Archive for the ‘ Baseball Rants ’ Category

2015 Season Previews: Texas Rangers

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

Texas Rangers

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 82-80 (4th in AL West, 15th in MLB)

Manager: Jeff Banister (1st season with Texas, no prior experience)

Top Three Players: 3B Adrian Beltre (5.2), RHP Yu Darvish (4.5, out for season after Tommy John surgery), SS Elvis Andrus (2.9)

Bounce-back Player: 1B Prince Fielder

After having surgery to fuse his neck back together last May, Fielder returns to Texas in hopes of completing his first full season in the Arlington launchpad. After playing in 42 games in 2014 and posting a .247/.360/.360, Fielder is a huge bounce-back candidate, as he enters his age-31 season and looks to get back to the .300/.400/.500 lines that we are so used to seeing from him. Some may balk at his ability to make a full return, while questioning the drop in production in Detroit and continuing to label the bulky first baseman as a horrible-bodied decliner, but you shouldn’t be that guy. Fielder missed all of 13 team games from 2006 through 2013, and his ability to stay healthy and productive shouldn’t hinge on his surgery and recovery. He is hitting the ball well thus far in spring, albeit without much power, but, once the season starts, look for Fielder to be an offensive force again in 2015.

Odor is a potential star in the making Courtesy: minorleagueball.com

Odor is a potential star in the making
Courtesy: minorleagueball.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: 2B Rougned Odor

In the race to take second base in Texas, Odor has been significantly assisted by the shoulder woes of former can’t-miss middle infield prospect Jurickson Profar…so says people who don’t think that Odor is special, but that isn’t the case. Odor has been very productive throughout his career, posting a .280/.336/.425 minor league line over 1,436 plate appearances. He doesn’t walk a lot, but he isn’t a free-swinging hacker, striking out just 71 times in his 417 plate appearances in 2014. Oh, and did I mention that he was just 20 years old in 2014 during his debut? The injury to Profar forced the Rangers hands, but Odor responded with 30 extra-base hits in his rookie season. With a ceiling of 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases, Odor could be overlooked due to the gluttony of options at the keystone position, but he is certainly capable of filling that position over an entire season if you feel like you are getting “stuck” with the talented, young player.

Offseason Overview: The Rangers lost Alex Rios and Neal Cotts, but they added LHP Ross Detwiler to fill a possible swing-role in the rotation/bullpen, while gaining a full season of Prince Fielder. The addition of RHP Yovani Gallardo will help the suddenly crippled top of the rotation, as health will continue to be an issue in 2015 with the club already losing their ace, Darvish, for the entire season, while hoping for productive seasons out of Shin-Soo Choo and Adrian Beltre as they continue into their thirties. Beyond those moves and losses, the Rangers had a pretty uneventful offseason, as they lean on already present bodies and seem to be hoping that their once elite farm system can continue to replenish the system with affordable talent.

The Verdict: After losing Darvish, you could assume that the Rangers would drop to approximately 77 wins this season, so they are more likely to finish towards the bottom of the AL West than anywhere near the top. With Matt Harrison, Martin Perez, and Darvish on the shelf at the start of the season, the already tricky pitching situation (due to the offensive play of the home ballpark) will look more uninspiring with Nick Martinez, Colby Lewis, and Detwiler likely to be expected to fill major roles in the rotation. Choo will be moving back to right field with Ryan Rua expected to take over in left to provide some right-handed pop, while Leonys Martin will continue to improve and become a star-level producer in center. Mitch Moreland has gone from a potential outcast to the lead role at the DH spot, while Elvis Andrus continues to be a financial burden (but that has been the case since they signed him to the horrific deal). It isn’t all bad in Texas, but they’ll be looking to outscore their opponents on a nightly basis, which may not be possible with who is responsible for teeing up the ball when their pitchers are on the mound.

Season Previews: Cleveland Indians

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

Cleveland Indians

Indians

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 81-81 (2nd in the AL Central, 16th in MLB)

Manager: Terry Francona (177-147 in two seasons with Cleveland, 1,206-1,062 in 14 seasons overall)

Top Three Players: RHP Corey Kluber (4.2), C Yan Gomes (3.8), OF Michael Brantley (3.1)

Bounce-back Player: 2B Jason Kipnis

After having a breakout campaign in 2013, Kipnis crashed back to earth in 2014. Much of that can be attributed to an attrition in BABIP, which fell from .345 in 2013 to .288 in 2014, as well as his production against left-handed pitching, which fell from .308/.370/.480 in 2013 to .208/.256/.244 in 2014; though, he dealt with tendon damage to a finger in his left hand (which he had surgery on over the offseason), which can also take some blame. Kipnis, however, has a career .246/.313/.343 triple-slash in 688 plate appearances against left-handed pitching, so it is fair to wonder if his 2013 production was an outlier. Still, a healthy Kipnis was one of the top second basemen in MLB, and at just 28 in April, the Indians should have several more productive, 2013-like seasons left out of one of their stars.

Hold on Lindor fans! Ramirez is GOOD!  Courtesy: letsgotribe.com

Hold on Lindor fans! Ramirez is GOOD!
Courtesy: letsgotribe.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: SS Jose Ramirez

While Indians fans will beg and moan for super-prospect SS Francisco Lindor to get called up to Cleveland quickly, they may be surprised, with patience, at the type of production that the Tribe can get from this 5’9″ speedster. He was an upgrade over Asdrubal Cabrera at short over the second half of the season, and, perhaps, the second half explosion of the club’s pitching staff could be tied to his elevation to full-timer at the position. Still, the Indians and their fans shouldn’t be so quick to write Ramirez off as a space-holder for Lindor, as the 22-year-old (yes, he’s quite young) has a little pop and plenty of speed, providing defensive value and enough offensive production to be capable of an everyday role, for this year and down the road. His .262/.300/.346 line in 2014 may not look all that special, but he has shown a knack for making quality contact and a patient approach that wasn’t evident in his 266 plate appearances last season. Ramirez is a sneaky-good pick in fantasy leagues, as his speed and skills will play up in a very talented Indians lineup.

