Sunday, August 28, 2016

AL South Preview  (season 32)

New Orleans Big Test Icicles

Season 31 in a nutshell:  So what happens when you have the world's best offense, best pitching and a very good defense?  That's right, you win 115 games, go the the World Series and.....lose.

Who's out?  Wil Gray RP, Tomas Adames RP and Matt Hunter 2B.

Who's in?  Melvin Chang RP, Zoltan Keppinger C, Virgil Torres SS and Rich Kohn SS.

Season 32:  Lets start with the pitching,  Blanch uses one of the more unusual theories that you will ever see.  The starters are just there to get through 3  innings or so, then hand it off to the amazing bullpen, headed by Sam Stock, who is just stupid-good.  Newcomer Chang will fit right in with this group,  Jeremi Wilkerson and Albert Gonzalez would be considered incredibly successful if they didn't toil in the shadow of Stock.

The offense is just as good and with the addition of Keppinger's 50 homers and Kohn's all around good hitting, should be even better.  Other stars held over are Superstar in Waiting Nick Green, 2B Dante Kawasaki, perenial 50 home run threat Tony Mullen, Cf Miguel Frieri and 1B Hector Cortez.  These guys hit the long ball and just flat out hit.

So now, the really bad news for everyone else in the AL South: the core of this team is still very young and very cheap.  While I am tempted to say they will win even more games this year, but 115 is a number that is very tough to beat.  Look for them to at least approach that.

Nashville Bootleggers

Season 31 in a nutshell:  87 wins, good for second place and a Wild Card.  

Who's out?  Vern Buckley SP, Yamil Ozuna RP, Kevin Hillenbrand 1B, Storm Mays CF

Who's In?  Peter Sonnanstine RP, Geronimo Rosario LF, William Chang LF

Season 32:  The rotation is anchored by Jason Haywood, who rebounded from a terrible start to post a pretty good season.  He is joined by Nelson Jordan, Trevor Tanner, Thomas Kingman and Benny Rosario who some how manages to be a decent pitcher despite really struggling against righties.  Taking a page from the New Orleans playbook, Nashville has really stocked up on relievers.  Sonnanstine joins an already deep pen featuring Felipe Garza, Chad Reid, Pablo Mendez, Happy Brock and Wilkin Rios.

The offense is a collection of decent to good hitters, with no real stars.  3B Oswaldo Alberro and C David Simmons had probably the best seasons last year and are supported by RF Bert Thompson, DH Eswalin Sanchez and a couple of intriguing rookies in Rosario and Chang.

This looks like a carbon copy of last season, as Nashville and Jackson battle for second and a possible wild card.  Look for Nashville to again edge out the Mudslide.

Jackson Mudslide

Season 31 in a nutshell:  84 wins and a third place finish,falling out of the playoffs after 5 seasons of post season play.

Who's out?  Dillon Mays SP, Les Haynes RP, Michael Palmer LF, Orlando Julio C, Yonder Rosado 1B

Who's in?  Al Troncoso RP, Jackie Blackwell RF and Kevin Hillenbrand 1B

Season 32: One of the AL's better offensive teams just got a little better.  Newcomers Hillenbrand and Blackwell are upgrades from Rosado and Palmer.  They should go well with Chick Ross SS, Gary Person RF, GG Dillon Hull at CF and Buck Ward C.  LF Edward Bianchi looks poised to take over in left field.

The outlook for the pitching is murkier.  Troncoso is a nice addition to the pen to go with Alfredo Butler and Hong-Jin Baek.  Sammy Ethier was brought back to fill the rotation.  Possibly the best SP would be young John Punto if he is able to make the step up from the bullpen.  Right now he is a better option than Trever Springer, who at 39, no longer has the stamina to be more than a spot starter.  Andres Santiago has been pretty successful despite control issues.

So how do they shape up for this year?  They made some upgrades, but this is an aging team.  I think .500 sounds about right.

Louisville Hot Brown

Season 31 in a nutshell: Last place with 69 wins.  This has been one possibly the most futile team in Hobbs history, with only two playoff appearances and no division titles.  Here is hoping that medeiran is the guy to finally bring this franchise some success.

