Sunday, April 24, 2005

April 24th - Boston Red Sox @ Tampa Bay Devil Rays - Notes

Top 1st
This is the first time I see Nomo pitch. While his delivery looks very elaborate, it’s nice to watch none the less. Half the motion is completely useless, I guess. Unfortunately, the first batter he faces reaches base, so the has to shorten his delivery.
Ramirez just hit a sac fly and lets his teammates congratulate him. Personally, I think he came to the plate thinking sac fly, his swing looked halfhearted to me. Though his OPS (1.016) says different, I think he isn’t really motivated right now. But then, I’ve seen him only a few times so far. 2-0 Boston, good start.

Top 2nd
Nomo again allows the first hitter to reach base, but only one run to score. Again, Manny Ramirez looks lazy at bat as he fouls out to right outfield.

Top 3rd
Only the second hitter reaches base and noone scores. Nomo is obviously settling in.

Bot 3rd
Arroyo looked good so far and each time he gave up a hit he followed with a double play ball. Still 3-0

Bot 4th
Arroyo gives up his first ER on two singles and a groundout. But I still think he looks good.

Top 5th
No baserunner his inning and against Ramirez, Ortiz and Millar, that is. What will come next? Will he strike out the side?

Bot 5th
Is Arroyo tiring? After a solo home run by Nick Green, Crawford take Manny to the wall. Good effort by Manny, looks like he wants to win a gold glove instead of a silver slugger award this year.

Top 6th
Nomo strikes out Varitek and I already see my prediction come true. But then Renteria singles and comes home on a double by Vasquez. Then Nomo strikes out Bellhorn and Damon grounds out.

Bot 6th
Arroyo hits Huff (whom he just can’t get out) with two out and a single puts runners on the corners, but Arroyo gets out of the jam with a grounder to third.

Top 7th
Lance Carter is the new pitcher for Tampa Bay. He throws the first pitch behind Trot Nixon and both teams get a warning. Consequently Manny hits a solo homerun on the first pitch he sees. You could see he hit that one with much more authority than the sac fly in the first inning. Then, a pitch to Ortiz’ head barely misses and sends Big Pappy to the ground (luckily). Ortiz turns to Carter and the benches clear. Nixon and Brazelton try to box it out, but are restrained. Finally, Carter, Nixon, Brazelton and manager Pinella are ejected and the game continues. With two outs.

Bot 7th
Wow, what a game. The second pitch by Arroyo hits Singleton (with two men warming up in the bullpen) and the benches clear again but no punches are throws this time. Arroyo and Francona are the next to be ejected. Maybe not too smart a move, since Mantei comes in and walks Hall. But then he gets the K and is replaced by Myers, who also gets one. Next comes Timlin, who faces pinch hitter Eduardo Perez, who hit a walk-off homer of Embree yesterday. This time it’s just a single, but that drives in Singleton and it’s a two-run game. Lugo takes Damon to the warning track, but the innings is finally over.

Top 8th
With the help of three walks, an RBI-single and a grand slam homerun by Payton (who got in the game for Nixon, it’s now 10-3 in just a second. And David Ortiz hits another dinger. Looks like the hit batter come back to haunt the Devil Rays. A walk, single and another walk load the bases again, but Vasquez misses a second grand slam by a few feet.

Bot 8th
Halama comes into the game and gives up a couple of hits, but no runs

Bot 9th
Only one more runner reaches base and the Red Sox win a wild one 11-3 and avoid the sweep.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Win Probability Added and the bunt

Studes has started a regular column on The Hardball Times where he tracks the flow of Win Probability for each team. In these articles, the bunt usually comes off badly. Even in late innings in a tie game, sac bunting a man from 1st to 2nd with no outs decreases the team’s win probability (though it increases the chances that the team scores one run – how this is possible is beyond me [actually, it isn’t, it’s just a little paradox when you first hear it]).
Still, I think a bunt is useful (in late innings at least). Maybe just bunting someone over from 1st to 2nd with no outs is not. You still need a hit to score (and maybe even a single isn’t enough), but you have only two chances left instead of three.
Instinctively, I’d say that bunting a man from second to third with no outs instead is much more useful. Now, the runner can score on every hit, sac fly, squeeze bunt, a wild pitch…
Happy with my new “theory”, I tried it out with the “win expectancy finder” on Today, the Chicago White Sox played the Tigers in Detroit. With Jeremy Bonderman pitching, the Sox trailed 2-3 and had runners on 1st and 2nd (Pierzynski and Crede). Then Uribe bunted them over. The move paid of when Podsednik drove them both in. So, was the bunt a good decision or were the Sox just lucky?
Win probability before the bunt: 0.451
Win probability after the bunt: 0.426
Hm, so looks like it was just luck after all, or what?
I wasn’t satisfied with the result, obviously, so I wanted to check something else. When Crede scored from 2nd on the single, the Tigers nearly had a play at the plate. Considering that Crede is a faster runner than Pierzynski, one might assume that Pierzynski wouldn’t have been able to score had he still been on 2nd base, so had Uribe hadn’t bunt and singles instead of Podsednik, that might have just loaded the bases.
Win probability after the bunt and the 2-RBI single: 0.671
Win probability without the bunt and a single by Uribe loading the bases: 0.529
So, if you look at the bunt from this angle, it might actually have been a good choice.
On the other hand, had Pierzynski been able to score, we look at this:
Win probability without the bunt and a single by Uribe scoring one and putting runners at the corners: 0.706

All in all, I think the question “to bunt or not to bunt” won’t be settled here (obviously) and probably won’t be settled by looking at win probabily alone. The runners’ speed and the hitter in the on deck circle also have a large impact on the outcome, I’d guess. Also, as much as I like the idea of win probability, the data sample just is a little bit too small. For example, there have only been 51 games with the score tied in the 6th, visiting team batting and runners on the corners and no outs.