Offseason Overview: The Tribe added RHP Gavin Floyd on a one-year, $4 million deal. He promptly injured his elbow, needing season-ending surgery to repair a stress fracture in his elbow. The Indians also took a chance on RHP Shaun Marcum, who signed a minor league contract with a spring training invite, which seemed to be the route the Indians took to add depth to the roster, as they continued with minor league deals with LHP Scott Downs, OF Jerry Sands, C Adam Moore, RHP Anthony Swarzak, and LHP Bruce Chen. The biggest move of the offseason was the acquisition of 1B/OF Brandon Moss, who was acquired from the Oakland Athletics for minor league second baseman Joe Wendle. Moss brings a powerful, left-handed bat to a lineup that was quite productive in 2014, ranking 11th in MLB in runs scored (669). With 1B/DH/veteran leadership provider Jason Giambi, who missed most of the season due to being old, retiring, the core of the Indians’ 85-win team is still around, while the 25th spot on the roster seems much more capable of producing “actual value” to the club.

The Verdict: PECOTA was way, way off on the Indians projection, in my opinion. This is an 88-90-win team, at the minimum, and should be considered the favorite to take the American League Central, even with the Tigers still playing baseball and the White Sox vastly improved. You can doubt whether RHP Corey Kluber can possibly repeat his Cy Young 2014 season, but you’d also have to expect regression from Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, T.J. House, and Danny Santana, who combined to go 17-13 with a 3.09 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and a 282:76 K:BB over 285.1 second half innings. The bullpen is very good, as LHP Nick Hagadone seems to have finally found himself, while RHP Cody Allen looked as dominant as Craig Kimbrel last season as the closer, but, as always with bullpens, you never know what to expect from year-to-year. With Zach McAllister, Marcum, and Josh Tomlin possibly landing outside of the rotation, a move to the bullpen adds further depth for the Tribe. The offense is solid and the Indians will likely get continued production from OF Michael Brantley, though it is unlikely to be at the MVP-levels that he showed last season, while 1B Carlos Santana finally has a position and his bat will continue to take off. They have an excellent catcher in Yan Gomes, whose arm and bat have insane power in them. If 3B Lonnie Chisenhall is as good as he was last season, and the Indians get healthy seasons out of Moss, OF Michael Bourn, and Kipnis, Cleveland is as good as any team in baseball.

2015 Predictions and Useless Guesses

For my 500th post, I decided I’d go away from the previews for a moment and look forward to the season in a different way, with my annual predictions and useless guesses. While there are other, more important analysts who gather data and use systems to generate these types of lists, I just use the ol’ noggin. You can find my 2012, 2013, and 2014 versions to see how I did in the past, but this is a new season and a new idea on how the league will look at the end of the 2015 season.

AL East

1. Boston Red Sox

2. Baltimore Orioles

3. Tampa Bay Rays

4. Toronto Blue Jays

5. New York Yankees

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians

2. Detroit Tigers

3. Chicago White Sox

4. Kansas City Royals

5. Minnesota Twins

AL West

1. Oakland Athletics

2. Los Angeles Angels

3. Seattle Mariners

4. Texas Rangers

5. Houston Astros

AL Wild Cards

Los Angeles Angels

Baltimore Orioles

NL East

1. Washington Nationals

2. Miami Marlins

3. New York Mets

4. Atlanta Braves

5. Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central

1. Pittsburgh Pirates

2. St. Louis Cardinals

3. Milwaukee Brewers

4. Chicago Cubs

5. Cincinnati Reds

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

2. San Diego Padres

3. San Francisco Giants

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

5. Colorado Rockies

NL Wild Cards

San Diego Padres

St. Louis Cardinals

World Series Prediction

Washington Nationals over Boston Red Sox in six games

AL Manager of the Year?

AL Manager of the Year?

AL Manager of the Year

Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians

The Detroit Tigers lost RHP Max Scherzer to free agency and RHP Rick Porcello in a trade. Sure, they still have LHP David Price and they added OF Yoenis Cespedes to their offense, but this will be a new AL Central, one that will be very competitive, and will have a division winner who isn’t Detroit for the first time since 2010. The Indians have a very intriguing team, full of youth and talent, with much of that talent still not totally tapped. The rotation has reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, with RHPs Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco behind him, while healthy seasons out of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher will add to the production of Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis (who should rebound from a lousy 2015), and Michael Brantley. All Francona needs to do is utilize the talent, which is something that he is an expert at doing. Cleveland will win more than 90 games and have their first division title since 2007.

NL Manager of the Year? Courtesy: USA Today

NL Manager of the Year?
Courtesy: USA Today

NL Manager of the Year

Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins

The NL East is going to be down…way down. The Nationals will likely win the division by ten or more games, but the Marlins will be competitive, and Redmond will look very intelligent by being in the position as the field general. He has Giancarlo Stanton and his massive power to lead an offense that has quite a bit of talent. Christian Yelich will solidify himself as one of the top outfielders in the NL this season, and Marcell Ozuna will round out the outfield with his impressive power in center; however, it doesn’t stop there. With Mike Morse providing more power at first, Martin Prado being acquired to handle the hot corner, Adeiny Hechavarria‘s slick glove at short, and Dee Gordon‘s blazing speed at second, the Marlins will shock a lot of people. The possible mid-season addition of Jose Fernandez to the rotation could push them over the top, as Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos, Dan Haren, and Jarred Cosart hold down the fort until then. The Marlins are a solid team, and after the Mets lost Zack Wheeler, the Braves went into rebuild-mode, and the Phillies continue to be awful, they’ll be the only team capable of hanging around Washington in the NL East in 2015.

Trout has reason to smile with another MVP season

Trout has reason to smile with another MVP season

AL MVP

Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

This young man doesn’t turn 24 until August and he already has been an All-Star three times, been an All-Star MVP, and an AL MVP – he has 2.67 career MVP shares thanks to finishing 2nd in each of his first two full seasons. People may become nitpicking about things with Trout, such as his 184 strikeouts in 2014, just to try to disprove the fact that he is the best player in baseball. That won’t change in 2015. Even the computers think that Trout is going to continue his tear:

Depth Charts: .299/.396/.557, 103 R, 31 HR, 20 SB, 96 RBI

ZiPS: .301/.401/.577, 113 R, 35 HR, 23 SB, 114 RBI

Steamer: .297/.391/.537, 105 R, 30 HR, 21 SB, 90 RBI

If you had the No.1 overall pick in your fantasy draft, the only other acceptable player to take would have been…

McCutchen may get more respect after another MVP in 2015 Courtesy: ESPN.com

McCutchen may get more respect after another MVP in 2015
Courtesy: ESPN.com

NL MVP

Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

McCutchen continues to be an incredible producer, hitting the elite .300/.400/.500 level the last three seasons, while having a unique blend of power and speed. He is the leader of the Pirates outfield, which could become one of the greatest outfields in the history of baseball with Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco reaching their peak years of production in coming seasons, but McCutchen will continue to be the anchor of that group, and of the Pittsburgh franchise. The 2015 season won’t be any different for this superstar, who will win his 2nd MVP award in his age-28 season, leading the Pirates to the top of the NL Central.

