Friday, September 30, 2016

First-Half Awards

Tight race that could go any of 4 or 5 ways, but my pick is Tarrik Stockton.  2 seasons ago he was moldering in AAA, and now he's OPSing 1.023, has 17 SB's, and is playing sterling D at 2B for Texas.

Honorable Mention:  Austin's Trace Clark - .291/28/81 with 54 walks.

I've always thought Kelvim Hasegawa would have a few MVP-caliber seasons, and this is certainly one so far.  .330/21/77 with 34 doubles, 31 SB's (and no caught stealing) and excellent defense at 3B.  He's lapping the field in both leagues in both runs created and rc/27.  Stat to watch:  he's on pace to set a new single-season record for doubles (the record is 58), and with his speed and durability he's exactly the kind of player to up that mark.

Honorable mention:  Tony Mullen - .302/35/81.  His 1.026 OPS is 2nd in the AL to Hasegawa and he leads both league in HR's.

NL Cy Young
Quentin McGowan of Texas.  He's the NL leader on OAV, OBP, Slugging% Against, WHIP and ERA even pitching in a hitter's park.

Honorable Mention:  Shannon Rivera (10-1, 2.83 ERA) of Chicago has almost identical numbers to New York's Hannity, but has put those up in a tougher ballpark and has tossed a few more innings.

AL Cy Young
Sam Stock has been more hittable this year than in his first 2, but still leads both leagues in OAV, OBP, and WHIP (and is 2nd to McGowan in Slugging % against).

Honorable Mention:  could go to a bunch of guys, but Philadelphia's Alex Quixote has been outstanding - 10-4, 3.06 ERA while throwing 123 innings

Helena's Earle Carraway (9-3, 2.86 in 122 IP) has pitched well enough that he could make the Cy Young ballot.

Thin year for AL Rookies.  Best of the lot in the first half has been Philly's Gene Cummings, who leads the AL newbies in OPS with .851 and has played an adequate CF.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

NL East Previews

Jacksonville Season 31 Champs!

Season 31 in a nutshell:  World Series champs.  That says it all.  Topoftheworl made the best of his closing window and led the old guys to the promised land.

Who's out?   RP Al Troncoso, LF Fausto Rivera, 1B Juan Aramboles, RP Domingo Hernandez, RP Fausto Fernandez, C Wladimir Lorenzo, SS Matthew Gordon, RP Livan Maduro, 3B John Small and RP Melvin Chang

Who's in?  RF Lewis Gilkey, RP Sammy Morales, SP TJ Maybin, SS Sun-Woo Wan, RP Toms Adames, 2B Ken Woods, 1B Yoervis Barrios and RP Shawn Salazar

Season 32:  Top lost more than he gained, but appears to be refusing to get old without putting up a fight....sort of like Joan Rivers.  Hopefully the results won't be that scary.  Somewhat oddly, his trades look like a team preparing to rebuild, while he signed a bunch of old FAs.  Aramboles, Small and to a lesser extent Rivera will be hard to replace in the starting lineup.  Lewis Gilkey was brought in to fill one hole and Barrios was traded for to hold down 1B.  Add them to holdovers Vinny Catalanotto, Yovani Guzman, Mule Meek and Albert McDowell and you still have the basis for a good offense.  Woo won't hit much, but brings a great glove with him.

The pitching may be where age trips them up.  Rick Branson is still ace, and a good one.  The rest of the rotation consists of Dory Diaz, TJ Maybin and Alex Martin  All of them are decent, but none stand out.  Then there is Jair Gonzalez.  The best pitcher in Hobbes history is now 40 and showing his age.  He may have a pretty good first half, but look for him to continue to fade rapidly, and really struggle by year's end. The pen has some of the best arms in Hobbes....circa season 29.  Orlando Fernandez is still excellent at 40, but is now more of a 60 inning closer than a 130 inning dominator.  Benji Ramirez can still throw 100 innings, but is not quite the pitcher he once was.  Morales and Chang will help.  Bottom line is that this team can end up winning the division or finishing dead last, depending on how well some of the old guys continue to age and avoid injury.

Boston Basilisks  

Season 31 in a nutshell:   The team (formerly) from Gotham finally flashed the bat signal to let the rest of us know that the winning is ready to commence with a 21 game improvement and second place finish.  Now to see if they can pull enough tricks out of the old utility belt to take the next step in Beantown.

