Thursday, March 29, 2012
With the 2012 season set to officially underway (despite it making less than zero sense to force SEA and OAK to play regular season games a in the midst of Spring Training), about the time the most productive Americans are pouring their first cup of coffee, it is time for our contribution to the annual nobody-knows-what-the-hell-they're-doing-but-let-us-just-pretend-we-do-anyways preseason prediction extravaganza! We've scoured the stats, examined our guts, and unearthed our local oracles to come up with our picks for each division, wild card, and playoff advancement. All leading to the inevitable 2012 Champion. Also, for good measure, we've taken the liberty of selecting each league's Cy Young and MVP. Most likely we will be wrong, but it's oh-so-much-fun to be wrong. Here we go!
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012
|"And this one belongs to the Reds."|
The scene pictured above is one of the happiest moments of my Reds fandom, and also marks the first time since I played little league that I cried after a baseball game. After toiling through the lost decade that was the aughts (thanks to Jim Bowden's utter ineptitude as a GM), the 2010 Reds surprised almost everyone* and clinched the NL Central on a walk-off home run by Jay Bruce. This moment has been the high-water mark of the young right fielder's career thus far, but in my (slightly) biased opinion, the best is yet to come.
* Both Curley Bender and I picked the Reds to take the NL Central crown in 2010.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
|You can't help but root for the husky athlete.|
Pablo Sandoval may not be in the best shape of his life, or then again he might be. But I don't think it will matter much. It feels like Sandoval has been around the big leagues for a while, and more importantly, it feels like he's been a disappointment for almost as long. After bursting to prominence in 2009, Sandoval played a minor role on the Championship team of 2010, due to his copious girth combining with the general difficulties of adjusting to the adjustments of the major leagues, causing a significant regression in his production. Perhaps it's the result of living in the East and digesting the biased media attention that scorns the West Coast, but Sandoval's reammergence as a star in 2011 flew under the radar. The big man can hit. And at 25 years of age, his best years may still lie ahead. 2012 could be a huge one for the Panda.
2011 Stats: 117 games
.315/.357/.552 23 HR 153 OPS+ 5.5 fWAR
Sandoval's accomplishments last season were certainly undermined by the general atrocity that was the Giants' offense. It might not be much better this season, but the addition of Melky Cabrera, who some people peg for a solid season at the plate, should help matters. The rest of the division failed to improve much in terms of player personnel, so the Giants still-stellar pitching should given them a great chance to reclaim the West.
The big question is whether or not Sandoval can stay on the field. The Giants will need more than 117 games out of the big man to control the division. If Sandoval can stay healthy, he will hit. And he will likely hit the ball very hard. If he manages to play 140+ games, a 35 homer season is not a stretch. With their pitching, that may be all the offense the Giants need to win the title. And if the Giants find themselves playing in October, don't be surprised to hear the Kung Fu Panda talked about as an MVP candidate. We do all love colorful nicknames.
.293/.377/.581 and 35 HR
Thursday, March 15, 2012
|Life's gettin' interesting in KC.|
A smarter person (or perhaps a clairvoyant), would have picked Alex Gordon to break-out prior to last season, but most saw him as yet another highly touted prospect lost in the fold. Gordon had a phenomenal 2011, yet many remain hesitant pegging him to continue his superior play. I don't believe 2011 to be his outlier season.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
|The Melkman Cometh|
This is probably stupid on my part, or at the very least a bit irrational, but bear with me for a moment. Former baseball blog whipping boy, Melky Cabrera is coming off of a career year in which he put up personal bests in every single offensive category. Usually outlier years can be chalked up to little more than good fortune, and should be taken with a grain of salt, but there is something to be said for the numbers Cabrera put up last year.
In 2011, Melky entered his age 26 season, which according to player aging curves is when many players hit their peak. There have been countless stories of ballplayers struggling through the early part of their careers before ultimately figuring things out and becoming productive players. In addition to hitting his physical peak, Melky seems to have matured as many people leaving their early 20's do. He arrived to Royals camp in 2011 in the best shape of his life™, dropping the baby fat he carried with him the beginning of his career and seemed to be more focused on baseball.