Conclusion: I would still bunt with no outs to get a runner to 3rd, though I wouldn’t do it with a runner on 1st. Then, I would pinchrun Dave Roberts and let him steal 2nd.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

April 9th & 10th

Some thoughts over the weekend:
  • Randy "30 Wins" Johnson's line of 6 innings, 8 hits, 5 runs (4 earned) makes him look very human right now. Wrapup
  • Pedro "Six Innings" Martinez throws a complete game, two hit, one run shutout for the first Mets' win. What's even more impressive: He's currently on the pace for 336 strikeouts and has a 7 K/BB ratio. Huh!
  • John Smoltz is 0-2, but his 7 1/3 innings, two runs, 15 (!) strikeouts make his move to the rotation look less rash. And he lowered his ERA for 24.40 points.
  • Am I the only one who thinks Manny Ramirez looks like he still has a hangover from the World Series party? It seems to me that he wants to be in bed instead of at the plate right now. Also, have to checked out his official picture on It supports my hangover theory. It also explains why he tried to steal 3rd base today: He wanted to get back to the dugout as quick as possible, but unfortunately for him, he was save.
  • The Phillies' offense sure looks good so far, thanks to Pat Burrel, who's hitting 1.443 OPS with 3 HR in the first six games. If their pitching gets it together, they might finally challenge the Braves and the Marlins for the division.
More later...

April 9th - KC Royals @ LA Angels - Notes

Bot 1 Why did Bengie Molina hit that pitch of his shoes with the bases loaded? Lima wasn't able two throw three strikes to anybody

Top 2 - Kevin Gregg pitches better than I expected him to. No, he's not great, but not awful either and a little unlucky, striking out DeJesus on a wild pitch (which I thought was a passed ball). And why does the reporter call him "Young Kevin Gregg" all the time?

Bot 2 - I thought that Maicer Izturis was an even worse hitter than his brother and now he starts with a triple, not bad. And Figgins brings him home with a sac fly.

Top 3 - Kevin Gregg gets lucky here with a linedrive double play to end the inning with men on 1st and 2nd. He has already thrown a ton of pitches, so I'll guess we might see Shields in the 5th or 6th already.

Bot 4 - After two 1-2-3 innings, the Angels break it open with help of the KC second baseman who didn't step on the back on a force attempt.

Top 5 - Gregg finally gives up a dinger to Stairs and it's 7-3 Angels. Gregg is done for the day, but he did a solid job and would get the win if the Royals don't rally.

Bot 8 - Yan and Scisco both did a good job keeping the offenses quiet (Yan had a couple of long fly balls, though ). Finally, something happens when Bengie Molina hits his second homerun of the day. It's good to have him back healthy!

Top 9 - The Royals don't threaten again and the Angels are 3-2 for the season.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Farest-Fetched Predictions

The season is already on the way and we didn't have to wait long for the first drama. Alex "Bunthit" Sanchez was accused of taking steroids, John Schmoltz' outing as a starting pitcher was shorter than his closer appearances and Mariano Rivera has blowen two saves in a rown against the Red Sox. But I still want to take a look back at all the predictions made in the offseason and see who made the farest-fetched, most outrageous or ridiculous predictions. Come october, one of these guys might look smarter than all the others.

AL Cy Young - Zach Greinke - Phil Rogers (ESPN)
Greinke pitches in Kansas City, where he would have a hard timing winning 15 games even if he pitched like Randy Johnson. And you can pitch as good as it goes, if you don't have the wins, you don't get the votes. Also, there's little concern about Greinke's line drive percentage. I expect Greinke to do well though, but he won't win the AL Cy Young, even if Johnson, Santana, Schilling and Harden all get hurt.

Randy Johnsons wins: 30
I don't remember where I read this, but some guys think Johnson will make a serious run a 30 wins. Johnson is a very, very good pitcher and the Yankees will give him some wins even if he doesn't pitches like it. But 30 wins, come on. He is a year older now, has knee problems and move from the NL to the AL and not the other way around. So he will have to face a DH instead of a pitcher now and that will add some points to his ERA. Last year, it was 2.60, so expect it to be in the 2.80 - 3.20 range and you don't win 30 games with a 3+ ERA. Also remember that a lot of his starts will come against Boston and Baltimore, premier hitting clubs.
Even if he stays healthy and make 35 starts, there will be days when the opposing pitcher shuts out the Yankees' lineup and Johnson won't get a decision. 25 wins is certainly possible, though even that is unlikely.

