a good thing for Buchholz, relatively speaking). His curve has a very interesting spread in horizontal break. There are sort of two clusters, one around 0 to +5, and one from 0 to -8 or so. According to John, Kevin Cash calls Buchholz’s harder curveball a slider, but that doesn’t appear to make sense from this plot; the harder curve balls break in on right handed hitters, which is the opposite of what a slider should do. Regardless, Buchholz appears to struggle when his curve does that (bear in mind that I’m oversimplifying to a large extent here by extrapolating from the fact that his April 16 start was “bad” to calling the results of all curveballs thrown in that start “bad”. There is obviously more to the story, b[...]



The Mets go 2-3 against division rivals but they move up 2 spots in the ESPN power rankings because an outfielder with no ability to get on base, hit for average, or hit for power had a hot week?

"Angel Pagan is a nice fit in the second spot in the batting order, hitting behind Jose Reyes."

I suppose he does fit nicely at the top with his fellow out machine who also doesn't steal bases anymore either.



Greinke's awesome. Deal with it.



All the '08 Predictions You Can Handle

Featuring MLB Garbage experts Pete, John, Ben, Dave along with "competing" sources Sports Illustrated,,, Baseball Prospectus, and Diamond Mind (ESPN and CBS aggregate standings based on power rankings).

(image) *wildcard
^tie for AL wildcard (beckett wins 1 game playoff ldo)
#tie for NL wildcard

In conclusion, I think we can all agree that the Orioles and Giants will finish last.

P.S. What was Diamond Mind smoking when it simulated the NL Central?



My "Eh, good enough." 2008 PredictionsAL East1. Boston Red Sox: Probably another slugfest to the finish but they’re built for it. Expecting big years from both Mannys (Delcarmen and Ramirez.)2. New York Yankees: The aging position players continue their decline. One or more of the young pitchers goes down. Morgan Ensberg hits like 15 home runs in a week in August just to make me nervous. This may be wishful thinking, but they miss the playoffs.3. Tampa Bay Rays: Speaking of wishful thinking. I wanted to make this call weeks ago. Now it seems like Kazmir may be more injured than we thought, Longoria is starting the season in AAA so they can control him another year and Troy Percival is still bad. But the defense is better, the lineup is still good, and Kazmir/Shields/Garza seems like a pretty sweet top of the rotation.4. Toronto Blue Jays: David Eckstein’s weak bat joins their already mediocre lineup and his terrible glove scampers behind a bunch of ground-ball pitchers. On the bright side John Gibbons will finally complete his mission to totally explode A.J. Burnett’s arm.5. Baltimore Orioles: This is not a prediction. It is a future yet to be.AL Central1. Detroit Tigers: The back-end of the rotation and most of the bullpen makes me wonder. Then I remember the lineup.2. Cleveland Indians (WC): Carmona could have a fine 2008. It’s just not likely. I don’t see them taking the division. But. The image of Lofton holding at third might be a little less painful when they edge the Wild Card like I think they will.3. Minnesota Twins: Ugh. I wanted to pick the Royals here. I really did. But their non-Livan pitching is pretty good. They’ll probably rest easy in third.4. Kansas City Royals: Big year for Greinke. Gordon starts stepping up. Jose Guillen probably doesn’t add much. Japanese reliever Yasuhiko Yabuta throws baseballs. Maybe this call will be wrong and I’ll be pleasantly surprised. How soon is now?5. Chicago White Sox: Nah. I don’t think so.AL West1. LA Angels: Recipe: A pile of young pitchers. A pile of speedy but not very good hitters. A pinch of Vlad. Mix vigorously in a weak division. Dispense into a playoff spot. Division Series Exit.(Note: I wrote this before Escobar went down but I stand by it. Swapping the O-Cab for Garland's league-average durabilityness is looking even smarter now.)2. Seattle Mariners: Every year it’s the same thing. I’ll predict a mixed bag for King Felix to stay on the safe side. Bedard helps but they’re just not making the playoffs.3. Oakland Athletics: I had this great joke about Nick Swisher but then they traded him.4. Texas Rangers: Saltyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!NL East1. New York Mets: (1) Wow this team is old. (2) Infield pop-ups are not exciting. (3) Wright was the MVP. (4) Zero depth. (5) None of this matters because of Santana.2. Atlanta Braves: In the wild card hunt but they’ll fall short. Good lineup though.3. Philadelphia Phillies: Hear that Rollins? Just mail your hardware to David Wright. The interblogs have spoken!4. Florida Marlins: Maybe people will start noticing Hanley now that he’s the only reason to watch this team.5. Washington Nationals: Welcome to Nationals Park, now presenting the Outfield of Broken Dreams.NL Central1. Chicago Cubs: Cash dollars!2. Milwaukee Brewers: A whole year of Braun will be sweet. But pitching is important too and there are way too issues there.3. Cincinnati Reds: Bruce and Bailey need some more time. Luckily in this division you start competing whenever you fe[...]