4.2 fWAR, .305/.339/.470, .349 wOBA, 121 OPS+, .332 BABIP, 18 HR, 20 SB, 706 PA
It's not likely that Cabrera will top, or even match, the numbers he had last season. The giant spike in BABIP helped get his batting average over .300 for the first time in his career. This is likely to regress closer to his career .300 BABIP, which will drop his batting average in return, but, the slugging numbers Melky put up last year might be the most encouraging thing about his 2011 campaign. And if he can sustain his power surge, he might make Brian Sabean look like a smart man. The park factors of Kauffman stadium, and AT&T Park are both pitcher friendly, so his power numbers shouldn't regress due to a change in venue. In fact, AT&T Park is more home run friendly to left handed hitters than Kauffman, so there may be reason to be optimistic for higher home run totals for the Melk Man this season.
The Giants will be leaning heavily on Cabrera to provide some punch to an offense that was rather anemic last season. The NL West should be an extremely winnable division with the D'Backs providing the only real competition for the division crown. Replacing the lack of production that Andres Torres provided last season with Melky Cabrera may help the Giants pick up an extra win or two, and in a tight division race, those marginal wins are worth their weight in gold. Let's just hope we don't see too much of this out of Melky in 2012.
Off the Cuff Projection:
.280/.330/.450 and 25 HR
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Sunday, March 11, 2012
|A Bright Light in Wrigley|
A move to the hustle and bustle of Wrigley Field should have brought Matt Garza greater fame and notoriety. Unfortunately, while his former employers (TB) continued their stellar play, Garza's Cubs continued to move in the wrong direction. His pockmarked 10-10 record put him in most fans' rearviewmirror and didn't get him much attention from the national baseball media. But 2011 was the best season of Garza's career as well as being one of the best in the National League. The Cubs won't be much better this season, but they will at least have a more clearly defined identity. And at 29, Garza is still in the prime of his career. Oh, and he's pitching for a contract, which sometimes means something.
Garza is probably the best player on the 2012 Cubs. Starlin Castro may prove himself more valuable, but right now Garza's the guy. Sadly, he only gets to play in 30-35 games. And even sadder, there is a good chance he won't finish the season with the Cubs. As Epstein and Hoyer rebuild the franchise, Garza's trade value may be too high to pass up. A mid-season trade will affect his Cy Young chances, but don't be surprised if Garza finds himself among the league's best, whichever league that turns out to be.
Matt Garza 2011 stats 198 IP
5 fWAR 118 ERA+ 8.95 K/9 2.86 BB/9 0.64 HR/9 46.3 GB% .306 BABIP 2.95 FIP
Garza stands out in K/9, HR/9, and GB%. Garza has the stuff to dominate hitters and the command to keep the ball in the ballpark. Keeping the ball on the ground is good, but he'll run into some problems with the Cubs infield again, as they are not among the best. And he still walks too many batters. But his BABIP is similar to league-average and his FIP suggests even better things to come.
The Cubs will not be competitive in 2012, but that won't affect Garza too much (except perhaps in wins). One of the hallmarks of his career thus far has been his fierce competitiveness. Pitching in a contract year on the heels of his best season, Garza is poised to be even better. It will be interesting to see where he finishes.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
|Dan Haren -- Pitcher|
We all like to make picks, predictions, etc. It's fun and quite gratifying when you select a player to have a break-out year, and he actually comes through. Even more so when nobody else seems to finger that player for greatness. Of course, we are all almost always wrong. Except maybe Bill James or Tom Tango. They are right slightly more than the rest of us, so inevitably we use their predictions as a guide. Dizzy Valance and myself make annual picks for top Cy Young finishers and MVP finishers. Often we are wrong. Although credit goes to Dizzy for picking both King Felix and Halladay to win the award in 2010. I thought myself quite clever to pick Ubaldo Jimenez to pick up the hardware in 2010 when few people bought into his potential. He almost made me look like a genius. Or idiot savant. Likewise for my pick of Jered Weaver to win it in 2011. Almost. Our picks for the awards and divisions will be coming along with those of everybody else. For now, we'll just while away at observing those players who look to break-out in 2012, like Jimenez in 2010 or Weaver in 2011.