AL East Division Champs - Baltimore Orioles - 3893 (15%) Voters on Sportsnation
Are you kidding me? I can accept 1.2% voting for the Blue jays and 0.7% for the Devil Rays, these are fanatic fans, but 15% for the O's? Come on, even if Sammy Sosa hits 70 homers they don't have a chance, there's an off chance they might catch the Yankees or the Red Sox, if one team underachieves, but both?. Who's pitching for them again?

Ichiro batting .400 and breaking the 56-game-hitting-streak-record
Well, this one isn't THAT far-fetched, but I'm running out of material here and it's still pretty unlikely. Last year, some people predicted that Barry Bonds would hit .400, what he managed
was .362. That's still pretty good, obviously, but not close. Ichiro had 262 hits last year and an average of .372, but that's still 20 hits shy of .400. Do you think he will break his own all time hits per season record by 20? Hardly. He obviously has to take more walks, but that's not his kind of game. He puts the ball into play and hopes to beat it out when it doesn't leave the infield. I think taking more pitches will hurt his performance because he's not used to that and won't feel comfortable. Fact is, in 2004, Ichiro had a career year and it's very unlikey he'll even a better year in 2005. I agree when someone hits .400 soon then it's Bond or Ichrio (or Pujols?), but I don't really think it will happen.
And the 56-game-hitting-streak-record is save, that's for sure. A hitting streak is not something a batter can control himself. If you get hot, the pitcher may work around you, even when you're speedy like Ichiro. There will be times when Ichiro starts a game 0-2 and then be intentionally walked in latter innings.

AL Cy Young - Kelvim Escobar - Bjoern
Well this is just rid..., ah, I mean, you all will see it and bow to genius!!! Harhar!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Picking on Gammons (Part 2)

The experts have made their picks. Now it's the amateur's turn. To set my goals high, I line up against the best of them, against baseball reporter legend Peter Gammons. Opposite to yesterday, I'll only take one pick for each division.
Ok, so I was wrong about Martinez getting his first W. Still, 12k on opening day is still pretty impressive and a good sign if you remember Pedro on in April 2004. But no further delay, let's go on with my predictions before the season is half over.

AL East
Peter Gammons: Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, Devil Rays
Although I'm currently watching the Red Sox losing their second game in a row to the Yankees, I still expect them to win their division. The reason is that during the season, Johnson, Pavano and Brown will all go down with injuries and the Red Sox will find out that Wells really is over 40 years but luckily, at that time, Wade Miller steps in. The Orioles will finish third, cause they can hit (If they miraculously start pitching, they do have a chance for the postseason). The Blue Jays have Roy Halladay and, ah, some guys. The Devil Rays have, oh, Alex Sanchez. They do have Kazmir, but let's talk about him next year.
My pick: Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays, Devil Rays

AL Central
Peter Gammons: Twins, Indians, Tigers, White Sox, Royals
Let's start from the bottom. The Royals, coming of a season where most "experts" picked them to win their division are now the unanimous choice to finish last. After them, it's wide open. The White Sox have signed some pitching, but lost much power with Ordonez and Lee (why? why did they made this trade?) and that will hurt them, because they are used to be an all long ball team. The Tigers signed Ordonez and though everybody talked about what a bad contract that was, if he stays healthy, he will certainly help theTigers, but after Bonderman, they pitching isn't strong enough, though the pen looks decent. The Indians might really challenge the Twins for the division title if their pitching holds up, but the Twins pitching was great last year and should stay good. Their hitting was only mediocre, but is likely to improve. So, I come to the same conclusion as Mr. Gammons (Yes, I'm lame).
My picks: Twins, Indians, Tigers, White Sox, Royals

AL East
Peter Gammons: Angels, A's, Rangers, Mariners
I also expect the Angels to win the division, I explained that earlier in this blog. I'm a big fan of Billy Beane and I think his Moneyball philosophy certainly works. But I don't expect the A's to contend this year. Rich Harden will be good, Barry Zito will be decent or good, but to count on three unproven pitchers all to perform well is just unlikely. The A's offense gets on base, but is unspectacular and won't be able to pick up mediocre pitching for a longer period. I don't want to make the same predictions as Gammons again, so I say the Rangers will finish last in the east. Their infield is great, no doubt about that, but their pitching will evaporate this year. Kenny Rogers won't start 10-0 this year and the Rangers will have troubles finding a servicable rotation, which, combined with a revival of Seattle's senior club, will lead to these standings at the end of the season:
Angels, A's, Mariners, Rangers

NL East
Peter Gammons: Braves, Marlins, Mets, Phillies, Nationals
How can someone not take the Braves? I don't like their outfield corners and nobody knows what Smoltz can do in the rotation, but I still have a feeling they win the east. But the Marlins look better on paper to me and if they stay healthy, this will be the year they finally win their division (unfortunately, the Braves won't take the wild card and win the World Series now, though this certainly would be THE story). The Mets don't have the pen to win a division and I have no reason to believe the Phillies will put it together this year. The Nationals deserve being last just for their stupid name.
My picks: Marlins, Braves, Mets, Phillies, Nationals

