Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Twins Offseason Update

     The Derek Falvey era officially began a few weeks ago with his first offseason move. That move was to sign a catcher who hit .210 last year to a three year deal. I've been trying to look at this positively, convince myself that Falvey is a genius, that he knows something we don't. Unfortunately, after looking at this from all angles, it doesn't look good.
     Let's start with the good stuff: Castro is an excellent pitch framer, stealing 96 strikes last year, according to StatCorner. This is a huge upgrade over Suzuki who, according to that same site, cost the Twins 38 strikes last year. Castro is a former first round pick and was an all star in 2013, so we know he has the potential to be pretty good. Also, his name is an anagram for "On taco jars". Being the optimist that I am, I'm going to consider that a good sign.
     Now for the bad news: Just about everything else. That all star 2013 season was inflated by a .351 BABIP, a mark he hasn't come within 50 points of in three seasons since then. On a related note, in those seasons, he's hit .222, .211, and .210 respectively.
     So what alternatives did the Twins have? One option would have been to go after Wilson Ramos. He won't be ready to start the season because of his ACL injury, but that injury significantly brought down his price range to the two year 12 million dollar deal that he signed with Tampa Bay. If he fully recovers he could be a major deal. Another option could have been resigning Kurt Suzuki to a one year deal, dealt with one more year of him and then gone after Yasmani Grandal, who's basically a rich man's Castro.  
     While we're on the subject of things the Twins should do, here's one more: Trade Dozier. His value's never going to be higher than it is right now.  This is a very streaky hitter who's going to be 30 in May. Jorge Polanco seems to be ready to play fulltime and dealing Dozier would allow the Twins to address their more pressing dire pitching situation.
     We saw a less extreme version of this play out with Plouffe over the last few years. Between 2014 and 2015 he hit .251 with 36 homers and a whopping 75 doubles. If the Twins had traded him after either of those seasons they could have gotten a few prospects for him at the very least, but they hung onto him and released him last month. Let's hope they don't make the same mistake with Dozier.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Notes from the Gophers' Preseason Opener

     After a disastrous 2015-16 season, Gopher basketball was back in action Friday night at Williams Arena against the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns. I was there. Here's a look at some of the players looked, new and old.
Reggie Lynch
Of all of the new players, Lynch impressed me the most. He looked comfortable in the post, scoring several of his ten points there. But what impressed me the most was how he protected the rim. He only had one block but affected at least five other shots throughout the game. Rim protection was something the Gophers were badly lacking last year with their top frontcourt player, Jordan Murphy, standing at only 6'6". If Minnesota makes drastic improvements this year, Lynch will be a big part of it.
Amir Coffey
The top recruit out of Hopkins looked solid but unspectacular in his debut. What stood out to me the most was 1) his size, standing at 6'8" and playing guard, and 2) despite that, his face makes him appear to be about 15 years old. He scored 13 points on 3-for-5 shooting including 2-for-3 on threes. He was also aggressive, getting to the line eight times.
Akeem Springs
Springs looked intriguing, standing out for a couple reasons, including his hair, which I can't find a good picture to link to but it doesn't matter because you have to see it in person to fully appreciate its beauty. He looks like he has the potential to be a energy guy off the bench, who can make a real difference if he's hot, which he was in and first half and not in the second. In his 23 minutes he managed to jack up ten shots including eight threes, making three of those plus two free throws for 11 points on the night.
Michael Hurt
He only played 12 minutes and didn't do anything particularly noteworthy. I just bring him up to say that he'll take Joey King's old spot as the team's awkward looking local white guy.
Jordan Murphy
Last season, Murphy's inconsistency was one of the most frustrating and perplexing parts of the team, which is really saying something. He's excellent in the post despite his size but his biggest weakness was staying on the court because of foul trouble. The aforementioned small stature for a frontcourt player made it tough for him to guard taller players, so his troubles on defense would often take one of the Gophers' top offensive players off the court. Both of those qualities were on display Friday, as he looked good, scoring six points and grabbing four rebounds, but four fouls limited him to just 18 minutes.
Nate Mason
The Gophers' most reliable player from last year had his usual solid game scoring 15 points and dishing out seven assists. For the team to make any improvements this year, he needs to make the leap from solid starter to potential all Big Ten.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Friday Playoff Recap

After a crazy day of playoff baseball, here's a quick look at each game and who contributed the most.
Blue Jays 5 Rangers 3
Game Balls
1. Troy Tulowitzki
The shortstop continued his hot hitting from the Wild Card game on Tuesday, going 2-for-4 with a homer.
2. Roberto Osuna
Osuna entered the game in as tough of a situation as you'll see a reliever in, with the tying run at the plate in Ian Desmond and Francisco Liriano having left the game after being struck in the neck by a line drive. He got Desmond to ground out en route to a five out save.
3. Ian Desmond
The most notable person since George Bush to relocate from Washington to Texas quietly had a solid game, picking up three hits and driving in two runs.
Game Goat
Jonathan Lucroy
Nobody had an outstandingly terrible game, but somebody has to be the goat, so I'm giving it to Lucroy, the high priced catcher from Milwaukee who went 0-for-five today.
Indians 6 Red Sox 0
Game Balls
1. Corey Kluber
Kluber went up against a tough Boston lineup and didn't allow any runs while striking out seven over seven innings.
2. Brandon Guyer
The Cleveland left fielder had three hits, driving in one and scoring two runs.
3. Lonnie Chisenhall
The third baseman turned right fielder hit a big two run homer to right in the second inning to put the Indians up 4-0.
Game Goat
David Price
Price's postseason woes continued, allowing five runs in three and a third innings. That moved his career postseason ERA to 5.54. On an unrelated note, he's being paid 30 million dollars a year for the until 2022. He needs to turn things around fast for the Red Sox to have any chance because you can't make it far with your number two starter pitching like Mike Pelfrey.
Dodgers 4 Nationals 3
Game Balls
1. Justin Turner
Turner went 2-for-3 with a homer off of Scherzer in the third.
2. Kenley Jansen
Similar to Osuna, Jansen came in in the eighth to record a five out save.
3. Anthony Rendon
Rendon has been a little disappointing since failing to build on his 2014 season, but he's still been a solid player and had a good game last night, going 2-for-4 with a key RBI single in the third the get the Nats back in the game.
Game Goat
Max Scherzer
He didn't have a complete meltdown, but four runs in six innings isn't good for anyone, much less a number one starter and Cy Young candidate.
Cubs 1 Giants 0
Game Balls
1. Jon Lester
He played with fire early, allowing two Giants into scoring position in the fourth, but got out of it with nobody crossing the plate and eventually settled in to retire the last 16 guys he faced.
2. Johnny Cueto
Despite the loss, Cueto was nothing short of masterful, going eight innings, striking out ten, allowing three hits with only one run scoring on a mistake to Baez.
3. Javier Baez
His clutch 3-2 homer off of Cueto in the eighth provided the only run for either team.
Game Goat
I know what I said earlier about each game having to have a goat, but this was so well played it would be unfair to name somebody. Let's hope we get at least one more like this today.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What Happened to the D-Backs?