Could he REALLY be getting better with age?

Could he REALLY be getting better with age?

AL Cy Young

Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners

“King Felix” had his best season to date in 2014, but it wasn’t enough to earn his second Cy Young award, as Corey Kluber’s majestic season was able to catch the eyes of the voters, and with good reason. Still, it’s unbelievable to see Hernandez reaching new levels of excellence considering he has been such a dominant starter for nine full seasons. Even in his age-29 season, it’s likely to see continued gains in the production, as Hernandez demonstrates a mastery on the mound that rivals that of…

So...so good.

So…so good.

NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

The last several seasons, I didn’t want to believe. I questioned Kershaw in the past due to his higher walk rates, so I kept thinking that the NL West would belong to Giants’ left-hander Madison Bumgarner. While Bumgarner had an incredible run last season, he can’t carry Kershaw’s jockstrap, and it’s likely that we’re watching the closest thing to Sandy Koufax that our generation will ever see. It is just coincidental that Kershaw has the Dodgers uniform and left-handed delivery in common, and, hopefully, those are the only similarities that we will see between the two. Kershaw is gifted, and he is a gift to baseball fans. He will continue his dominance in 2015, likely winning 20 games again due to his incredible individual talent, as well as the talent behind him on the field.

Heaney will strengthen the Angels' rotation in 2015 Courtesy: Getty Images

Heaney will strengthen the Angels’ rotation in 2015
Courtesy: Getty Images

AL Rookie of the Year

Andrew Heaney, LHP, Los Angeles Angels

Getting Andrew Heaney for Howie Kendrick may go down as a coup for the Angels. Not only did they free the payroll of $9.5 million, they got a major league ready arm with a half-a-dozen years of team-control to put into their rotation. While Heaney doesn’t have No.1 starter stuff, he is quite capable of having a long, successful career. He’ll begin that run of success in 2015 on Day One, and while Josh Rutledge and Johnny Giovatella aren’t as good at baseball as Kendrick, it was a deal that the Angels had to make, as they don’t have the talent in the minor league system to improve their rotation, and they needed that youth with C.J.Wilson aging quickly and Jered Weaver not getting any younger.

Soler is just as good and better than Bryant in 2015, and will win NL ROY

Soler is just as good and better than Bryant in 2015, and will win NL ROY

NL Rookie of the Year

Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs

Many will be swinging on the coattails of Kris Bryant, I’m all aboard the Soler bandwagon in 2015. He has incredible power and he managed to bulk up his already impressive physique over the winter. In his age-22 season, he reached the majors and combined to hit 20 home runs and drive in 77 runs in 86 games and 333 plate appearances over four levels. If Soler stays healthy, he will have better numbers than Bryant, and he won’t be spending the first month in the minors. The end results will be impressive, even for a 23-year-old who will need to adjust to the league having tape on him.

10 BOLD Predictions

  1. Trade bait?  Courtesy: twinsdaily.com

    Trade bait?
    Courtesy: twinsdaily.com

    Johnny Cueto will be on the Boston Red Sox by the trade deadline, as the prospects would be more valuable to the Reds than a draft pick.

  2. Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar will combine for over 340 strikeouts, 27 wins, and 59 starts covering 390 innings for the Cleveland Indians, but Corey Kluber is still their best pitcher.
  3. Masahiro Tanaka will not make 15 starts before he finishes the tear of his UCL and has Tommy John surgery.
  4. Gerrit Cole will finish in the top three in the NL Cy Young – behind Kershaw and Bumgarner.
  5. Xander Bogaerts will hit 20 home runs and drive in at least 75 runs at the bottom of the Red Sox order.
  6. Drew Hutchison is the top pitcher on the Blue Jays, and a top 30 starting pitcher, while Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez flop in their roles at the back of the rotation.
  7. Addison Russell finishes the season as the Chicago Cubs starting shortstop when Starlin Castro is traded for young pitching at the trade deadline.
  8. Jose Ramirez is so valuable to the Cleveland Indians that they don’t call-up Francisco Lindor until September.
  9. Joc Pederson hits 25 home runs and steals 30 bases while striking out over 160 times and posting a batting average under .250 – George Springer-lite.
  10. Justin Verlander rebounds and posts an ERA under 3.85, a WHIP under 1.30, and more than 190 strikeouts in 215 or more innings.

10 BOLD SLEEPERS

  1. Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox: crazy speed and he looks like he’s the Opening Day starter
  2. This is the year Gausman becomes an ace...right?

    This is the year Gausman becomes an ace…right?

    Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles: the chains should be off and he is on his way to stardom

  3. Jake Lamb, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks: if Yasmany Tomas has hands of stone and can’t handle third, Lamb will, and he has managed to hit .321/.406/.553 in 1,079 minor league at-bats.
  4. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies: Arenado makes contact, plays in a hitter’s paradise, and will see many of his doubles turn into home runs as he matures. He’s well on his way to becoming elite.
  5. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Boston Red Sox: Clay Buchholz is bound to be hurt, Joe Kelly is questionable (at best), and Justin Masterson may never rebound to his 2013 form – enter this guy.
  6. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP, New York Yankees: Huge fastball, tremendous gains in his walk-rate, and he will begin to miss more bats. He’ll end up being the Yankees’ top starter due to Tanaka’s injury.
  7. Collin McHugh, RHP, Houston Astros: Even after finishing 4th in voting for the AL Rookie of the Year in 2014, McHugh may sneak under the radar. His 9.1 K:9 and 6.8 H:9 are for real. He could, sneakily, become the next Corey Kluber.
  8. Raisel Iglesias, RHP, Cincinnati Reds: He struggled with command in Cuba, but he has electric stuff, a strong repertoire, and a spot in the Cincinnati rotation. As bad as they look on paper, he has plenty of opportunities for run support with a healthy Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Todd Frazier.
  9. Hahn is on the rise in Oakland Courtesy: Mercurynews.com

    Hahn is on the rise in Oakland
    Courtesy: Mercurynews.com

    Jesse Hahn, RHP, Oakland Athletics: Hahn posted solid numbers in 12 starts for the Padres in his age-24, rookie season in 2014, but he’s going to a similar offensive-drowning park in Oakland, with a very talented roster behind him. He could be a top 30 starting pitcher by the end of the season with his strikeout potential.