NL Central
Peter Gammons: Cardinals, Cubs, Astros, Brewers, Reds, Pirates
The Cardinals infield won't be as good as last year (I'm a big Eckstein fan, did I mention that?), though I don't understand why the people pick on Grudzielanek while at the same time everyone is convinced that Womack won't be good in New York? They have a rookie catcher, but the Mrs. Molinas sons all make pretty decent catchers and young Yadier is supposed to be the best of the three brothers. The Cardinals also have Larry Walker for a whole seaons and Mulder replaces WoodyWilliams. I don't see any other team in the division improved, so who should challenge them? The Cubs lost a lot of offense and have a hard time staying healthy, second place and the wildcard should be considered a big success. The Astros just don't have it this year, Petitte is back, but Miller's gone, so are Kent and Beltran. Clemens won't have a Cy Young season again. So I don't expect them to contend this year. The Brewers will be better and have some talent in the minors that might help them next year, but I don't think they'll catch the Astros this year already. The Reds might finally have a healthy centerfielder and they can hit enough to pick up their mediocre pitching. The Pirates, well, maybe next year.
My picks: Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, Astros, Brewers, Pirates

AL West:
Giants, Padres, Dodgers, D-Backs, Rockies
I think this will be the year Barry Bonds finally declines. The steroids talk, the pressure of the media, injuries, the absence of his father and his age will finally take their tolls and make him look human. With a human BB, the rest of the lineup has to stay healthy and productive, which is hard to do when your starting lineup age rivals the Yankees & Red Sox payroll combined. I think the Dodgers will win the division again. Lowe and Penny will pitch like aces and Drew will hit and stay healthy, making Podesta look like a genius. The Padres will stay in the race until early September and the D-Backs will surprise everyone, challenging the Tigers record for games improved. The Rockies, well, they'll hit a lot of dingers at home and enjoy their field trips.
My picks: Dodgers, Giants, Padres, D-Backs, Rockies

Monday, April 04, 2005

Picking on Gammons (Part 1)

The experts have made their picks. Now it's the amateur's turn. To set my goals high, I line up against the best of them, against baseball reporter legend Peter Gammons. Also, I'm make a pick for my head and for my heart each to increase my chances. :)

AL MVP - Peter Gammons: David Ortiz
I like David Ortiz, I like him very much. He's a great hitter and as far as I know, a great guy. But I don't think he'll be the next MVP. Ortiz is a DH and as long as he doesn't hit 50+ HR or .350, the writers won't give him the award. Also, he plays with Manny Ramirez, so he has to share some attention.
My pick is Vladimir Guerrero (head & heart). This is something I don't understand. Last year, after he moved to the AL, everybody picked Guerrero as MVP. This year, after he won it, only Rob Neyer and Eric Karabell pick him. Strange. As I wrote earlier, 2004 was just an average year for him. Now, with more protection around him, he should be even better.

NL MVP - Peter Gammons: Nomar Garciaparra
I'm not so sure about that one, I'm an AL guy. Garciaparra might win it, if the Cubs win their division. Bonds is obvious candidate, but I think his run will end. My heart's pick is Troy Glaus. If he'll stay healthy, clubs 40+ HR and the Diamondbacks surprise, he has a chance (Gammons seems to agree there). My head says Albert Pujols. He obviously is good enough and after he was stuck behind Bond for two years, he'll make it this year.

AL Cy Young - Peter Gammons: Randy Johnson
If Randy Johnson stays healthy, he'll win the Cy Young. Point. I just don't think he will stay healthy with his 41-year-old-knee. Rich Harden is good, but I don't think he'll get enough wins. Same for Jeremy Bonderman. Gammons also gives Bartolo Colon a chance, which makes me look less stupid. But I take another Angel, Kelvim Escobar (heart). He was good last year and he will be better this year. Also, the Halos will score enough runs for him to win 22 games (I'm kidding here). Logically thinking, it must be Randy Johnson or Johan Santana. Since I believe Johnson will get hurt, it's Santana.

NL Cy Young - Peter Gammons: Pedro Martinez
I agree. I'm currently watching Pedro striking out the Reds. When I saw the score, I thought I should change my pick, but Pedro "only" gave up a 3-run-homer. Right now, Floyd hit a 2-run-dinger, so Pedro will get his first W today. Everybody talked so much about how much changing leagues and Shea stadium will help Pedro Martinez and I think all this is true. Only concern: the Mets' pen.

Rookie Of The Year
I skip this one, sorry. I really don't know enough about prospects to make a carefully considered pick, I'd just repeat someone else's choice. I do hope McPherson will win the AL award, cause this means the Angels probably had a good year.