     Over the offseason, the Arizona Diamondbacks signed one of the best pitchers on the planet, traded for a solid, young arm and continued to employ one of the best players in the league along with an underrated rising star outfielder. Even if they weren't the favorites in a tough NL West, it looked like they would at least contend. Now, they're in fourth place with a record of 65-91, sitting in dead last. Obviously, things went very, very wrong. Lets take a look at what those things were.
     There are so many reasons for this garbage fire of a season, but one of the main ones is A.J. Pollock's injury. The centerfielder had a breakout year in 2015, batting .315/.367/.498, hitting 20 homers and stealing 39 bases, all while playing Gold Glove level defense. He tore an elbow ligament in Spring Training, knocking him out for almost the entire season. Having traded away their 2015 right fielder Ender Inciarte in a deal for Shelby Miller, (more on that debacle later) the D-Backs suddenly found themselves short on outfielders, having to rely on the washed up Michael Bourn before trading him to Baltimore.
     The aforementioned Shelby Miller trade is another reason Arizona's underperformed this year. We'll get to who they gave up in a second, but we knew it would likely be bad in the long term. What people weren't expecting, was that to the horror of the Diamondbacks' higher-ups, Miller was a complete disaster this year, posting an ERA of 6.90, setting career worsts in just about every stat, and was basically a poor man's Ricky Nolasco.
     It was a bad trade that's only going to get worse as time goes on. Atlanta made off with shortstop Dansby Swanson in the deal. The 2015 number one overall pick is considered to be right up there with Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor as the top young shortstops in the game. So far in his young career, Swanson has hit .300/.347/.400 while providing steady defense at short. Did I mention he's 22 years old? Now, trading a shortstop that young and that good straight up for Shelby Miller is egregious enough, but Arizona also lost Ender Inciarte in the deal. Inciarte had a solid season in Phoenix in 2015 and is now one of the few steady presences on the Braves, hitting .299/.355/.388 with 16 stolen bases.
     All this is bad, but it shouldn't have undermined the season, losing Pollock hurt the most out of those, but what has ruined the Diamondbacks season more than anything else is simply that players they were counting on haven't delivered. Zack Greinke was a top three pitcher in all of baseball in 2015, barely losing out on the Cy Young to Jake Arrieta. This year has been a different story, to say the least. His 4.37 ERA puts him in the same neighborhood as guys like Doug Fister and Ricky Nolasco. (Damnit did I just compare two different guys to Ricky Nolasco in the same column?) His 2.2 WAR has him making 15.5 million dollars for every win he brings to the table. For comparison's sake, Kris Bryant is making roughly 74 thousand dollars this year for each of his 8.4 wins. Admittedly, he had been doing better before going on the DL in July, but even then, he was nowhere near the standard he had set over the last few years, sporting an ERA of 3.62..
     When you go to the advanced stats, there are a couple of potential reasons for this. One is his move to the hitters park that is Chase Field from the decidedly more spacious Dodger Stadium. That could explain why his homers per nine innings have spiked from .57 to 1.30 this season. Another is that the Diamondbacks rank 18th in baseball in defensive runs saved this year with -11. It isn't terrible, but it's still nine runs worse than the 2015 Dodgers. Those don't totally explain his fall, there's still a lot of mystery, but it at least provides some information.
     It wasn't just Greinke disappointing either. Miller, Patrick Corbin, and Robbie Ray all had ERAs of at least 4.77 despite the fact that they're all under the age of 26 and all have had seasons with ERAs under 3.60. In fact, the starting rotation as a whole had a collective ERA this year of 4.37, eighth worst in the league. No matter how much Paul Goldschmidt is raking, it's hard to win with the other team scoring that much.
     Everyone knew the NL West was going to be tough this year, with the Dodgers coming off of another strong season and the Giants making improvements (along with it being an even year), so even after the D-Backs signed Greinke and traded for Miller, it was tough to say how much they would contend. After a full season of those guys on that team, we now have the definitive answer: None.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Checking in on the Twins Young Players

Byron Buxton
Every time Buxton's come to the plate this year, my thought process has gone something like this: Ok, here comes Buxton, he's the future, he'll eventually bring us to the World Series. Look at his stance, he looks really good up there. Alright, he just took the first pitch for a strike, nothing wrong with that, Mauer always takes the first pitch, too, now he fouled one back and it's 0-2. From there, I can predict what'll happen. He might take one ball, but it's just delaying the inevitable strike three at a breaking ball in the dirt. A few important things to remember about Buxton before panicking: First, he's only 22 and that's with losing a full year to injuries, not everyone's Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, most guys still need to develop a lot when they're that age. Second, he's still a fantastic fielder and baserunner, regardless of what he does with his other tools, he'll always have that. That said, his lack of progress at the plate is concerning. As I alluded to earlier, not his is he striking out a lot (his 36% is way too much for anyone, much less someone who doesn't hit homers) it's concerning how easily the K's seem to come for pitchers. Not many of his strikeouts come with 3-2 or 2-2 counts but with no or one ball. While behind in the count he's hitting .064/.115/.179. It's concerning and a little terrifying that this is the future of the organization, but we need to just be patient.
Miguel Sano
After being slowed by injuries in the first half of the season and some controversy of not working hard enough to the extent that there were rumors of him being sent down a couple weeks ago, the Dominican power hitter took off, hitting .343/.425/.800 in August. The 123 strikeouts in 82 games in concerning, but he's only 23 and his power shows enough promise that there's enough reason to think  that'll improve.
Eddie Rosario
Like Sano, Rosario has come around recently after struggling earlier. Unlike Sano, he actually was sent down, spending the entire month of June in Rochester. After making it back to Minnesota, he's quietly been on a tear, hitting .325 and hitting five of his seven homers since returning while playing mostly in center field. As a side note, Rosario also wins the unofficial award for coolest guy to the team. Every movement he makes in the field looks completely natural and effortless. That alone is enough reason to like him.
Max Kepler
For the past three weeks I've been trying to think of an adequate nickname for Kepler and I haven't been able to come up with one. But that doesn't matter because he's so awesome that he doesn't need one. After a three homer binge against Cleveland started a scorching hot stretch he's moved into the Rookie of the Year discussion with a line of .258/.334/.508 and 15 homers. While watching Kepler, one thing that always stands out to me is how straight and hard he hits the ball. While Sano's homers and long, high, majestic fly balls, Kepler's are typically straighter and get out of the park quickly. 37% of the balls off of his bat have been hit hard, second on the team. He's only 23, so let's hope he can keep it going.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Twins to Watch at the Trade Deadline