  10. Alex Gonzalez, RHP, Texas Rangers: Better known as “Chi Chi”, Gonzalez, a former 1st round pick out of Oral Roberts in 2013, has been a quick-moving prospect for the Rangers, reaching Double-A Frisco last season, with good reason. He has a mid-rotation ceiling, but with the Rangers desperate for healthy pitching with their sudden curse on their roster and talent, Gonzalez could get a long look, showing enough talent to be roster-worthy in fantasy leagues.

2015 Season Previews: New York Yankees

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

New York Yankees

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 80-82 (4th in AL East, 19th in MLB)

Manager: Joe Girardi (648-486 in seven seasons with New York, 726-570 in eight seasons overall)

Top Three Players: 3B Chase Headley (3.8), OF Jacoby Ellsbury (3.7), RHP Masahiro Tanaka (3.5)

Bounce-back Player: 3B/DH Alex Rodriguez

ARod is a miserable human being. He is a cheat, a liar, a disgrace to the game, and a $64 million financial burden over the next three seasons for a team that doesn’t appear to want anything to do with him. That appears to be fine for Rodriguez, who took to ESPN for a profile that painted him as a man who struggles with reality; however, the reality for baseball fans is that he is back on the field, healthy and rejuvenated, and ready to play and make an impact. His success depends on how much time the Yankees are willing to give him on the field. Since the club has Chase Headley, Garret Jones, and Mark Teixeira ahead of him on the depth charts at first, third, and DH, it remains to be seen how he will be used. Rodriguez, though, still has something left in the tank, working out with Barry Bonds (laugh and talk about PEDs all you want) to change his swing and strengthen his production as he ages. Rodriguez could be washed up or he could be a surprising producer. It may be unreasonable to ever expect good things from Rodriguez, on the field and off, but I see a man who, with 500 plate appearances, is capable of 20 to 25 home runs, making him quite useful -still- in an offense-starved league.

Courtesy: NY Daily News

Nathan Eovaldi’s fastball will finally miss some bats in 2015 Courtesy: NY Daily News

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Eovaldi’s impressive fastball (4th fastest in MLB in 2014) has put him on the radar for a number of years, but he hasn’t taken a step toward dominance that many with similar electricity have. For example, even with the strong, dominant fastball, Eovaldi allowed 10.1 hits per nine, while striking out just 6.4 per nine. The positive in the low strikeout rate, however, is that Eovaldi walked just 1.9 per nine (3.3 K:BB), which may allow him to be a force if he was to miss a few more bats with his very straight fastball. While people may look to the fact that he is now pitching in the AL East and must deal with the incredible offenses there, you can look at a 25-year-old right-hander who is about to hit his peak. If Eovaldi is able to take a step forward, he’s going to take off and become quite dominant. If you can get him now, before that happens, you can thank me later.

Offseason Overview: The Yankees found their replacement for Derek Jeter when they acquired Didi Gregorius from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-way deal that included Shane Greene going to Detroit. Gregorius is now in his third organization, which shows that people still think he is valuable, but he had negative defensive value in 2014 and his .653 OPS doesn’t help his outlook if his defense is falling off. At just 25, he still has enough potential to outproduce Jeter. Eovaldi, as mentioned above, should be a nice addition to the staff, and with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda at the top of the rotation, they need Eovaldi to produce and be healthy, something they can’t quite count on out of the other two. Dellin Betances should step right into the closer’s role and be an Aroldis Chapman-Craig Kimbrel type of dominator, which is necessary after David Robertson left for Chicago. Re-signing Headley at third base was necessary due to the unknown of Alex Rodriguez, and Stephen Drew was brought back after a horrific 46 game audition last season, but both are more capable with their gloves than they are with their bats. The Yankees could have one of the best defensive clubs in baseball in 2015 for that reason.

The Verdict: The Yankees aren’t going to be worse in 2014. A full season of Headley should outproduce what Yangervis Solarte was able to do in 2014, and there is more to Brian McCann (.692 OPS), Teixeira (.711 OPS), and Jacoby Ellsbury (.747 OPS) than what they showed last season. The biggest question mark is their pitching. Michael Pineda threw 76.1 innings in 2014, his first in the majors since 2011, after having dealt with major shoulder issues, Masahiro Tanaka is pitching through a partially torn UCL, and CC Sabathia missed all but eight starts due to a right knee injury. Are they going to get enough out of these three to remain competitive? They have Scott Baker, Chris Capuano, and Ivan Nova as pitching depth, but if those three make significant contributions, the Yankees are going to be in really bad shape. It is fair to highly doubt that Tanaka makes it through the 2015 season, and, for that reason, the club will, at some point, be without a number one starter. It also seems fair to think that a winning season is highly unlikely without things breaking completely right. Those things include:

1) 180 or more innings from Tanaka, Pineda, and Sabathia

2) More productive seasons from Headley, Drew, Ellsbury, Teixeira, and McCann

3) A miracle

The Yankees PECOTA seems right in 2015, but without the above things happening, it is doubtful that they reach 80 wins.