World Series - Peter Gammons: Twins over Cubs
Everybody loves the Twins this year. Jayson Stark, Buster Olney and Jerry Crasnick also picked them. If it would just be to thank Aaron Gleeman for his great blog, I didn't begrudge the Twins the title (correct grammar?) But even though I'm expect them to win their division (though I'm not that sure), I don't think they'll get to the series. In the end, it all comes down to Randy Johnson. If he's healthy, the Yankees start a series with Johnson, Mussina and Pavano. But take away the Big Unit, and Mussina, Pavano and Brown/Wright doesn't sound half as intimidating. To stick with my presumption that Johnson will be hurt, my head picks the Red Sox to win it all. If the Wade Miller deals plays out, they have a strong rotation and they hit better than any other club. As you could expect, I hope the Halos will win it in 2005. As for the NL finalist, I'm not sure which team to pick. I like the Marlins, but I'm not sure if they can win their division. I don't think the Cardinals have the pitching and the Cubs don't have the offense or the medical stuff. Giants have a chance if Bonds is dominant as last year. Oh man, the NL really is open for grap. My heart takes the Marlins, they have the pitching and they have a nive combination of power and speed in their lineup, they just need to stay healthy. My head says the Cardinals should be good enough to get back to the Series, their middle of the order is scary with Walker, Pujols, Edmons and Rolen smashing and their pitching is solid, their defense also good.

Alex Sanchez supposedly took steroids

So there he is. The first player found guilty of steroid use in the 2005 season. It didn't take that long, did it? And it doesn't really surprise anyone, I guess, now that MLB introduced baseball's new strict drug policy (when MLB officials talk about it, it always reminds me of Roland Koch, the Hessian minister-president, who had to deal with a donation-affair within his CDU-party. He always said he would employ the "most brutal investigations possible", rofl!)
What might surprise some is that Alex Sanchez from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays is this player. Sanchez isn't the kind of player you usually suspect of taking steroid when you see him. He's listed as 5-10 at 180lb and over the last three years he hit .297, .330, .367. Not exactely a power thread. ESPN's scouting report tells us that Sanchez "has much better than average speed and tries to take advantage of it by playing small ball. He is an excellent bunter and always is a threat to lay one down." So why did that guy took steroids for? He claims that he had never taken steroids and that the reason for his positive test must be something he "bought over the counter".
If Alex Sanchez really took steroids, what does that mean for baseball? Does it mean that the new policy will be a success? Hardly. As long as the chances of being caught are slim and the penalties are RIDICULOUS! Just to put this in perspective: Jan Ullrich (the German cyclist who always looses against Lance Armstrong) was hurt and went to a disco with friends. One of them gave him a extasy pill and Ullrich was doping tested soon after. Though extasy only hurts your rehab, he was suspended for one year.
If Alex Sanchez really took steroids, this means that you can't trust anyone at all. Not only the guys who hit 40+ homers are suspicious, everyone is. David Eckstein? Not so sure anymore. Juan Pierre? He did hit a career high 3 HR last year. I always thought a lot of players took steroids, but I thought most of them were corner out- or infielders. Not so sure anymore. If anything, this case should tell MLB and the player's union that they have to employ a new drug policy that is not a joke, one that fulfils the Olympic norms, if they want to get back the trust of the fans.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Boston Red Sox - New York Yankees - Position by position comparison

In a recent article of ESPN's Jayson Stark, some GM, managers and coaches compared Boston's lineup and New York's lineup position by position (they only asked six people at all). Only one ranked the Yankees as good as the Sox. So I wanted to check this out by myself, though (since I don't know any GM, managers, coaches, scout, columnists, players or even baseball fans) I used projections from the Baseball Think Factory for the 2005 season and I only looked at the offense. I might include pitching and defense later, if I have the time (which means: probably not). I also included the three bench players I think will get the most playing time (though I counted them as a half position only). Here we go:

Catcher Jason Varitek - Jorge Posada
         AVG   OBP   SLG
Varitek .274  .361  .452
Posada  .265  .385  .468
       +.009 -.024 -.016
Posada is a little (really just a little) better than Varitek and though you might call even, I give this position to the Yankess out of generosity.
Boston - New York 0-1

First Base Kevin Millar - Tino Martinez
          AVG   OBP   SLG
Millar   .288  .369  .469
Martinez .242  .336  .408
        +.046 +.033 +.061
Millar is known to get streaky, but as long as he's not going on a cold streak from April to September, he will outproduce the old Yankees hero easily.
Boston - New York 1-1

Second Base Mark Bellhorn - Tony Womack
          AVG   OBP   SLG
Bellhorn .267  .381  .450
Womack   .265  .311  .337
        +.002 +.070 +.113
Everyone is sure Womack isn't going to repeat his career numbers from last year, me too. While Womack and Bellhorn will hit nearly the same amount of balls into play, Bellhorn will continue to take his walks (and Ks, but that's ok) and hit the occasional homer.
Boston - New York 2-1

Third Base Bill Mueller - Alex Rodriguez
           AVG   OBP   SLG
Mueller   .289  .369  .454
Rodriguez .285  .381  .539
         +.004 +.012 -.085
Alex "the mercenary" Rodriguez easily outslugges ex-batting-title-holder Mueller. But it's closer than I thought it would be.
Boston - New York 2-2