Kurt Suzuki
The most likely Twin to be traded should have been traded during his last good season of 2014 when he rode a .328 BABIP to hit .316 in the first half and made the AL All Star team. The Twins extended him rather than trading him that summer. This year, his value isn't quite as high as it was that All Star year, but it's not terrible. He rode a scorching hot stretch in June to get his batting average up to the respectable .292 it is right now, and brings a reputation of great intangibles to the table.
Ervin Santana
Santana got his trade value up with a quietly terrific July, only going 2-3 but pitching into the seventh inning in four of his five starts, including two complete games. Overall, his ERA dropped .72 points this month. While he isn't likely to continue pitching like that, he's established enough and has a good enough reputation for any team needing a solid, back of the rotation starter to be interested.
Eduardo Nunez
As you probably heard, the Twins recently shipped Nunez to San Francisco for minor league pitcher Aldalberto Mejia. It's not a bad deal for Minnesota; it was pretty obvious Nunez wasn't in the long term plans, evidenced by his abysmal .197 batting average after the All Star Break. He's actually pretty similar to Suzuki in 2014, only this time the Twins managed to deal him before he lost too much value. Mejia looks like a decent prospect, posting a 2.81 ERA this year between double and triple-A.
Brandon Kintzler
Fernando Abad
Veteran relievers are always wanted commodities around the deadline. Kintzler's stepped up into the closer's role with Perkins' injury and Jepsen's implosion. So far he's done better than most expected, allowing seven runs in 32 innings. Abad overcame some struggles early in the season and has pitched well of late. Both could go to any team looking for relief help, possibly the Cubs if they're still looking to upgrade after getting Chapman. The Rangers and their AL-worst 4.86 bullpen ERA could be another possible trade partner.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Midseason All MLB Team

Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw
I don't need to say anything more. He's Clayton freaking Kershaw. I don't care if he's injured. I don't care how good Arrieta and Sale have been. Kershaw has just been better.
Catcher: Wilson Ramos
Excuse me while I wander into traffic. This is a 27-year-old catcher hitting .327/.380/.523 with 13 homers half way through the season. This is a catcher the Twins traded for the abominable Matt Capps. Abominable isn't even the right word here. Words can't describe how awful it was having Matt Capps in the bullpen. If I had been writing this when he was around he would have overtaken Derek Jeter as my number one person to rant about. Anyway, congratulations to Wilson Ramos for being good, I guess.
First base: Anthony Rizzo
It's tough not going with Goldschmidt here, but Rizzo is beating him in every stat this season. On an unrelated note, I like Rizzo because he's a rare player that not one but two teams are kicking themselves over. He was originally drafted by the Red Sox, who traded him to the Padres in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, and then, in an underrated awful trade, the Padres sent him to Chicago for Kyung-Min Na and Andrew Cashner.
Second base: Jose Altuve
The AL's leading hitter is also leading the league in stolen bases, and even has already tied a career high in homers with 15.
Shortstop: Francisco Lindor
After having the Rookie of the year award stolen from him in 2015, Lindor is just as good of a season this year, hitting .307/.363/.460 with ten homers and 13 stolen bases, while displaying his usual wizardry at shortstop ranking third in the AL in defensive WAR with 1.7.
Third base: Manny Machado
Machado has become one of the best players in the league, and my personal favorite to watch. He's just so smooth and relaxed. You can read the rest of my Machado thoughts here.
Mike Trout
Trout's perch on top as best player in the game reminds me of Adrian Peterson's status as best running back in the NFL. Both facts have generally been accepted by fans, but every couple some new hotshot comes up who people try to say is better, just because they're bored with. With Peterson people tried to say Chris Johnson was better, then Maurice Jones-Drew, and then whoever they could think of. Trout's the same way. Even if Josh Donaldson and Jose Altuve have great stretches, or even a full season for Bryce Harper, it's going to take a lot more than that for anyone to knock off Trout.
Ian Desmond
The offseason's weirdest signing is shaping up to be it's best, as the converted shortstop is hitting .322/375/.524 while playing an above average center field, saving five runs with his glove so far. The good fielding is especially surprising considering he spent most of his career as a subpar fielder at his natural position. The fact that he's good in the outfield makes it even more of a steal for the Rangers.
Marcell OzunaResurrected his career from the dead after a disappointing 2015 season where he hit .259 and had a stint in Triple-A. In a breakout season this year he's emerged as the best player in a loaded Miami outfield with Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Game Seven Preview

     I was going to make this next column about the dead man revival that is Jackie Bradley Jr.'s career, but then the Cavaliers stormed back in the NBA finals, blowing out he Warriors in Cleveland and potentially changing the landscape of NBA history, so there are more important things going on. With game seven tonight, let's jump into a preview, starting by looking at who has the most at stake going into the final game.
LeBron James
A win for the Cavs here, which doesn't happen without a killer LeBron performance, launches him into god status in Cleveland. As a side note, LeBron's been the most fun thing about these finals, both because he's fun to watch in general and because of his put-the-team-on-my-back mentality he played with the last two games. That was most evident after he barked at Curry after blocking is shot Thursday night. You may want to debate how effective trash talking is when the guy who's shot you blocked is six inches shorter than you, but the message was clear: The Cavs weren't losing, and LeBron was making sure of that.
Stephen Curry
If the Warriors lose this, then Curry will have been the best player on the greatest regular season team of all time, followed by a stunning finals loss, coming off of a championship the year before in which Curry didn't play as great as he usually does. It will be unfair, but it Dubs lose people will blame Curry.
Harrison Barnes
Outside of Curry, Barnes will shoulder the most blame if he keeps missing shots. I don't know why we would expect anyone else to receive more blame, considering Barnes has been getting blamed for things since he was at North Carolina.
Kevin Love
Tonight is Love's last chance to keep his time in Cleveland from being a total disaster. As much as I want to hate him for leaving the Timberwolves, I can't and not just because that trade worked out so well. Watching the finals, it's hard not to feel bad for him. He's been phased out of the offense and is now being used as a basic stretch 4. I would say Cleveland needs to utilize him more, but the way LeBron's playing it would be silly to do anything else at this point.
Those are the big ones, now let's run through some guys with some, but not quite as much at stake tonight.
Steve Kerr
Has the chance to become the first coach to win the finals in both of his first two years.
David Blatt
A Cavs win would validate his firing last winter, as bizarre as it was at the time.
Andre Iguodala
Looking for one more championship while hobbled, could end up as a great story.
The LeBron and the Cavs have looked great, but teams in the NBA don't lose game sevens at home, and the Warriors don't lose in Oakland.
Warriors 107, Cavs 98