Who's out?  RF Glenallen Ward, LF Timothy Denham, C Hugh Moorhouse, RP Michael Martin and CF Pedro James

Who's in?  SP Ramiro Lira, CF Harry Johnson, RP Einar Mercedes and 1B Dellin Samuel

Season 32 outlook:  The losses of Ward and Denham looked to be more than offset by the acquisition of Johnson and the promotion of Samuel.  Unfortunately that plan has already taken a big hit with a major injury to Johnson.  There is still just enough offense to get by, led by steady RF Alex Diaz.  3B Benito Alvarez is a glove first guy who provides just enough offense.  Likewise Don Loretta at 2B and Ricky Long at C, although he does provide a bit more power.  Lonny Mendoza is another one of those great gloves that mbriese like so much, but looks unsure what to do when they put a bat in his hands.

The pitching rotation is anchored by the underappreciated Joe Johnson.  Lira will make a nice addition and the the rest of the staff is overall quite good with Don Bagley, Johnny Montgomery and JB Mayne rounding it out.  The pen has a great closer and decent setup guys in Enerio Tatis, Mercedes and Horacio Villano, but the bridge guys may waste a lot of wins in between.  With Johnson, I would have said watch out for this team to make incremental improvement and challenge for the division.  Without the Hirsute Unit for most of the season, a step back is probably likely.

New York Amazin Madoffs

Season 31 in a nutshell:  After several seasons of being just better than average with only a couple of wild card appearances to show for it, the team took a backward step last year finishing in 3rd place, 6 games under .500.  As we will, that may have been by design: a small step to take a big leap forward.

Who's out?  C Chris Sullivan, 3B Al Adkinson, RP Frank Hong, LF Adrian Hendricksen, SP Shelley Hull, SP Charley Zeile, 2B Earl Huckaby, SS Al Garrido

Who's in?  C Alejandro Molina, RF/C John Harper, CF Angel Cruz, RP Vern Stone, SS Nathan Sierra, 2B Alfredo Tejeda, RP Richie Carr, SS Earl Sedlacek

Season 32 outlook:  This is clearly an improved team off to a hot start.  I doubt they run away with the division, but the prognosis looks pretty good.  Rick Black is the LF and a star in the making.  Cruz is in CF and Kenny Wolf holds down RF.  Both hit their positions well, but the whole OF is a defensive liability.  Being a fly ball pitcher in NY won't be a good thing.  Harry Estrada mans 3B and is good with both the bat and the glove.  Evan Crosby is a defensive wiz at SS with just enough offense.  Jose Diaz plays a good 1B and hits a bit but with little power, while newcomer Tejeda is about as average as you can get at second.  Molina and Eugene Malloy share time at C.  Molina carries the bat while Molina wears the glove.

Derrick Dawkins and Lawrence Hannity lead the rotation and are a solid one-two punch.  Stan Nash, Stu Wilson and Stewart Miadich are a solid 3-5.  The pen is headed by one of the better relievers in Hobbs, Bucky Champion, who is underutilized as a closer. A darn good closer, but I would rather have him racking up 150 innings like he did in his second season.   His supporting cast of Joaquin Balentien, Charley Crudale, Houston Happ, Carr and Stone are mostly solid but unspectacular.  I like them to be in the mix for the divison title the whole way.

Dover Rabid Dogs

Season 31 in a nutshell:  Perhaps the most disappointing team in Hobbs last year, Dover went for broke by trading for 2 front line CY winning pitchers and, well....broke.  Santos Eovaldi and Louis Wilson both had strong seasons, but the rest of the team just couldn't get them back to the Series, finishing just 76-86.  Kdfan is giving this group one more season to figure things out.

Who's out?  RP Bud Waner, RF Cole Giles, 2B Ken Woods and RP Shawn Salazar. 

Who's in?  No one of note at the ML Level.

Season 32 outlook:  The rotation is the strength of the team, led by Eovaldi and Wilson.  Following them are Shun-Lim Xiao, Aurelio Borbon, Slick MacFarlane and Ernie Gaudin.  All are young, possess some talent and primed for better seasons, making this  area both a strength and a reason for optimism.  The pen is headed by Derrin Duncan, Jose Palacios and Alfredo Osoria.  All are talented and looking to bounce back from sub par years.  Adeiny Cedeno and Carlos Johnson round out the pen.

The offense has some nice pieces as well.  Woody Reagan and Bartolo Cela are stars in RF and 2B.  Takahiro Hasegawa is also very good at 1B, and LF Manny Saitou, C Carlos Martinez and 3B Trenidad Butler are a nice supporting cast.  Freddy Suzuki is an adequate SS, but Hideo Inouoe is a liability in CF.  All in all a good team with both pitching and hitting.

Division outlook:  A tight 3 way race, with Dover winning.  Jacksonville and New York stay in it late but fall short, and Boston brings up the rear while still being respectable.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

NL South Preview (Season 32)

Season 31 was memorable in the NL South due to Texas' massive choke job, closing out with an L9 and allowing Charlotte to Steam into the post-season like a runaway train, finishing out on a 9-1 run of their own to reach .500 for the season.  The fun stopped rather abruptly, as Charlotte played like their season-long record in getting eliminate 3-0 by Chicago.  The former Santa Fe (now Austin) and San Juan kept the overall division tightly packed to 10 games between everyone.