2015 Fantasy Baseball Rankings

2015 Fantasy Baseball – Top 200

  1. Angels OF and No.1 overall player, Mike Trout

    Angels OF and No.1 overall player, Mike Trout

    Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

  2. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
  3. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins
  4. Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
  6. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
  7. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers
  8. Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
  9. Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
  10. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
  11. Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals
  12. Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners
  13. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
  14. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
  15. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals
  16. Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners
  17. Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
  18. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
  19. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers
  20. Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles
  21. Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
  22. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves
  23. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants
  24. Hanley Ramirez, SS/OF, Boston Red Sox
  25. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros
  26. Ian Desmond, SS, Washington Nationals
  27. Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians
  28. Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox
  29. Justin Upton, OF, San Diego Padres
  30. Max Scherzer, RHP, Washington Nationals
  31. Hunter Pence, OF, San Francisco Giants
  32. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, New York Yankees
  33. Corey Dickerson, OF, Colorado Rockies
  34. David Price, LHP, Detroit Tigers
  35. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
  36. Will Posey tire down the stretch due to playing 1B on off days behind the plate?

    Will Posey tire down the stretch due to playing 1B on off days behind the plate?

    Buster Posey, C/1B, San Francisco Giants

  37. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Washington Nationals
  38. Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
  39. Corey Kluber, RHP, Cleveland Indians
  40. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies
  41. Johnny Cueto, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
  42. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
  43. Adam Wainwright, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
  44. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Detroit Tigers
  45. Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
  46. Yu Darvish, RHP, Texas Rangers
  47. Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
  48. Zack Greinke, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
  49. Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Detroit Tigers
  50. George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
  51. Prince Fielder, 1B, Texas Rangers
  52. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, Washington Nationals
  53. Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins
  54. Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
  55. Jon Lester, LHP, Chicago Cubs
  56. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians
  57. Alex Cobb, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
  58. Jason Heyward, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
  59. Kyle Seager, 3B, Seattle Mariners
  60. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds
  61. Jose Reyes, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
  62. Cole Hamels, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
  63. David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox
  64. Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Atlanta Braves
  65. Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
  66. Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Chicago White Sox
  67. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
  68. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins
  69. Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves
  70. Greg Holland, RHP, Kansas City Royals
  71. Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds
  72. Marcell Ozuna, OF, Miami Marlins
  73. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers
  74. Chris Carter, 1B, Houston Astros
  75. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
  76. Nelson Cruz, DH, Seattle Mariners
  77. Matt Kemp, OF, San Diego Padres
  78. David Wright, 3B, New York Mets
  79. Carlos Carrasco, RHP, Cleveland Indians
  80. Sonny Gray, RHP, Oakland Athletics
  81. James Shields, RHP, San Diego Padres
  82. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
  83. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox
  84. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B/OF, Washington Nationals
  85. This is the year Santana *REALLY* breaks out - playing 1B full-time

    This is the year he *REALLY* breaks out – playing 1B full-time

    Carlos Santana, C/1B/3B, Cleveland Indians

  86. Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets
  87. Alex Wood, LHP, Atlanta Braves
  88. Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs
  89. Dee Gordon, 2B, Miami Marlins
  90. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals
  91. Gio Gonzalez, LHP, Washington Nationals
  92. Tyson Ross, RHP, San Diego Padres
  93. Daniel Murphy, 2B, New York Mets
  94. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, New York Yankees
  95. Cliff Lee, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
  96. Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Boston Red Sox
  97. Wil Myers, OF, San Diego Padres
  98. Mookie Betts, 2B/OF, Boston Red Sox
  99. Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds
  100. Matt Harvey, RHP, New York Mets
  101. Rusney Castillo, OF, Boston Red Sox
  102. Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
  103. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
  104. Steven Souza, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
  105. Mat Latos, RHP, Miami Marlins
  106. Mark Meloncon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
  107. Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
  108. Doug Fister, RHP, Washington Nationals
  109. Lucas Duda, 1B, New York Mets
  110. Alex Gordon, OF, Kansas City Royals
  111. Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox
  112. Jimmy Rollins, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
  113. Jacob deGrom, RHP, New York Mets
  114. Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
  115. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs
  116. Yasmany Tomas, 3B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
  117. Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP, Seattle Mariners
  118. Matt Carpenter, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
  119. Hyun-jin Ryu, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
  120. What is Machado capable of healthy?

    What is Machado capable of healthy?

    Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles

  121. Homer Bailey, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
  122. Kole Calhoun, OF, Los Angeles Angels
  123. David Robertson, RHP, Chicago White Sox
  124. Yan Gomes, C, Cleveland Indians
  125. Cody Allen, RHP, Cleveland Indians
  126. Koji Uehara, RHP, Boston Red Sox
  127. Jake Arrieta, RHP, Chicago Cubs
  128. Josh Harrison, 3B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
  129. Dellin Betances, RHP, New York Yankees
  130. Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals
  131. Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland Indians
  132. Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas Rangers
  133. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
  134. Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
  135. Huston Street, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
  136. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
  137. Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals
  138. Drew Storen, RHP, Washington Nationals
  139. Lance Lynn, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
  140. Leonys Martin, OF, Texas Rangers
  141. Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
  142. Glen Perkins, LHP, Minnesota Twins
  143. Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates
  144. Khris Davis, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
  145. Drew Hutchison, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
  146. Howie Kendrick, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
  147. Steve Cishek, RHP, Miami Marlins
  148. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers
  149. Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
  150. Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
  151. Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies
  152. Mark Trumbo, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
  153. Michael Wacha, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
  154. Brett Gardner, OF, New York Yankees
  155. Drew Smyly, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
  156. J.D. Martinez, OF, Detroit Tigers
  157. Zach Britton, LHP, Baltimore Orioles
  158. Garrett Richards, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
  159. Mike Napoli, 1B, Boston Red Sox
  160. Anibal Sanchez, RHP, Detroit Tigers
  161. Francisco Liriano, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
  162. Jered Weaver, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
  163. Bogaerts could be had cheap due to his post-hype drag. Buy him.

    Bogaerts could be had cheap due to his post-hype drag. Buy him.

    Xander Bogaerts, 3B/SS, Boston Red Sox

  164. Melky Cabrera, OF, Chicago White Sox
  165. Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals
  166. Alex Rios, OF, Kansas City Royals
  167. Erick Aybar, SS, Los Angeles Angels
  168. Phil Hughes, RHP, Minnesota Twins
  169. Chase Headley, 3B, New York Yankees
  170. Fernando Rodney, RHP, Seattle Mariners
  171. Andrew Cashner, RHP, San Diego Padres
  172. Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Texas Rangers
  173. Ben Zobrist, 2B/SS, Oakland Athletics
  174. Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Chicago Cubs
  175. Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers
  176. Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers
  177. Denard Span, OF, Washington Nationals
  178. Joaquin Benoit, RHP, San Diego Padres
  179. Scooter Gennett, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
  180. Jayson Werth, OF, Washington Nationals
  181. Ian Kennedy, RHP, San Diego Padres
  182. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins
  183. Kenley Jansen, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
  184. Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Baltimore Orioles
  185. Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles
  186. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
  187. Javier Baez, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs
  188. Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants
  189. Brett Lawrie, 2B/3B, Oakland Athletics
  190. Jose Quintana, LHP, Chicago White Sox
  191. Lorenzo Cain, OF, Kansas City Royals
  192. A full offseason and Kate Upton could lead to Verlander's return to grace.