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Machado vs. Harper vs. Trout

Manny Machado has unofficially joined the ranks of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout for top players in baseball. It's one of a lot of things that have happened so far in the season. So with that, I'm diving back in to break down who the best to build a team around is.
Trout's the oldest of these guys, at 24. Harper and Machado are both 23, with the latter being about four months older than the former.
Edge: Harper
Big league resume
Harper and Machado both enjoyed mega-breakout seasons last year, launching them from pretty good players to superstars. However, Trout broke out in 2012 with maybe the greatest rookie season of all time, hitting .326/.399/.564 with 49 stolen bases, a campaign so great he nearly beat out the triple crown winning Miguel Cabrera for MVP. Trout may be a year older than Harper and Machado, but his body of work at still such a young age.
Edge: Trout
This is the toughest category to decide. Harper had the highest batting average last year at .330, but he's still more of a brute power guy. After his first two years, Trout's been sticking around the .290-.310 range, right there with Machado. That said, Machado's swing couldn't be smoother, and unlike Harper's, which is a clearly that of a power hitter, his is one that has a good chance of winning a batting title some day.
Edge: Machado
This one's easy. Harper's on the same level as Dave Kingman for power.
Edge: Harper
We haven't seen anyone like Machado since A-Rod was in his prime, someone that tall and athletic who can play both third and short. Trout's been pretty good, saving five runs last year with his glove, according to fangraphs, but Machado is on a different planet, both in range and versatility.  
Edge: Machado
One of the saddest developments in baseball over the last few years has been the erosion of Trout's speed on the basepaths. His rookie year he stole 49 bases, which, paired with his 30 homers made him look like an obvious candidate to join the 40-40 club eventually. Instead, his homers have increased each year, but his stolen bases have dropped, from 49 to 33 to 16 to 11. What was a big part of his game has been diminished, leaving him with one less dimension than he had before. That said, he has nine already this year, so it could be making a comback. Harper and Machado both steal a little bit but never have at the volume of Trout, even if it was a few years ago.
Edge: Trout
This is so close, I'd love to name it a three-way tie, but that would be a cop-out. Trout's the safest choice, since he has the largest body of work, but I'll give it to Harper because out of those three guys, he appears to have the most room for improvement, even though he had the best season of those three in 2015.
Edge: Harper

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

What's Wrong with the Twins and Other Storylines from the First week

     As per tradition, I went into this season full of optimism and hope about the Twins, only to have them dashed less than a week in. But hope isn't completely lost, here's a look at what's going wrong and how it can improve.
Twins miserable start
Outside of the seven-nothing drubbing at the hands of the Royals on Saturday, the Twins haven't lost a game by more than three runs, including two that went into extra innings. Obviously there are a lot of issues here, but it's not all the roster's fault. One of those many issues is the anemic state of the offense. So far, they've scored an average of less than two runs per game. The Twins currently have two people in their normal, everyday lineup with batting averages above .200. Joe Mauer is hitting .400 and Eduardo Escobar is hitting .348. As for the rest of the lineup, Brian Dozier is hitting .182, Miguel Sano .158, Trevor Plouffe .150 and Byung-ho Park .167. Yes, I know the maximum number of at-bats anyone has is 23, but it's still concerning. At the very least it's a really rough coincidence that they're all in slumps at the same time. There aren't a lot of other areas you can look at to explain this slide. The rotation's been solid, with even Ricky Nolasco delivering his one good start of the season Sunday, pitching seven innings and allowing one run in a game subsequently blown by Perkins in the ninth. All we can do now is hope the offense improves.
Trevor Story
Not to sound like someone on ESPN who overreacts to everything, but I've never seen anything like this. That's because, well, nothing like this has ever happened. Story's set the record for both most homers in the first six games of a season and most homers in the first six games in a career- in the same week. At the moment he's on pace to hit 189 homers and drive in 324 runs. I won't insult you and tell you he isn't going to keep up that pace, but it should give you a good idea of how good he's been.
We're barely over a week into the season and we've already seen two tough injuries to NL hopefuls. The first came before opening day, when A.J. Pollock fractured his elbow, putting him on the 60 day disabled list. Less than two weeks later, Cubs stud second year outfielder Kyle Schwarber tore his ACL in a collision with Dexter Fowler while going after a fly ball. He's out for the remainder of the season. As devastating as Schwarber's injury is for the Cubs, Pollock's creates an even worse outlook for the D-Backs. Even without Schwarber, the Cubs have a loaded roster with Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell, and they're still favored in the NL. Meanwhile Pollock's injury kills any chance Arizona had of contending in a tough NL West. Paul Goldschmidt lost his protection, and it could be especially bad with Zack Greinke looking mortal, there's no chance of the Diamondbacks doing anything without Pollock.