I need to blog more. Here are my division picks...AL East:1. Red Sox - Going to be a tight race yet again. The Red Sox owners should really capitalize on their product market, they don't do enough of that!2. Yankees - ALCS III: The Reckoning comin' atch ya! Fox is happy, baseball fans mourn.3. Blue Jays - Halladay prevented me from putting them 4th, but I really wanted to!4. D-Rays - Closer to almost-missing-the-playoffs than some may think.5. Orioles - Stop screwing around and sign Markakis long-term.AL Central:1. Tigers - Cabrera a beast, Willis a mediocrity. Offense is scary, the bullpen injuries are a tragedy.2. Indians - My boys from Cleveland didn't supplement their rotation like they desperately needed to. People who pick 'em first believe in Carmona, those who pick second don't.3. Twins - I really, really, really wanted to pick the Royals third. Offense is a little better on paper than I thought. People forget how deep the 'pen is.4. Royals - Will the real Zack Greinke please stand up? Gordon and Butler and pray for Beltran?5. White Sox - hahahahahahaha.AL West:1. Mariners - Stop the Mariners bandwagon, I want to get off. How can the same team that developed King Felix and lunged for Bedard sign Silva and Vidro? Choose a side Seattle, we're at war (is that joke stale already? ... yes).2. Angels - I'm already pumped up over the prospect of reading all those articles about how Hunter brings a whole new kind of energy to a perennial playoff contender.3. Athletics - Whenever Cust is in the outfield can we play circus music over the PA? Finishing third isn't a tribute to Beane, but a recognition of how awful the Rangers will pitch.4. Rangers - Let's put the Rangers, Orioles, D-Rays, White Sox, and Nationals in their own division and not e-vite them to any of our parties. What's the pool on Bradley's trade date?NL East:1. Mets - Santana 1, NL 02. Braves - Best lineup no one talks about. Pitching will be adequate for a wild card berth.3. Phillies - Maybe they'll try Howard as closer this season.4. Marlins - A's-Marlins World Series 2011!5. Nationals - We can rebuild them, we have the technology.NL Central:1. Cubs - I know I shouldn't be, but I'm excited about seeing Wood close this year. Dempster must feel like he just got dumped after paying his girlfriend's way through grad school.2. Brewers - If your ace's shoulder is unreliable, get more rotation depth! Love the lineup.3. Cardinals - Pitching is pretty mediocre, but this is the Bad League we're talking about.4. Reds - Should be third but Baker is good for -5 wins. I'd love to see Adam Dunn in a Braves uniform.5. Pirates - They don't even get e-vited to my "don't e-vite" division! Likely 5th, but I needed a "risky pick" for the MLB Garbage water cooler.6. Astros - Trade Berkman and Oswalt and rebuild around Pence.NL West:1. Dodgers - One of these years when I pick them it'll be right. Let the younglings play already.2. Rockies - If they had made the grab for Bedard this would've been a very productive season.3. Padres - How can a team go from incredibly exciting to incredibly stale in only 5 months?4. D-Backs - If they can add a couple pieces to the offense they can win the division in 2009 and hold it for a while.5. Giants - *sound of toilet flushing*[...]