    A full offseason and Kate Upton could lead to Verlander’s return to grace.

    Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers

  193. Michael Pineda, RHP, New York Yankees
  194. Evan Gattis, C/OF, Houston Astros
  195. Brian McCann, C, New York Yankees
  196. Wily Peralta, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
  197. Danny Santana, SS/OF, Minnesota Twins
  198. Scott Kazmir, LHP, Oakland Athletics
  199. Alcides Escobar, SS, Kansas City Royals
  200. Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Minnesota Twins

Just Shut Up: Another Reaction to Alex Rodriguez

Whether it’s the handwritten apology that is being broken apart by forensic units and handwriting specialists, or the lengthy feature released by ESPN: The Magazine, the reintroduction of Alex Rodriguez to the world hasn’t changed the world’s perspective on the aging slugger. After spending the 2014 season suspended from the only job that he had had since the age of 18, the year that he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners and had 59 over-matched plate appearances, we have come to find out that Rodriguez spent the year toiling in the various activities that someone with $500 million from playing a game can afford to do to “find oneself”.

Courtesy: New York Daily News

Courtesy: New York Daily News

Are we expected to hate Alex Rodriguez due to his lies and cheating? Are we expected to feel sorry for him because his father ran out on him and he never went to college? Are we expected to forgive his indiscretions and transgressions due to his willingness to come back to a game that is trying to push him as far away from it as possible? Are we expected to think that he is coming back for the “love of the game” or for the $61 million that he is guaranteed over the next three seasons?

It would be an understatement to say that Alex Rodriguez is a polarizing figure. Despite that fact that Barry Bonds utilized the same methods in the use of illegal materials and the same willingness to dodge the truth, it is Alex Rodriguez who has become the most hated man in baseball. Despite the fact that Bonds is the one who holds the record for career home runs, it is Rodriguez who isn’t supposed to break the record going forward. As the ESPN: The Magazine article discussed, it is Rodriguez who is the villain, despite Ryan Braun‘s presence in Major League Baseball, even with Braun’s willingness to drag everyone and their brother under the bus after being outed as a cheater, twice. The Hall of Fame cases for Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and Mike Piazza are tainted, whether wrongfully or not, by the cloud of steroids that has followed them and an entire era of players; however, it is Jason Giambi, an admitted user, who gets to retire with honor this week and slide right into an organizational position with the Cleveland Indians, who is praised for his career, which he has admitted to altering.

Does Rodriguez deserve better?

Does Rodriguez deserve better?

So, what is it that causes this polarization on these players? If being super-competitive led declining players to seek elongation of a career, yet we mock Willie Mays for his time as a New York Met, what is it that our society really wants out of our professional sports icons?

Our culture has changed significantly during my 34 years as a member of this planet, but one thing that has been going on for quite some time is the fact that people are willing to take some wild steps to get to where they want to be in life. Today, we like to think that baseball is in need of a change due to the length of the games and the “entertain me now” philosophy that goes along with the Social Media age. Why not add a clock to ensure that a pitcher throws the ball while two-thirds of the stadium is busy tagging their friend in a picture and posting #nofilter on the beautiful sunset peeking through the right field corner of the stadium? It seems ridiculous to change the ideas of what is acceptable and appropriate in our lives and our entertainment, demanding more right now than we ever did in the past. More news, more excitement, more reasons why you should enjoy what you have in front of you than actually taking the time to enjoy it. The sensationalism of “things” and “experiences” has led to something as minute as an individual’s actions being more important than the game.

That ideology is why Alex Rodriguez and others have become the poster children for the fall of the game. Rodriguez wasn’t alone, but we always want to blame someone. Before ARod it was Bonds, before Bonds it was Canseco, and before Canseco it was Pete Rose. We don’t need to change baseball and we don’t need to change Alex Rodriguez. We need to remember that he was playing a game, that he made a mistake (albeit for several years) to try to maintain his lifestyle. In the same way that others make mistakes and create debt by using credit cards for things that they can’t afford, they are forced to dig themselves out.

In the same way, Alex Rodriguez needs to dig himself out. He doesn’t need to accept blame, he didn’t need to apologize, he just needed to change and be happy while playing the game cleanly. No one needs answers in this catastrophe of a public relations nightmare. There are far worse things going on behind the scenes of athletes’ lives than a man using his body as a pin cushion for steroids – just look at the NFL arrests since the Super Bowl. For all of the ridiculous spins that stories featuring Alex Rodriguez have taken over the last several days, here is one that you won’t see all over the internet: Alex Rodriguez was great, he was troubled, and he will overcome those troubles to be respected by the end of his career.

People have been cheating in all aspects of business. Sure, kids look up to him, but, as Charles Barkley once said:

Alex Rodriguez doesn’t need to answer questions for anyone except his two daughters, his family, and his closest friends. He isn’t threatening to end the world, attacking innocent lives, or testing ballistic missiles. He’s just a baseball player who screwed up. He deserves another chance to come out and do it right, and until he does it wrong again, we should all just sit back and watch, keeping our mouths shut the way that Alex Rodriguez should have the whole time.

Zito to Oakland: A Return to Moneyball?

Can Zito rediscover his stuff in Oakland?

Can Zito rediscover his stuff in Oakland?

Barry Zito signed a minor league deal to fight for a rotation spot with the Oakland Athletics on Monday, guaranteeing the soon-to-be 37-year-old left-hander a $1 million salary if he makes the A’s roster, and another $175,000 through performance incentives. It’s a far cry from the $20 million that Zito received from the San Francisco Giants in 2013, but he’s making more than he was when he took a year off in 2014.