Monday, April 4, 2016

MLB Preview 2016! NL Edition

This is part two of my MLB preview, if you missed the AL predictions you can see that here.
Asterisk indicates wildcard prediction.
Washington Nationals
This was the toughest pick to make. I spent a long time trying to decide between the Mets and Nationals and eventually went with the Nats. Dusty Baker is a perfect fit here after micromanager Matt Williams left. This team was so disappointing last year but many of the reasons for that are bounce-back candidates. Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos will both likely have better seasons, and Daniel Murphy and most of all Ben Revere will help out the team a lot.
New York Mets*
Regardless of my second place projection, this is a dangerous team. Obviously the biggest reason for that is the rotation. It's hard to see them getting swept too often considering Harvey, deGrom, and Syndergaard will pitch in every series if they're all healthy. Outside of the playoffs Daniel Murphy was pretty mediocre last year, so replacing him with Neil Walker will help the offense. It's really tough for me to pick these guys to finish in second; it's going to be a dogfight down the stretch against the Nationals.
Miami Marlins
This is a pretty interesting team. Giancarlo Stanton, Macell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich comprise one of the top young outfields in the game, and Dee Gordon became one of the best second basemen last year. The X factor for Miami is Jose Fernandez. If he can put out a full season's worth of production the Marlins will contend. If not, it will be another long season for the Fish.
Atlanta Braves
This is a rebuilding year for the Braves, rebuilding for a future that will come much quicker after the pillaging they pulled off on the Diamondbacks to get Dansby Swanson among others for Shelby Miller. Right now obviously the roster isn't anywhere near the playoffs, but it is underrated. The lineup in particular is better than they appear with a top four of Inciarte-Aybar-Markakis-Freeman.
Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies only have one big contract left in Ryan Howard. After that they'll be all set to rebuild without any distractions. This year, Maikel Franco will be the only bright spot on a very untalented team.
Pittsburgh Pirates
I wrote a column about why the Pirates will win the Central in January. That explains it better than I could in one paragraph.
Chicago Cubs*
On paper, this is the best team in baseball, no doubt. But, I'm a little skeptical for a few reasons. The first is Jake Arrieta. Arrieta will be good in 2016, but it's just unrealistic to expect him to perform at the superhuman level he was operating on last year. In the second half, he posted a 0.75 ERA, and opposing hitters hit just .148/.204/.205 off of him. Arrieta's a great pitcher but to consistently pitch that well is impossible. The other reason is that they're the Cubs. There's 108 years of baggage on the franchise, they disappoint every year. Why have we forgotten this?
St. Louis Cardinals
I have a feeling I'm going to regret this prediction just because the Cardinals have a history of making the playoffs even when appearing to be declining. However, it's a little risky to take a team to win the division just of reputation. I just don't trust this team. Yadier Molina's been slowing down for the past few years, Father Time will eventually catch up to Matt Holliday, and I'm just not sure anyone will step up.
Milwaukee Brewers
There is nothing remotely interesting about the Brewers. Ryan Braun will have a decent year. Jonathan Lucroy is their best player, but could be traded. That's all.
Cincinnati Reds
Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto will be enough of a reason to keep an eye on the Reds, but there isn't much else there. Brandon Phillips isn't the same player as he was a few years ago, batting a respectable but not fantastic .294/.328/.395. He and Jay Bruce are both likely getting traded midseason this year.
San Francisco Giants
Between a terrific offseason and the Dodgers becoming just weak enough, I like the Giants in the West. They play in a graveyard of a ballpark, ideal for Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to have bounce-back years in, and Denard Span will slide seamlessly into the outfield to replace Nori Aoki. Even without considering the moves they made, this is just a very professional, well-run club. Led by Hunter Pence and Buster Posey, the Giants will go roaring back into the playoffs.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The fact that I don't have the Dodgers making the playoffs is a testament to how tough the NL is this year. The Giants' improvement and the Dodgers losing Greinke was just enough to tilt the West in favor of San Francisco. Corey Seager's a stud, and Kershaw's still the best pitcher in the game, but they have too many players on the decline with Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier and possibly even Yasiel Puig.
Arizona Diamondbacks
Well that was... eventful. Arizona had one of the best moves of the offseason, locking up Zack Greinke for only six years, as opposed to the eight David Price got from Boston, and the worst move, trading Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair, and Ender Inciarte for Shelby Miller. Miller is a very young,  talented pitcher who will be a solid number two for Greinke, but Swanson is a former number one overall pick, a 22-year-old shortstop with superstar potential, and Inciarte is an underrated outfielder, batting .303/.338/.408 with 21 stolen bases last year. Paul Goldschmidt is an MVP candidate but the D-Backs just don't have enough to compete in a tough NL, especially after A.J. Pollock's injury.
San Diego Padres
A wild offseason going into the 2015 reminded baseball fans everywhere that the Padres existed. After the disappointment of going 74-88, along with James Shields and Matt Kemp having underwhelming seasons the Friars are right back to where they were before: largely unknown and slightly below average.
Colorado Rockies
There are three reasons to watch the Rockies this year: Nolan Arenado, D.J. LeMahieu and seeing what they get for Carlos Gonzalez. Other than that I don't know what you're doing.
MVP: Bryce Harper
Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
Yeah, those are the two easiest answers, but there's a pretty good reason for that. You could talk me into Paul Goldschmidt for MVP, but voters  tend to be swayed by winning. Outside of that, these are the two best players in the NL, no need to overthink this.
Rookie of the Year: Steven Matz
This race will come down between Matz and Corey Seager. I think Matz is a slightly safer choice than Seager, as he's a little older and we got a better look at Matz late last year