Shortstop Edgar Renteria - Derek Jeter
          AVG   OBP   SLG
Renteria .324  .382  .467
Jeter    .298  .358  .454
        +.026 +.024 +.013
Mr. Clutch (I just LOVE that article!) Derek Jeter now has a gold glove, too. Obviously, this means you get gold gloves for diving into the stands today. But what's even better: now that Renteria plays in Boston, Derek Jeter is only the third best shortstop in his division. I recently read an article about fantasy baseball where Jeter ranked much higher than Renteria. Why exactely is that?
Boston - New York 3-2

Left Field Manny Ramirez - Hideki Matsui
         AVG   OBP   SLG
Ramirez .311  .409  .589
Matsui  .293  .384  .481
       +.018 +.025 +.108
This is too easy.
Boston - New York 4-2

Center Field Johnny Damon - Bernie Williams
          AVG   OBP   SLG
Damon    .290  .367  .443
Williams .266  .360  .427
        +.024 +.007 +.016
Hittingwise, they are close. But lets take a look at another offensive category from last year.: Damon SB 19 - CS 8, Williams SB 1 - CS 5. I rest my case.
Boston - New York 5-2

Right Field Trot Nixon - Gary Sheffield
           AVG   OBP   SLG
Nixon     .282  .371  .505
Sheffield .287  .388  .525
         +.005 -.017 -.020
I expected Sheffield's numbers to be significantly better than Nixon's, since this was one of two positions (3B was the other) where everyone on the original poll picked the Yankee player. Now that Nixon won't have to hit against many southpaws with Payton on the bench, I really think I could call it even. After all, Sheffield's OPS was .957 over the last three years, while Nixon's was .946 against righthanders. Since I gave the catcher position to New York, it's even here (I have to be a bit provocative if I want some people to read this blog).
Boston - New York 5.5 - 2.5

Designated Hitter David Ortiz - Jason Giambi
        AVG   OBP   SLG
Ortiz  .298  .380  .588
Giambi .252  .394  .493
      +.046 -.014 +.095
Even if Giambi does miraculously come back to pre-steroid form, he will have a hard time catching Big Pappi.
Boston - New York 6.5 - 2.5

4th Outfieder Jay Payton - Ruben Sierra
        AVG   OBP   SLG
Payton .288  .345  .442
Sierra .233  .281  .375
      +.055 +.014 +.095
If Giambi doesn't flop totally (I don't think he will), Sierra will get much less playing time than last year (And even though I list him as the 4th outfielder, he'll hardly ever play in the field). Payton instead will be a big factor, since he will start in RF against lefthanders. He could start for many teams, Sierra can't, that says everything.
Boston - New York 7.0 - 2.5

2nd Catcher Doug Mirabelli - John Flaherty
           AVG   OBP   SLG
Mirabelli .255  .330  .459
Flaherty  .233  .269  .366
         +.022 +.061 +.093
I was really happy when I heard the Red Sox re-signed Mirabelli. He will catch all games with Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on the mount and will also pinchhit sometimes. For a catcher, he really hits well, Flaherty doesn't.
Boston - New York 7.5 - 2.5

Pinch Hitter Kevin Youkilis - Bubba Crosby
          AVG   OBP   SLG
Youkilis .266  .367  .390
Crosby   .258  .309  .403
        +.008 +.058 -.013
Youkilis will get on base more, Crosby is a bigger threat to hit one out of the park. After all, I think Youkilis is better and he's also two years younger and more likely to improve. Still I give something back to the Yankees for the Sheffield incident. I also round off, to make the numbers look nicer.
Boston - New York 8-3

If you had asked me before which team has the better offense, I probably would have been saying New York. Why? I remember last year, after the Rodriguez trade, everyone was talking about a heck of an offense, about 1000 runs being scored and records and stuff. The team hasn't changed much since then, has it? Obviously, the upgrade wasn't that great after all. Ok, nobody could have expected the Giambi saga, but still.
Every Boston hitter is a tough out, even the bench players. The lowest projected OBP is .330 for Mirabelli, the lowest for a starter is .367, for Damon, the leadoff hitter, this is. Is it just me or is it plain cruel if the leadoff hitter is the easiest out?
New York has some holes with Womack and Crosby, who will get more playing time to rest Williams. The Yankees will score a bunch of runs, no doubt about that, but if I were a pitcher, I'd fear the Red Sox lineup more.

I still have a few minutes, so I add up all the numbers and take a look at the team average. I still weight the bench players half as much as the starters.

Team Boston Red Sox - New York Yankees
         AVG   OBP   SLG
Red Sox .288  .372  .482
Yankees .268  .356  .448
       +.020 +.016 +.034
Ok, this method of comparison is flawed in many ways, but it's interesting to see that the Red Sox are 2004's Phil Nevin (.289, .368, .492) while the Yankees are Matt Stairs (.267, .345, .451). Neat!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

2005 Season Predictions - Los Angelos Angels of Anaheim

Okay, now you know it, I'm an Angels fan. Why? Well, it's because when I got the PC game "MVP Baseball 2003" from EA-Sports (yes, that surreptitious advertising, but they deserve it. At least they still make baseball games for the PC), the Angels were the player's default team because they had just won the World Series. So David Eckstein was one of the first players I got to know. So the Angels are my favorite team today, with the Red Sox a close second (Last year sure was good!.
However, in the next days, I'm going to make some predictions which team is going to win its devision and why. I'm starting with the Halos and by taking a close look at each position and how it compares to last year:

1B - Darin Erstad (Backups: Casey Kotchman, Kendry Morales)
Last year, Darin Erstad played 125 games at 1B, hitting .295, .346, .400 and won a gold glove (This would be great if he was a shortstop or second baseman). If he can stay healthy (A big IF), there's no reason why he shouldn't repeat this line. Actually, I don't understand why the Angels didn't move him back to centerfield, where his defense is much more valuable than at first base, but maybe they'll do it when Steve Finley's contract runs out and Kotchman or Morales are ready to take over first (Kotchman only hit .224, .289, .276 in 38 games at 1B). Erstad will bat leadoff this year and I think this will actually help his numbers, giving him fewer opportunities to produce "productive outs".
Compared to last year: Even

2B - Chone Figgins, Adam Kennedy
Since Kennedy will begin the season on the DL, Chone Figgins will be the starting second baseman instead of the UEBER-utility-man. While their offensive values are nearly the same (Figgins: .296, .350, .419; Kennedy: .278, .351, .406), Kennedy's defense is much better. This may be because Figgins had to play at several position last year, which gives hope that playing 2B regulary will help him. Also, I expect Scioscia will hit Figgins second, where he and Erstad will put much pressure on the oppenents pitcher early with their speed (Ok, I was wrong with that, but I wrote this a while ago. Also, I still think it would make sense). All in all, with Kennedy expected back after some weeks, 2B won't be weaker than 2004.
Compared to last year: Even

3B - Dallas McPherson (Backup: Robb Quinlan)
It will be difficult for Dallas McPherson to follow in Troy Glaus' footsteps, but Glaus only played 58 games last year (and only 19 at 3B) and hit .251, .355, .575 and he was replaced for the most time by Figgins. Robb Quinlan played some 3B and hit an excellent .344, .401, .525, but only in 160 AB, so he certainly won't repeat that and he also got defensive issues. Tangotiger projects .266, .339, .447 for McPherson, but only 199 AB. I agree with the line, but I think he will play more if the Angels don't fall behind in the standings. Defensivly he seems to be adequate, so after all the changes at the position last year, he probably won't be a downgrade at least (Figgins had 11 errors in 92 games at 3B). McPherson ist the biggest unknown in the Angels lineup and his performance might determine whether the Angels have a good or a great offense. McPherson could be the AL rookie of the year, but he could bust, too.
Compared to last year: Worse

SS - Orlando Cabrera (Backup: Maicer Izturis)
I have always been a big fan of David Eckstein and his hustle and I really don't understand why the signing of Orlando Cabrera is such a big improvement. Eckstein hit .276, .339, .332 last year, while Cabrera hit .264, .306, .383. So Cabrera hit for more power, but he not exactly a power thread and his OBP is way too low. Only if he can repeat the .294, .320, .465 he hit in Boston or his 2003 season in Montreal (which I doubt), he's a real upgrade offensivly. However, his defense seems to be superior to Eckstein's by a larger margin, so I guess this is a real upgrade after all.
Compared to last year: Slightly Improved

CF - Steve Finley (Backup: Jeff DaVanon, Erstad?)
Last year's CF Garret Anderson played only 112 games and hit a modest .301, .343, .446., something Finley should be able to repeat (2004: .271, .333, .490). Some people say Finley isn't an adequate defender anymore (he still won a gold glove - weren't Edmonds and Jones playing in the NL last year???), but I think he will be better (quicker that is) and more experienced at this position than Anderson, so this change should be a defensive improvement after all.
Compared to last year: Slightly Improved

LF - Garrent Anderson (Backup: Jeff DaVanon)
Anderson returns to left field where he replaces the infamous Jose Guillen. Anderson needs to have a season a little above his average to compensate for the loss of Guillens production (.294, .352, .497), which is possible. But injuries slowed Anderson down last year and it remains to be seen whether he's 100% healthy. Defensivly, Anderson is the better fielder while Guillen had the better arm. If we count in the improved clubhouse chemistry after Guillens departure, let's call it even.
Compared to last year: Even

RF - Vladimir Guerrero (Backup: Juan Rivera)
The 2004 AL MVP returns to the right field of Angel Stadium. Guerrero hit .337, .391, .598 during his MVP campaign, but this was actually just an average season for him. So, there's no reason why he shouldn't repeat that.
Compared to last year: Even

DH - Jeff Davanon, Chone Figgins, Robb Quinlan, Juan Rivera, ...
Last year's most successful DH was Andres Galarraga (.300, .364, .600) in 10 AB. :)
Tim Salmon hit .253, 306, .323 in 186 AB, while Troy Glaus was responsible for 207 AB and a .251, .355, .575. Other DHs were Guerrero (49 AB .265, .333, .449), Guillen (39 AB .270, .386, .459), Davanon (66AB .273, .351, .485) and Quinlan (13 AB .154, .267, .154) (I probably forgot one or two though). If Jeff Davanon plays DH against right-handers only (he hit .279, .360, .436 against them and only .239, .349, .380 against southpaws over the last three years) and Quinlan platoons with him (Unbelievable .390, .456, .644 against lefties, although in only 59 AB) until Kennedy takes over 2B and Figgins joins the DH club, I think the DH will produce more AVG and OBP this year, though it might be difficult to repeat the slugging Glaus provided. Also, Rivera might break out after leaving the Expos (where he batted .307, .364, .465). I'm not really sure whether it's a good thing to have that many options or not.
Compared to last year: Even