Zito returns to Oakland a shell of his former self. When Zito was at his peak, the same year that Michael Lewis was following the club and penning Moneyball, he was just 24, making his first All-Star appearance, and winning his first (and only) Cy Young award – 2002. With Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder going a combined 57-21 with a 3.05 ERA over 99 starts and 675 innings, the A’s were on their way to being contenders, especially if you’re the “pitching wins championships” supporter. However, 103 wins later, the A’s weren’t able to get out of the ALDS, and Zito would have to wait to win a title with the team across the bay in 2010 and 2012.

Zito would never again come close to his 2002 production winning 16 games in 2006 for the Giants, while making two additional All-Star teams (2003 and 2006) and watching his ERA balloon with his wallet in a very disastrous time in San Francisco. Zito, who was paid a whopping $119 million over seven seasons by the Giants was unable to maintain a consistent spot in the rotation by the end of his time with the club, while posting a 4.62 ERA and 1.44 WHIP over 208 appearances and compiling a 63-80 record.

Zito2Though Zito took a year off, it is fair to wonder what the A’s and Billy Beane saw in him, even if the result was a non-guaranteed, minor league contract. At 37, Zito will be seven years the senior to the late Cory Lidle, who was the oldest member of the 2002 Moneyball rotation-mates; however, should he even be considered as an option? The A’s have a large group of talented, young starters to choose from, including: Jesse Hahn, Drew Pomeranz, Kendall Graveman, Chris Bassitt, and Sean Nolin, and that is before considering A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker, both of whom are returning from Tommy John surgeries, and Jesse Chavez, who was dynamite in the rotation prior to the deal that landed Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in Oakland last season. With Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir anchoring the staff, the A’s have a gluttony of arms that they can run out there for quarters on the dollar of Zito’s deal, while certainly knowing that each of those arms has the ability to get opposing batters out – something that Zito wasn’t doing consistently the last time that we saw him in Major League Baseball, as he was banished to the bullpen for a majority of the final two months of 2013 (nine appearances, four starts).

Zito could be an interesting piece out of the bullpen, an arm with enough life left on it to be a useful swing man when the rotation is in need, or the long man out of the ‘pen. He could rebuild some value by pitching in the spacious home park that Oakland possesses, but if Zito is in the rotation, Billy Beane has failed.

The A’s are simply not the same type of organization that they were during the Moneyball era. Beane has built a roster full of versatile athletes who can play multiple positions, while featuring a unique blend of power-arms and changeup artists that keep the opposition off balance from day-to-day. The A’s aren’t fishing for players who can just get on base, as they have solid contact hitters (Billy Butler), speedsters with defensive chops (Coco Crisp), and injury-plagued potential stars (Brett Lawrie) who will blend together to assault the opposition, rather than waiting back for the perfect pitch to strike on.

Sure, it hasn’t always made sense in Oakland. It seems quite odd that the club would deal Samardzija to the Chicago White Sox for a lesser middle infield talent (Marcus Semien) than what they had given up months before (top five prospect Addison Russell), but what used to be a system of “finding” talent to fit within the organizational structure has now become “developing” talent to fit within an ever-changing organizational need.

As Barry Zito rejoins the Oakland Athletics, they are a completely different team from when he left. The A’s are built to contend, they have depth at the major league level, and they have Beane orchestrating moves that has even left right fielder Josh Reddick in awe. Zito is in a good place to attempt a comeback because he at least has a contract, but if he sees the field, the A’s are doing something wrong or in deep, deep trouble. Barring a miracle, Moneyball is over, and so is Zito’s career…unless Beane knows something that we don’t, once again.

Charles Barkley and Baseball Analytics

Smart guys just use numbers to get into the game. So says Charles Barkley, ripping apart analytics (video below), and the people who got into the game by crunching numbers.


The same type of fight has been going on in baseball over the last several years, as well, with Chicago White Sox homer Hawk Harrelson using the same types of critiques of those number crunching “nerds” (one may say he had the “will to win” the argument) as Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal seemed to be grasping for.

The book that changed it all - Moneyball by Michael Lewis

The book that changed it all – Moneyball by Michael Lewis

For the many who continue to fight the good fight for the players instead of their numbers, it seems like a waste of time. Sabermetrics have taken on such an important role that every team in Major League Baseball has an Analytics Department, even the Philadelphia Phillies! With the help of those “nerds”, perhaps the Phightin’ Phils can manage to build a winner without Ruben Amaro, Jr. giving a five-year, nine-figure deal to a thirty-something player, but it’s more likely that he can’t help himself. While Bill James, Billy Beane, and Michael Lewis’s book, Moneyball, seemed to set the stage for the statistical movement, it was only the beginning, as sites like FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, Brooks Baseball, and even Major League Baseball’s own Advanced Media analytics videos, continue to find creative ways to explain defensive shifts, the value of front office staff, and catcher framing, advancing those numbers to incomprehensible levels…at least for some.

While the argument that players win championships is valid in some sports, it isn’t quite the same in baseball. The Cleveland Cavaliers were an amazing team with young LeBron James teamed with a cast of misfits like Anderson Varejao, Larry Hughes, and Shannon Brown, but they are certainly a better team with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love around him this season with receding-hairline LeBron James. One player can make a drastic improvement in basketball, just as adding an Andrew Luck to an Indianapolis Colts team was a difference-making move after watching Curt Painter and Dan Orlovsky play due to Peyton Manning’s neck surgery in 2011 in the NFL. However, in Major League Baseball, signing the top players doesn’t guarantee success, and drafting the top players certainly doesn’t lead to immediate help when considering the amount of minor league seasoning that even the most elite prospects must endure.

The defensive shift

The defensive shift

The shifts, the pitching changes, and the platoon splits are the difference between a Carlos Santana single to right center and the shortstop fielding the ball just to the right of second base. They are the difference between Shin-Soo Choo giving up on a ball that Billy Hamilton catches with cheetah-like ease. They are the difference between Cody Ross mashing a left-handed starter in his third at-bat, or having his bat chewed up by a two-seam fastball from Luke Gregerson in the seventh inning. While those moves seem so minute at the moment, they are the runner on base, they are the next-guy-up to rattle the confidence and location of the relief pitcher, and they are the atrocious BABIP that Carlos Santana still sports due to the brilliance of a “nerd” who analyzed how frequently the slugging catcher/first baseman/designated hitter (not third baseman) pulls the ball, that can be the difference in a game, a wild card birth, a division champion, and a title…due to a win.