Behold Another Ensemble Member!(this one perturbed by brilliance) I usually say what I want to happen so this year I’m just going to say what will actually happen. AL East1. Yankees: Barely the second best run differential in baseball last year and they should be better this year with the lineup returning and the young pitching taking over. 2. Red Sox: Still marginally the best team in baseball I think but I can’t see Francona putting any effort into trying to win the division when a playoff spot shouldn’t be in jeopardy. 3. Blue Jays: Probably closer to the Rays then the Red Sox, but good enough to contend in almost every other division. 4. Rays: Man what if they still had a healthy Baldelli and Hamilton? At least they’re going in the right direction finally. Third place or bust in 2009? 5. Orioles: Last. AL Central1. Tigers: Whether they’ll be an elite team depends on health of pitching. Either way they should at least mash their way to the top of this division. 2. Indians: Still having enough room for Cliff Lee in the rotation tells me way too much rests on Carmona’s success. Probably 85-90 wins here, not enough for a playoff spot. 3. Royals: What’s that, the Royals finishing in 3rd? Oh yes, the Twins are that bad… 4. Twins: Santana would be pretty important on any team, on the Twins he was everything. 5. White Sox: They could be really, really bad for a really, really long time. AL West1. Angels: Out of habit. 2. Mariners: But 1st if they make a move for a good starter or run producer at some point. 3. Rangers: Hitting’s getting better, pitching not as much. 4. Athletics: If anyone over 25 plays well then they’re getting traded anyway, so last this year. NL East1. Mets: With Santana, this isn’t even going to be close. 2. Braves: Would have won the division with any luck last year, and that was with lots of minor league caliber guys giving them starts and without Teixeira and Mike Gonzalez. I think the wild card is do-able. 3. Phillies: The pitching still stinks. The division has gotten better and will leave them behind. 4. Marlins: Health of the starting rotation is very key because they’re offense just got traded. 5. Nationals: This pitching staff is all different kinds of terrible. NL Central1. Cubs: Their spending spree has propelled them right past the Brewers’ slow rebuilding process. 2. Brewers: So many possibilities with so many question marks. I think what’s important is that there still isn’t enough pitching depth either way. 3. Reds: Based on run differential they should have finished in third last year, and not much has changed. 4. Cardinals: I would understand the pitcher batting 8th if he was Rick Ankiel… or cleanup in this case. 5. Astros: Berkman and Oswalt must go now. 6. Pirates: Still dead, check back next year. NL West (Starting random number generator…now)1. Dodgers: As long as everyone plays nice, and someone gets a hit with RISP. 2. Rockies: Didn’t have the 3rd best run differential in baseball by complete accident. 3. Diamondbacks: Unless Haren brought a replacement luckbox they’re not gonna duplicate all the close game wins. 4. Padres: They had their chance, Hoffman blew it. Twice.5. Giants: Worst offense since the 2004 Diamondbacks, might not score 600 runs. [...]



Pete's 2008 Take-it-to-the-bank PredictionsAL East1. Boston Red Sox: Jacoby returns to Earth, but Dice-K gets the wildness out of his system in Japan (please?). The lack of Curt Schilling until at least July adds an automatic 1-2 wins. Oh, and contract up, Manny!2. New York Yankees* (WC): I know, real original right? But honestly, is there any way the Sox and Yanks don’t finish 1-2 for the first time in like forever? They’ll have to find some new objects of Suzyn Waldman’s affection, but dream as we might, Sterling and Waldman are still here to stay. Not here to stay, however, is Roger Clemens, lost in a quagmire of hearings about his B-12 use. Fellow juice guy Giambi is in his last year – enjoy it while it lasts, folks.3. Toronto Blue Jays: They’re saying Vernon Wells is back swinging the bat with a vengeance. I sure hope so – it’s not like they’re paying him well or anything. I don’t the Jays are paying him to get out-VORP’d (yes that’s a word) by Juan Pierre. The other reason to watch the Jays this year is their new shortstop – oh yes, the king of grit and scrap himself, one David Eckstein. Welcome to the AL East, big guy. Also, look for another big year in Fenway from famed sox-killer and Fu Manchu wearer Greg Zaun.4. Tampa Bay Devil Rays: They finished three games behind the Orioles last year, and that’s going to change this year. The Orioles just keep getting worse, and the Rays show at least some signs of life. One of these years, the crazy ridiculous group of power arms the Rays have in their system is going to make it to the majors, and then look out, Blue Jays: the Rays are a-comin’. The only sad part is that it looks like we may never see another healthy season from the Rhode Island Rocket, Rocco Baldelli.5: Baltimore Orioles: This year, the O’s finally reap the rewards of the chaos they have sown. The smart thing is to tear it all down and start over, but that was true 5 years ago too. Honestly, can we just drop all pretense and turn Camden Yards into a second home park for the Sox already?AL Central1. Detroit Tigers: The Tigers and Indians will probably battle this one out. In the end, I say the Tigers take it with their ability to bludgeon all comers into submission. They scored 867 runs last year, the Yankees 968. Anybody else think that those numbers might end up a bit closer this year? Ordonez likely comes back to Earth, and maybe Granderson too a bit, but with Renteria effectively replacing Sean Casey and Miguel Cabrera replacing Brandon Inge, the rest of the AL better look out. If this is the year Bonderman finally puts it together (he’s still only 25 – remember when he was getting pounded like 5 years ago?) for a full season, this team is going to be scary.2. Cleveland Indians: A few question marks here. They had by all accounts a great year last year, despite carrying some serious dead weight in Travis Hafner (and I’ll be honest, that was a sentence I never expected to write). Hafner will probably have something of a bounce-back year (but he better be careful, or he’s going to lose the title of best DH in the central to Billy Butler of KC sooner rather than later), but the real questions are in the rotation. Does anybody honestly expect a similar year out of Carmona? He had a pretty low batting average allowed on balls in play, walks a lot of guys, and doesn’t strike out enough guys. E[...]