The Bench
As you can see above, the Halos still have a strong bench with Figgins, Davanon, Quinlan and Rivera. Behind them, Kotchman (and Morales?) are eager to get more big league experience. Still, the Angels are probably better off if the bench plays less than in 2004, since this means that the starters stay healthy. But with this bench, health problems won't immediately hurt the team's playoff chances and this is certainly a big strength of this club.
Compared to last year: Even

The Starting Rotation
Bartolo Colon was hindered by ankle and lower back problems and his 5.01 ERA was a whole run higher than his career average, but he still managed to win 18 games. He seems to be in better shape this spring (ok, that might have been a spoof) and is much likely to improve his ERA and hopefully be the ace of the stuff. With a good season and an ERA of under 3.50, this team is good enough to give him the wins he needs to have an outside (=really, really small) chance for the Cy Young.
Kelvin Escobar was the most consistent Angels pitcher in 2004. He led the staff in ERA and Ks, but low runs support left him with a mediocre 11-12 record. Since this was his first year as a full time starter (he had 26 starts in '03) and that he's only 28, there's still room for improvement. I expect his 2005 campaign to be even better than last year's. If he get's the run support, he also is an outside (see above) Cy Young candidate.
John Lackey (14-13) and Jarrod Washburn (11-8, 25 G) had nearly indentical ERAs last season, with 4.67 and 4.64 respectivly. But while Lackey was a real hometown hero (his home ERA is 1.80 points lower than on the road over the last 3 years, 3.53), Washburn was the Halos' road warrior (his ERA was one run lower on the road, 3.55). So Scioscia needs to find a way to start Lackey at home and Washburn on the road as much as possible and he'll have a pretty good tandem at #3 & #4 :). Still, Lackey and Washburn can hardly be worse than last year, ERA-wise, so I'm confident they will both improve.
Paul Byrd replaces Aaron Sele and Ramon Ortiz and their 9W, 5.03 ERA and 4W, 5.47 ERAs respectively, as starters. So if Byrd stays healthy and makes 28 starts or more, the Angels will most likely have a better #5 starter.
All in all, I think the rotation will be better than last year and collect at least 72 wins (compared to 68 in 2004).
Compared to last year: Slightly Improved

The Bullpen:
The Angels lost Troy Percival to free agency, but while most Angels fans (including me) probably are sad to see him go, Percival is clearly declining. Though his 2.90 ERA was decent and a half run lower than his 2003 ERA (3.47), his OPS against rose from .573 to .610 to .682. (On the other hand, Percival had a 1.67 ERA and .196 BAA after the break). Still, with all the injuriy concerns surrounding Percival, letting him go probably was the right decision.
The new closer will be Francisco Rodriguez. So far he has shown he can handle high pressure situation and he already collected 12 saves last year while Percival was out. The only concern is he might be overworked after pitching in the Carribean Series (Does not seem so).
Brendan Donnelly will the new setup-man. He had a rough year in 2004 with a broken nose and other injuries limiting him to 40 games. His 3.00 ERA was a bit high, but 12 K/9 make me confided he hasn't lost anything.
Scot Shields gives the team a quality long-reliever who will get his share of wins and he can get a strike-out when needed.
Esteban Yan and Kevin Gregg will get a spot start once in a while and Gregg will then take his chances to also break the all-time record for wild pitches in a game.
This is a pretty good bullpen, with only one major weakness: no lefthander (Did Jake Woods make the team now?). But that's no change to last year, though, so:
Compared to last year: Slightly worse

The Angels improved at shortstop and centerfield while losing production at 3B, their rotation should be a little stronger while the bullpen looks just little weaker than last year. So, I think they will win a few games more than they did in 2004. Last year, the Angels won their divison dispite injuries at 1B, 2B, 3B, CF, DH, their only left-handed pitcher AND with their ace having a 5+ ERA. This year, the A's lost two thirds of their Big Three, Texas is likely to decline after overachieving last year and Seattle signed Beltre and Sexson, but has a long way to go after a 99 Loss season. So, the Angels are the obvious pick to win the divison.
Unfortunately, the Angels will most likely play the Yankees or the Red Sox in the Divison Series and that's where the lack of a situational southpaw is really going hurt them. Moving Jarred Washburn to the pen is no solution, as we've seen last october.
For the Angels to advance further, Colon and Escobar have to dominate, Lackey has to find the postseason magic of 2002 again and Guerrero, Anderson, and someone else has to produce. Or (and that's more likely) Randy Johnson and Mussina/Pavano and Curt Schilling are all down with injuries come october.