Sunday, April 3, 2016

MLB Preview 2016! AL Edition

It's baseball season. You all know what that means. Let's get started.
Asterisk indicates wildcard prediction.
Toronto Blue Jays
Coming off of a season where they made their first playoff appearance since 1993, the Blue Jays are returning with almost the same roster. David Price is their only major loss going into the season, but their offense will improve with Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo struggled last year after moving across the border, hitting .239/.317/.380 for the Jays. He's just too good of a player to continue being that bad.
New York Yankees
I'm done getting deceived by the Yankees. Every year they put out a roster that looks destined for 72 wins and every year they overachieve. That's why I don't care how unimposing everything about this team looks, I'm still picking them as a wildcard team. As for actual analysis, the Evil Empire doesn't have anyone in their lineup who will keep opposing pitchers up at night but no one who's Drew Butera levels of terrible. If Aaron Hicks gets a shot I could see him having a breakout year, he's going to excel with those short fences. And with the Betances-Miller-Chapman combination in the late innings, as long as their rotation is mediocre, they'll do well.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays aren't going to give up many runs, boasting a strong, young rotation led by Chris Archer. Their problem will be scoring runs. Last year, the Rays ranked 25th in the league in runs scored. They have some intriguing prospects on their way, but this is going to be another rebuilding year for the Rays.
Boston Red Sox
Am I missing something here? Why do people think the BoSox are going to be good? They gave David Price way too many years in free agency, and there's just too many holes here. They don't have any starting pitching behind Price, especially if they're relying on Joe Kelly to be anything better than terrible. (The right hander went 10-6 with a 4.82 ERA last year) The rest of the rotation is average at best. On offense, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, and Pablo Sandoval are all on the decline, Jackie Bradley is going to be 26 years old on April 19 and is a career .213 hitter and Rusney Castillo was a complete disaster last year. Mookie Betts is a reason to be optimistic, but there aren't too many others.
Baltimore Orioles
If there was a baseball version of the Monstars from Space Jam, this would be it. They're big, slow, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out one of them has eaten a person before. Between Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and Pedro Alvarez, they're going to hit a lot of homers and strike out a ton. Unfortunately, those guys along with Manny Machado and Adam Jones won't be enough for a team with a rotation that lacks a true number one and was 26th in the league last year in FIP.
Kansas City Royals
The defending champs are coming into 2015 with an almost identical roster to last year, losing only midseason acquisitions Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist over the winter. Projection systems hate them again, but that's because they have a very particular brand of baseball that can't be quantified. They play an old school style, concentrating on making contact and advancing runners, the exact thing advanced stats say doesn't work. But it clearly works for them, and their grip on the AL Central seems pretty secure.
Detroit Tigers*
The Tigers reign atop the AL central officially came to a close last year, and it won't get any easier in 2016. They'll improve assuming they have Miguel Cabrera for a full season. He only played in 119 games last year. Justin Upton will also help an aging offense. The pitching staff is decent with the exception of Mike Pelfrey, who I'm guessing the Tigers had never seen pitch before they signed him. Overall, this team is good enough to stay in the race, but this might be their last year.
Chicago White Sox
If you're looking for a potential sleeper playoff team, here it is. Chris Sale has quietly dominated for the last four years, posting a 2.95 ERA since 2012. The combination of acquiring Austin Jackson and being able to move Melky Cabrera to DH will improve a defense that ranked third to last in the league last year in defensive runs saved, and Todd Frazier will create an intimidating middle of the lineup duo with Jose Abreu. Ultimately, I don't think this team has the arms in their rotation behind Sale to make the playoffs, but this is an intriguing team.
Cleveland Indians
Advanced stats and mainstream media guys love the Indians. Last year Sports Illustrated picked them to win the World Series. Several months into the season, when it was clear they weren't as good an they thought, everyone at ESPN refused to admit they were wrong, considering them contenders up until the day they were eliminated. This year it's more of the same, with Cleveland projected to do well despite a mediocre roster.
Minnesota Twins
I'm saving my Twins thoughts for an extended column about them later, so I won't say too much here. Just know that I'm more optimistic than this fifth place prediction implies.
Houston Astros
The Astros are just the Cubs of the American league. They haven't won anything in a really long time but now have a hopeful future with some young, hyped prospects. While Carlos Correa will only continue to get better, I think George Springer is the most important player in Houston this year. In parts of two years in the big leagues, he's shown a rare combination of the ability to get on base along with elite power. Springer's been effective but hampered by injuries the last two years, so this is his big shot to prove he can be productive over a full season.
Texas Rangers*
This is just a really good, well balanced team. You can't poke holes anywhere in there roster because they're just solid all-around. Rougned Odor was very underrated last year, providing some pop from second base, especially in the second half of the season. Also, Joey Gallo could potentially make a pretty good lineup terrifying for pitchers if he's ready this season.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have the best player of the of the 2000s, the guy who will likely go on to be the best player for the next 10 to 12 years, and the best defensive shortstop in the game. Their problem is the rest of the roster. Garrett Richards was serviceable last year but nowhere near the Cy Young contender he was in 2014. Andrelton Simmons will help on defense, but he hasn't proven that he can hit and was their only major offseason acquisition. This is just an overall mediocre roster, in danger of wasting Mike Trout.
Seattle Mariners
This is an interesting team. Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Nelson Cruz will all keep opposing pitchers up at night, and Nori Aoki has been one of the most underrated players in the league since he joined, batting .287/.353/.380 in San Francisco last year. This is another sleeper.

Oakland Athletics
Historians will look back on the A's of this era as one of the greatest wasted opportunities in the sport. In 2014 they had Josh Donaldson, Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester and Sonny Gray and somehow botched it worse than Phil Cuzzi botched the call on Joe Mauer's would-be double in the 2009 playoffs. By Opening Day 2015, Lester had left via free agency, they traded Donaldson to Toronto for peanuts monkeys eat at the circus, Samardzija to the White Sox for poop monkeys fling at each other and poor Gray was stuck as the last decent player in Oakland. Then, just in case they hadn't already made enough stupid moves, they traded their best shortstop prospect, Daniel Robertson to Tampa Bay for Ben Zobrist... who they traded to the Cubs at the trade deadline for considerably less a few months later. Now they're stuck in baseball purgatory, just waiting for enough prospects to come up to improve.
MVP: Mike Trout
I know the national media has a collective man crush on Carlos Correa, but he just hasn't proved that he can play on an MVP level yet. Trout's the best player on the planet, and there don't seem to be too many contenders this year.
Cy Young: Chris Sale
See what I said about Sale in the paragraph about the Sox. He's been a great pitcher for a long time, I picked him last year, it's finally his turn.
Rookie of the Year: Byung Ho Park
ROY is always the toughest category to pick simply because there are so many candidates who we don't even know are going to see time in the big leagues this year. I ultimately chose Park because he's one of the few rookies we know will get an opportunity this year.
NL Coming Tomorrow!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Francisco Lindor

     I'll never forget the first time I watched Francisco Lindor play. It was the summer of 2010, and he was on an under-18 all-American team. They were touring the country and had come to my hometown to play against the local town ball team. I went with a couple friends because we had heard that Bryce Harper would be there. It turned out that Scott Boras had convinced him to leave the team because he was getting close to being drafted. Just one more reason to hate Scott Boras. Anyway, that was disappointing but it was clear from the beginning there were quite a few future big leaguers on the team. Lindor popped out to me right a way for a couple reasons. The first was his obvious charisma. He had an easygoing nature about him, appearing relaxed and having fun. After every pitch, he and the second baseman had to run up the middle to back up the throw from the catcher, even with no one on base. Every time they went there they high-fived. He just seemed to be enjoying himself. He also stood out because of the way the P.A. announcer tried way too hard to get the accent right with his name: "Now batting, Fran-CEE-sco LEEN-dor."
      Five years later, Lindor enjoyed an excellent rookie campaign for the Indians, batting .313/.352/.482 en route to getting robbed by the voters in Rookie of the Year voting. (Carlos Correa hit .282/.346/.496 with far worse defense than Lindor.) While his calling card continues to be his terrific fielding at shortstop, saving 10 runs there in 2015 while playing just 98 games, he showed an advanced approach at the plate last year; he took almost 30% of all of his balls in play to the opposite field.
     Projections haven't been kind to Lindor going into next season. Most people who think he'll regress cite his .348 batting average on balls in play. And while he won't repeat that in 2016, there are reasons to believe it won't go down as much as some think. For starters, there's the aforementioned 30% of balls to the opposite field stat. In lots of situations the people riding BABIP are getting lucky. However, the fact that Lindor can take so many balls the other way seem to demonstrate that he knows how to hit it where they ain't, which will keep opponents from using any shifts on him.
     Also, typically it's a cause for alarm when somebody's BABIP makes a sudden jump in one season. Kurt Suzuki in 2014 is the perfect example of that. His entire career he had never had a BABIP higher than .269, and it was often lower than that. Then suddenly in 2014, it ballooned to .328 in the first half. There was no precedent, it just happened and ultimately suckered the Twins into giving him a two year extension. But last season wasn't like that for Lindor, all throughout his career in the minors, his batting average on balls in play has been consistently high, including hitting .328 in that area in 2015 before coming to Cleveland.
     In the midst of the national media's love affair with Carlos Correa this offseason, many have forgotten about Lindor, considering him a great fielding shortstop with no chance of repeating his 2015 BABIP-fueled hitting season. And that's fine. He can keep a low profile playing in Cleveland his whole career it won't matter after he has another terrific season.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Evolution of Strategy