Early returns have San Juan flipping the script, starting out with 3 big wins over last season's division Champs, looking to recapture their very recent successes Seasons 29 & 30.  Pretty significant turnover on the ML roster should be expected after a 4th place finish follows two pennants, and the Padres held to that form.  Modest FA signings like Omar Gutierrez and Jorge De Aza compliment returning vet Matty Campos and young up and coming stud Branden Clarkson, and should make for a solid line-up, if perhaps lacking in strong gloves outside Orlando Mendoza.

San Juan's starting staff will be led again by steady vets Raymond Patterson and Vladimir Duran with hopes that Harry Bautista can live up to the hype around his "stuff", but their bullpen may hinge on the delicate deployment of some odd fits like potential stud Preston Granderson and Rickey Leary.

The early shine may be coming off their hot start now, but San Juan should avoid the basement this season.

The biggest news in Charlotte this off-season was their gutting of the spirited team that finished the regular season on such a high note.  Moving Zoltan Keppinger and Rich Kohn to Nawlins, then George Camilli and Yean Carlos Gonzalez to Indy basically gutted the major league roster, but the Steam will rise again with an embarrassment of riches in their minors.

Focusing on this season, though, the only new ML piece added on the major moves was Matt Hunter from the Test-Icicles (also a former Indianapolis whatever-they're-called-this-year farm hand... you know, just to close the circle).  He should anchor a reasonable collection of gloves which may not be enough to carry a patchwork pitching staff, hoping to get the ball to Jim Hinchliffe with a lead.

Late blooming Brett McMahan should more than outpace his 11th round draft pick status, but he may be a lone bright spot in a thin lineup.

While it may be a long Season 32 in Charlotte, the future is hot as a kettle.

The heartbreaker of an ending to last season aside, Choades are making their way back up the standings, after a sustained run under the previous regime.  Bob Tucker leads a deep, versatile lineup that should fare well in their hitter friendly home park.

Heavy inning horses Joe CunninghamAl Servet, and Kennie Bonilla will shoulder much of the load getting the ball to a deep (if unspectacular) 'pen led by Norberto Lecuona.  The pitching staff should be helped by a strong defence.

Nobody likes a sweaty Choade, but in Texas this season, the sweat might be starting to pay off.  A second consecutive bridesmaid finish should be looked upon favourably if their overall record continues to take steps forward.

Our geography-challenged Road Trip now takes us from Santa Fe to Austin, who look primed to take a big step forward.  If the pundits weren't sure, then the big off-season move to bring in John Small to anchor the hot corner and pair with incumbent stud P.T. Feliz was the anvil to the forehead.

Subtler observers might have read the tea leaves earlier with in the arrival of Willie Matos and  Torey Izquierdo last season to go with (relative) greybeards Juan Martinez and Willie Tepera, forming a formidable foursome in the starting rotation, with nobody over 25.

Austin look like the team to beat, and the first couple of weeks are looking like the final payoff of a long time in the wilderness for this franchise.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

AL North Preview - Season 32

AL North Preview 

Does anyone want to win this division? Only one real contender exists, as three franchises look for their footing. A dynasty has ended, but all should fear the re-build!

Pre-season AL North Awards
MVP - 2B Miguel Ramirez, Kansas City
Cy Young - SP Happy Blue, Philadelphia
Rookie of the Year - CF Edgardo Mercedes, Vancouver
Most Likely to be Traded - 3B Wilkin Guerrero, Kansas City
Highest Trade Value - 2B Miguel Ramirez, Kansas City 

Final Standings Prediction 
1. Philadelphia 90-72
2. Kansas City 70-92
3. Montreal 68-94
4. Vancouver 65-97

Team Reviews/Previews

Philadelphia Erffdoggs 
Season 31 Review Record: 84-78, 1st in the AL North, lost to New Orleans in the ALDS
    Runs Scored: 9th
    Runs Allowed: 24th
    Fielding Percentage:13th
    AL Rookie of the Year Yamil Ibanez
    All Star Yordano Valdes

Regular season champion for the first time in 10 seasons, wholck overcame below average pitching to win the North. Offense was led by a strong core of position players Ibanez, Stults, Tabaka, and Simon - all under 26 years old. The pitching staff was held together by innings-eaters Cunningham and Bako. Yordano Valdes had a strong year, converting 33 out of 36 saves.