While some numbers are confusing, they are not worthless. The scariest part of the statistic argument may not be the people who doubt it and mock it, but the people who want to eliminate it. When new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred mentioned eliminating shifts during one of his first interviews, it made all of the work, money, and time that franchises put into developing their “edge” at risk. With the game looking for ways to speed up the game and gain younger viewers, eliminating defensive advantages and outs to increase offense doesn’t appear to be a way to get people out of ballparks quicker, but maybe that is thinking too analytically…


The “old school” way of thinking will never go away, and there will always be doubters of those who “haven’t played the game” taking on a larger role within sports. However, those who get paid for their skills should probably stick to them, and Charles Barkley’s skill was surely never his brain. While his honesty is refreshing, his ability to comprehend the value of numbers absolutely stinks.

So Long “Mr. Cub”

Courtesy: MLB

Courtesy: MLB

Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks passed away on Friday at the age of 83, leaving behind a legacy full of enthusiasm and greatness on and off the diamond. Tom Ricketts, the Cubs chairman released a statement, saying:

“Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time. He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known. Approachable, ever optimistic and kind hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub. My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie’s life in the days ahead.”

President Obama even chimed in on the passing, saying:

“Michelle and I send our condolences to the family of Ernie Banks, and to every Chicagoan and baseball fan who loved him. Ernie came up through the Negro Leagues, making $7 a day. He became the first African-American to play for the Chicago Cubs, and the first number the team retired. Along the way, he became known as much for his 512 home runs and back-to-back National League MVPs as for his cheer, his optimism, and his love of the game. As a Hall-of-Famer, Ernie was an incredible ambassador for baseball, and for the city of Chicago. He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV. And in 2013, it was my honor to present Ernie with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team’s behind him, and Mr. Class – “Mr. Cub” – is ready to play two.”

Banks loved to say “let’s play two today”, while becoming a great ambassador to the city of Chicago and game of baseball. He played his entire career with the Cubs, while becoming the record holder for most games played without a postseason appearance. He once said “I’d like to get to the last game of the World Series at Wrigley Field and hit three homers. That was what I always wanted to do.”

Banks

He may get there in spirit, as his No.14 will fly above the left foul pole at Wrigley Field while the new generation of potentially great Cubs’ players are molded into contenders over the next several seasons.

Banks was the first African-American player to play for the Cubs when he arrived late in 1953. He finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting in 1954 to St. Louis’ Wally Moon (though he did beat out Hank Aaron, who finished 4th that year). The next season, he made the first of his 14 All-Star appearances while hitting a then-record 44 home runs while playing shortstop. Banks would end his career with 512 home runs and two MVP awards (1958 and 1959), while playing over 1,100 games at both shortstop and first base.

Banks was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, his first year of eligibility, receiving 83.8 percent of the vote (the BBWAA was dumb then, too).

He was great on the field but people will remember him for more than his playing ability. The man who he was, the positivity, and the kindness is what people will mourn while they celebrate his life. I never met Ernie Banks, but you can get a lot out of who a person was by the words that people speak about them.

So long, Mr. Cub. The game will miss your enthusiasm. When people say “I wish more players were like (insert name)”, it was typically your name. That is a great way to be remembered as a ballplayer and a person.

Nationals: Pitching to the Max

 

The Washington Nationals have signed right-hander Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million contract, shocking the world of baseball by locking-up the market’s top free agent arm, while creating a new philosophy in negotiating tactics that could influence free agent signings in the future. By extending the $210 million over 14 years by deferring $15 million per year, they also free up a bit of payroll for additional signings in years to come.

Perhaps that deferred money will allow them to lock-up Bryce Harper, who will be a free agent after the 2018 season; however, in the moment, this deal does much more for the Nationals than make them creative, financial gurus.

Max Scherzer will now lead the Washington rotation, a rotation that already featured Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister, and Tanner Roark. Obviously, depth in a starting rotation is always nice to have, especially with two pitchers on club’s roster already having Tommy John surgery on their resume (Strasburg and Zimmerman), and Gonzalez having dealt with some shoulder issues last season. What is truly incredible about the Scherzer signing is that Roark appears to be the man who would be bumped from the rotation, even after the 15 wins and 2.85 ERA over 31 starts in his age-27, 2014 season.

The Nationals have the flexibility to deal an arm, with Jordan Zimmermann already rumored to be the one who could be moved.

The Red Sox certainly have the prospects to make a deal for Zimmermann or any other player in baseball, so this isn’t all that surprising. Mookie Betts would make an excellent long-term second baseman – if the Nationals are content with moving Anthony Rendon to third base long-term, and the club doesn’t, or any club this side of the Dodgers, doesn’t appear capable of locking up a Scherzer/Zimmermann/Strasburg trio to the nearly $90 million annually that it would require. Zimmermann, who is due $16.5 million prior to reaching free agency after the 2015 season, arguably, is worth the same type of deal that Scherzer received and possibly more.

"Nationals

After all, when comparing these two players, there are a lot of similarities and a lot of envy from other clubs:

Player A: 45-22, 2.96 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 608.2 IP, 496:112 K:BB

Player B: 55-15, 3.24 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 622.1 IP, 723:179 K:BB

Zimmermann is Player A and Scherzer is Player B. Those strikeouts are certainly a big difference, but Zimmermann is just as dominant in overall numbers – outside of the swing-and-miss stuff.

Still, the Nationals sit here today with the most feared starting rotation in baseball. Just a week ago, ESPN’s Buster Olney had Washington atop his top 10 starting rotations in baseball, and that was BEFORE the club added Scherzer.

Bryce  HarperAs long as Washington is able to produce some runs in 2015, they appear to be capable of winning 100 games. The rotation, as is, features five pitchers capable of 15 or more wins and ERAs under 3.20, so if Jayson Werth, Harper, Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, and company can do their part, this is a very, very dangerous team.

The rich continue to get richer, which appears to be a theme in Major League Baseball, and while the Tigers lose Scherzer from the rotation that they had in 2014, they still have one season with David Price at the top before they need to panic. The Nationals don’t look like they’ll be in that position for several years.

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