     It's late February, and that can only mean one thing: Spring training's beginning. That also means something: the Red Sox are now favored to win a wide open AL East after spending way too much money on one or multiple players during the offseason. After slowly becoming more and more like the Yankees since their World Series victory in 2004 by treating free agency like a monkey throwing whatever he can get his hands on at a dartboard, they need to face the reality. And that reality is the fact that their strategy doesn't work.
     In 2015 the Sox underperformed, going 78-84 after signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez the previous winter for a combined $183 million. I hate to sound like a jerk here, but the moves made no sense. They already had a shortstop in Xander Bogaerts, and Sandoval couldn't play anywhere but third, so they had to move Hanley to left field; we all know how that worked out. Two years earlier, in 2013, they won the World Series. The previous offseason, the only moves they made were smaller, but filled a specific need: aquiring Jonny Gomes, David Ross, Stephen Drew, Shane Victorino Koji Uehara. The two years before, they missed the playoffs, despite having signed Carl Crawford and traded for Adrian Gonzalez. My point is, the Red Sox have proven that they know how to win, and it's the opposite of what they've been doing lately.
     Compare the Red Sox to the Giants. Being in San Francisco, you can't call the Giants "small market", but they're run like one. Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Duffy, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are all home-grown talent. The players they didn't draft all have relatively small contracts and filled a hole on the team, like Hunter Pence or Tim Hudson. And that strategy's worked for them, winning three World Series this decade.
     In fact, the Red Sox are one of the few teams who have stuck with the strategy of handing out big contracts as their primary manner of business. Look at the most recent World Series winners. The Royals, aforementioned Giants and Red Sox and Cardinals were all built from the ground up.
     Even the Yankees, once considered the epitome of big spending have slowly begun to ease up on the contracts. Since 2010, they've only signed four guys to contracts longer than four years, a C.C. Sabathia extension in 2012, a seven year deal to Jacoby Ellsbury, seven years for Masahiro Tanaka and a five year contract to Mr. God's Gift to Baseball Brian McCann all in the offseason of 2014. In the past two years, they've been gradually getting younger. Dellin Betances has done terrifically since his rookie season in 2014, and Rob Refsnyder and Greg Bird both made their debuts in 2015. By 2018, New York will only have three undesirable contracts on the books. They'll be getting more fiscally responsible, younger and reliant on their farm system, much like the rest of the league.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Twins Sign Carlos Quentin and Other Things

     Some of you may love the middle of February. I do not. There's after the Super Bowl, absolutely nothing happens. We still have around a week before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, all the offseason moves are over, nothing is happening in the NBA or NHL, it's just a dead time of the year. So, with nothing substantial to write about I'm just going to offer up my thoughts on some issues for this column.
Twins sign Carlos Quentin
I guess I understand this move, there's nothing wrong with it, but I just seems odd. Quentin's a 31-year-old outfielder who hasn't played in more than 131 games in a season in his career, which he did in 2010. He was productive with the Padres when healthy the last few years, but still, there's already a bit of a logjam in the outfield between Buxton, Sano, Rosario and possibly Max Kepler it's a strange move right now.
A's trade for Khris Davis
Here's another move that left me cold. It made sense for the Brewers to trade Davis. They're rebuilding and he probably won't amount to much more than a one dimensional power hitting first baseman. That said, there's a market for one dimensional power hitting first basemen that the A's aren't in. They're nowhere near contending and it makes no sense for them to acquire a player who will make them only slightly better if that's their only move.
Twins rotation this year
The three in for sure are Santana, Gibson, and Hughes. That leaves two spots up for grabs between Milone, Nolasco, Duffy, May and possibly even Berrios. Personally I'd like to see Duffy. He did very well at the end of last year, posting an ERA of 3.10 in 58 innings. Unlike most players who have hot stretches to end the year, advanced stats back him up. He struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings with a FIP of 3.24. For the last spot I'm hoping for the guy who's name is not Ricky Nolasco. There's no hope for him, the Twins should just stick him in the bullpen and ride out the last two years on his contract.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Super Bowl 50 Preview

Cam Newton vs. Peyton Manning
I love how Manning was completely written off up until week 17 and is now proving everyone wrong. I really want to pick him right here. Unfortunately, there's no question. Newton's the MVP and best quarterback on the planet right now.
Edge: Panthers
Running backs
Jonathan Stewart vs. C.J. Anderson
Neither of these teams boast superstar running backs. That said, this one is particularly close either. Stewart has over 200 more rushing yards overall and 30 per game than his Denver counterpart, not to mention five more years of experience.
Edge: Panthers
Wide Receivers
Carolina has an underrated group of wideouts, particularly Ted Ginn, who has really stepped up recently in the passing and special teams game. But nobody in their corps can compete with Denver's two-headed monster of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. The pair combined for 181 receptions and 2439 yards last year. 
Edge: Broncos
Tight End
Greg Olsen vs. Vernon Davis
There wouldn't have been any question about this two years ago, when Davis had one of the best seasons of his career, grabbing 52 catches for 850 yards. But since then his production has slipped, most notably after coming to Denver earlier this year from San Francisco. In six games he's only had 18 receptions for 194 yards and no touchdowns. Meanwhile, Olsen's flourished this year, becoming one of Cam Newton's favorite targets. The Miami product set a career high in yards with 1104.
Edge: Panthers
Offensive Line
Easy one to say here Panthers have one of the top offensive lines in the league.
Edge: Panthers
Defensive Line
Both of these lines were ranked in the top five of the NFL. You can't go wrong either way.
While the Panthers have the best overall LB in Luke Keuchley, the Broncos combination of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware give them the edge.
Edge: Broncos
Josh Norman leads a Panthers secondary that led the NFL with 24 interceptions last year. Much like the linebackers, the Broncos don't have an individual player who can compete with Norman, their unit is a bit more balanced, featuring T.J. Ward and Aquib Talib among others.
Edge: Broncos
Joe Webb
The former Vikings quarterback/receiver is on the Panthers' roster. He is not on the Broncos' roster.
Edge: Panthers
Stats point to the Panthers, but the roll Manning and the Broncos have been on is too weird for me to pick against them. They have too much karma going for them right now, I'll say Broncos 27, Panthers 20.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Bold Prediction: The Pirates win the NL Central