Season 32 Preview

Mode - Contending

Player Transactions
Additions - Free Agency:SS Orlando Gil, RF Glenallen Ward, SP Vern Buckley, SP Happy Blue. Promotion: RP Yonder Samuel, RP Che-Hsuan Woo, LF Jeff Flanagan

Subtractions - Free Agency: SS Josias Ozuna, RP Pascual Bennett, CF Fred Porter, SP Joe                                          Cunningham. Released: 3B Harold Parker, SP Enny James

Ratings Rankings
Overall: 10th
Rotation: 9th
Bullpen: 17th
Starting Lineup: 4th
Bench: 13th
Average Age: 10th
Average Salary: 15th

Prediction - The Erffdoggs are strong contenders to repeat. In fact, anything other than 1st place would be a major surprise. wholck has kept the young core together, but has he done enough to advance out of the ALDS? The bullpen appears to be stronger, and Quixote is an upgrade at the top of the rotation. An addition or two, and this team could make some noise in the playoffs.

 Kansas City Jayhawks
 Season 31 Review Record: 73-89, 2nd in the AL North
 Runs Scored: 15th
 Runs Allowed: 23rd
 Fielding Percentage: 21st
 Silver Slugger - DH Hugh Pierre
 Gold Glove - 2B Miguel Ramirez, LF Fernando Bonilla

A down year for the 8X defending AL North Champion. Offense was solid - led by Pierre and Ramirez, but they still scored 100 less runs than they did in Season 30. Season 31 appears to be the first year of dakar's rebuild of the next NL North Dynasty.

Season 32 Preview
Mode - Rebuilding

Player Transactions
Additions - SP (all "All-Name Future HOF'r" Dickie Wingo, SP Tomas Estrada, Father Time SP Jay Denham. Promoted - RF Julio Rivera. Rule V - CF Quentin Hendrick, SS Paolo Infante

Subtractions - Free Agency - SP Walt Hairston, SP Carlos Tavarez

Ratings Rankings
Overall: 23rd
Rotation: 21st
Bullpen: 12th
Starting Lineup: 19th
 Bench: 27th
 Average Age: 17th
Average Salary: 32nd

Prediction - dakar is clearly in re-build mode, but he still has some very talented pieces to win games. It is unlikely that they improve drmatically on their Season 31 record, and a 70 win season and 2nd or 3rd place is a likely result. 70-92, 2nd in the NL North, not bad for the lowest payroll in the league.

Vancouver Voodoo
Season 31 Review
 Record: 61-101, 3rd in the NL North
 Runs Scored: 30th
 Runs Allowed: 29th
 Fielding Percentage: 14th
 Awards None

The big budget Voodoo had a disappointing season in Season 31. The pitching staff was led by the now-departed Prieto, while the offense relied heavily on the also departed Evans. With the disappointment of Season 31 in the past, the budget, and expectations, have been lowered in Vancouver.

Season 32 Preview
Mode - Rebuilding

Player Transactions
Additions - Free Agency - 1B Peter Brumbaugh, SP Carlos Tavarez, CF Storm Mays,

Subtractions - Free Agency - 1B Doyle Evans, CF Jorge De Aza, C Jung-Lee Wang, SP Footsie Anderson,

Ratings Rankings
Overall: 32nd
Rotation: 29th
 Bullpen: 32nd
Starting Lineup: 31st
Bench: 21st
 Average Age: 24th
 Average Salary: 19th

 Prediction - Anything other than 4th place would be a surprise. hatesong is in full re-building mode, but he's added some expensive pieces in Taverez and Mays to remain competitive.

Montreal Shamrocks Season 31 Review
 Record: 49-113, 4th in NL North
 Runs Scored: 26th
 Runs Allowed: 32nd
 Fielding Percentage: 28th
 Awards Silver Slugger - SS Alex Duran

Yours truly takes over after a train wreck of a season in Season 31. Not much good to say about last season, other than it has lowered the expectations for me! Some very good players look to re-bound from an off-year.

Season 32 Preview
Mode - Rebuilding

Player Transactions
Additions - Free Agency - RP Rich Sinclair, RP Pete Allen. Rule V - 1B Victor Ramirez, SP Kevin Richards, RP Pedro Rijo. Promoted - 3B Josh Gates

Subtractions -Free Agency - RP Frank Becker, CF and 1st Ballot "All-Name" HOF'r Harry Johnson. Released - RF Lefty Hubbard

Ratings Rankings
Overall: 22nd
Rotation: 22nd
Bullpen: 28th
Starting Lineup: 9th
 Bench: 12th
Average Age: 17th
 Average Salary: 23rd

 Prediction - In a very weak division, 2nd place is a possibility, but unlikely. The bats are there, but the pitching will need quite an improvement over Season 31 to make any noise. Sub .500 is all but certain, and a 2nd place finish is a worthwhile goal.