     The MLB wild-card game is exciting. I'm not going to deny that. It guarantees frantic intensity of a game seven in what could be an ultimately dull playoffs. It isn't, however fair. The Pittsburgh Pirates have averaged 93 wins a year since 2013 and have been rewarded with three crapshoots, two of them against Madison Bumgarner and Jake Arrieta respectively. I could go off on a rant about how stupid this is, but I already did that last October. Instead, I'm predicting I won't be sympathizing with Pirates fans next year, because they will have won their division. Here's why.
     Any case for the Pirates begins at Andrew McCutchen and the rest of the outfield. McCutchen's been their best player, leader, and the key to anything going well in Pittsburgh. Despite this, he was arguably only the second best outfielder in Pittsburgh last year, behind Starling Marte. The 26-year-old hit .287/.337/.444 last year while saving 24 runs with his glove. Rounding out the outfield in Gregory Polanco. Polanco was the Bucs' leadoff hitter last year where he hit .256/.320/.381 and swiped 27 bases. He's only 24 years old, so he can only get better from here.
     The outfield's the best aspect of this team, but that's the same as last year, the biggest changes have come in the infield. Early in the offseason, the Pirates traded Neil Walker to the Mets for Jon Niese, while it was disappointing for fans to see the Pittsburgh-native Walker go, the move made sense. Utility player Josh Harrison missed a good chunk of last year with a UCL tear. While he typically plays third and left field, he's a capable of playing second, so he'll replace Walker there. Korean import Jung Ho Kang, who had a terrific rookie season hitting .287/.355/.461 will take over third base full time.
     The biggest issue for the Bucs' for a long time has been first base. Last year the five guys who played first base collectively hit .245 with 73 walks and 251 strikeouts. Enter Josh Bell. For all the attention all the prospects in the Cubs system have been receiving, Bell is right up there with all of them. While splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A last year, the former second rounder hit .317/.393/.446. Given the situation at first base and his production, it's almost a sure thing he'll be in the big leagues some time in 2016. If he can have a Miguel Sano-like impact, he'll make a very good team great.
     The rotation is led by a Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano but also features Jeff Locke looking for a bounce back season and a resurgent J.A. Happ, who really came around in the second half of 2015, posting an ERA of 1.85 in the second half, partially by getting his strikeout rate up to 9.8 per nine innings.
     Right now the Cubs are favored to win the Central for good reason, but there are reasons to expect some regression. The biggest is Jake Arrieta. Arrieta is a solid pitcher, but his second half stretch when he went 12-1 with a 0.75 ERA is unrepeatable. That's no knock against him as a pitcher, I'm sure he'll have a solid season, it's just impossible to be that good twice. Also, they're the Cubs. The Cubs were put on this earth to disappoint people. Right now there's just too much hype, too many expectations, something will go wrong. It always does.
     The Cubs have gotten so much attention it's easy to forget that they didn't win the division last year. The St. Louis Cardinals did that, going 100-62. But they lost one of their most consistent pitchers in John Lackey. On top of that, Wainwright's going to be 34, Holliday will be 36, Molina's slowing down. It doesn't feel like the Cards' year.
     The wild card system is unfair and the Pirates have been the biggest victims of that, but this year it won't matter, they'll be division champs.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Complainathon Vol. IV

     This started out as a standard column, but then I just got on roll, I figured I haven't done one of these in awhile I might as well go all the way. There are just too many stupid things going on for me to resist.
     One of the most ridiculous notions in sports is that players play better when they're in their contract year. Do players try harder when they're going to be free agents? Do people really think athletes are so unmotivated that they don't work as hard as possible unless there's money at stake? Whatever the perceived logic is for that, I'm starting to think there are GMs who buy into that. That's the only reason I can think of for why nobody's signed Yoenis Cespedes yet.
     Up until a few days ago, Cespedes, Justin Upton and Chris Davis were the only big free agents left of the market. Then Davis signed his Bobby Bonilla-esque deal, leaving just Cespedes and Upton. There's a very good reason why teams have been hesitant to give the infuriatingly inconsistent Upton a big contract, but in Cespedes's situation there isn't one.
     Several days ago, it was revealed that the Mets and White Sox were both interested in Cespedes, but only if he agreed to a shorter deal. I have two massive issues with that. 1) Message to both GMs: You guys are freaking New York and Chicago. When has being fiscally responsible ever been something you need to do? 2) The guys who have received multi-year deals this offseason include Jeff Samardzija, who imploded in Chicago last year, posting an ERA of 4.96 and leading the league in hits allowed, home runs allowed and earned runs, and Daniel Murphy, who had one terrific postseason in an otherwise completely pedestrian season where he hit .281/.322/449 with 14 homers and 73 RBI. Cespedes hit .291/.328/.542 with 35 round-trippers and 105 RBI.
     Another thing bothering me recently has been the reaction to the Hall of Fame voting. Griffey and Piazza were both deserving of their elections, but people have paid more attention to the players who didn't make it. If you believe every columnist you read, then the Hall of Fame is broken because Alan Trammell, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Fred McGriff and a litany of others aren't there. I don't know when this arrogant attitude started. I'm talking about the attitude of "There's a guy who I think should be in the Hall of Fame but he isn't so that means the Hall of Fame sucks". Most importantly, the Hall of Fame isn't meant to be taken too seriously. It's a freaking museum. In that museum, there is exactly one large room where all the plaques are that honor the players who are voted in. The other 95% in about the history of baseball. It's pretty much like how anyone would expect any museum to be. My point is, it's so much more than just a place where players are honored. It's about the history of the game, it's, I know some writers have never heard this word, fun.