Who's out?  Esteban Romero RF, Yeico Ortiz RP, Jerome Donahue SP, Rich Sinclair RP, Olmedo Tapies SS

Who's in? Ajax Williams LF, William Mather SP, Esteban Romano RF, Nate Lary RP

Season 32: Look for more of the same this year.  Retooling for the future looks to be the order of the day in Louisville.  The FAs brought in are mostly stopgaps, although Williams looks like an intriguing platoon LF. The bright spots offensively are mostly found in the IF.  Charles Forrest is still a power bat at age 36, and youth  rules the rest of it.  Julio Mercado and Pablo Valbuena are 2 of the better young players at 2B and 3B, while Kazuhiro Lui is a great fielder at SS.  Hopefully, rookie C Paul Kent can hit enough to move star hitter Raul Villa to being primarily a DH.  The pitchers will thank him.

Speaking of pitching, would be kinder not to.  The rotation has some decent arms with Mather joining Oswaldo Sardinhia, George Hernandez and Wily Osoria.  The pen is sort of the anti-Test Icicles. Barry Tobin is the best of a bad lot.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Couple More Regular-Season Musings

The Old Guys Have It #1:  With 30-somethings all over the place, Jacksonville puts up the 2nd-best record in the National League.  Everyone's been expecting top to win it all for years now...does he win it this year when no one expects it?

The Old Guys Have It #2:  Vegas' Ruben Maradona had one of the best seasons by a 40-year-old you'll ever see.  10-4 in 161 innings, with a 2.74 ERA (if he had pitched one inning to qualify for official ERA status, that ERA would have come in 2nd in both leagues).

Unusual Infielders:  Buffalo got 40 HR's each from their primary SS and 2B (Esmailyn Reynoso and Jair Costilla)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Assorted Musings On The Regular Season

The "Tough Way To End The Season" Award goes to, of course, Texas.  Up 7 with 10 games to go, the Choades went 1-9 to Charlotte's 9-1 to lose the division by 2 games. Let's give the Steam credit for a great streak at the perfect time, but josepaco, we feel for ya'.

Biggest hit of the season?  Salem and Scottsdale waited until the 7th inning of Game 162 to decide the NL West crown.  That's when Salem CF Arthur Bryant slammed a 3-run HR that proved to be the game-winner.

MVP Finally?  The AL MVP looked like another Itou-only affair for most of the season.  But Itou faded a bit late even while producing his best RBI season (170), and Joshua Monahan surged to nearly equal Jin-Chi's offense and posting 31 + plays on defense.  This may finally be his year.

What The Hell Happened To...Dover?  The defending NL Champ and big preseason mover and shaker was the overwhelming choice to get to the WS again, but fell flat to fourth in the NL East (with Wilson and Eovaldi both contending for the NL Cy Young no less). Even with the good years from their 2 big starters, their pitching fell back some - from 3rd to 9th in Team ERA.  And the offense really fizzled, scoring only 707 runs versus last year's league-leading 895.

A Big Scoring Year:  Hobbs averaged 769 runs per team this year, up from 756 in Season 30 and 758 in Season 29.

New Fashion Trend?:  Will Sam Stock's 40 wins and 195 IP change the way big STA/DUR relievers are used?  Is he more valuable throwing 195 innings mostly in the 3rd-6th innings, or 90 innings in the 8th & 9th?

Got more Regular Season Musings?  Post them as comments here or pass them along on trade chat and I'll post.

Playoff Spots Still In Play With 2 Games Left

With 2 games to go, there are still playoff berths up for grabs.

The AL decided its division winners long ago, and Nashville has secured the first Wild Card, but Jackson, Santa Cruz and San Diego are still battling for the #6 seed.  The schedule prefers San Diego, which has 2 with Cheyenne, while Santa Cruz has to face Vegas.  Santa Cruz has the tie-breaker with Jackson (via division record) and San Diego (via season series); and the Jackson-San Diego tiebreak is unclear - the division record could go either way.

In the NL, Texas had a comfortable lead in the South as recently as 7 games ago, but they've taken a 7- game nosedive at the same time that Charlotte has posted a W8, so the Steam now leads by 1.  Texas has Santa Fe and Charlotte faces San Juan in the last 2.  The teams tied their season series and the division-record tiebreak could go to either.  If a tiebreak goes all the way to run differential, Charlotte is going to have it.

Out West, Scottsdale and Salem are dead even.  Even better, they're playing each other in the last series.  Salem's up 4-3 in the season series, so the Cardinals have to win both to take the division...if they split the last 2, Salem takes the tiebreak.

So the playoff pairings are going to be something like this

Philadelphia vs. Nashville, winner plays New Orleans
Las Vegas vs. Jackson, Santa Cruz or San Diego, winner plays Huntington

Scottsdale or Salem vs.  Chicago or Rochester, winner plays Buffalo
Charlotte or Texas vs.  Chicago or Rochester, winner plays Jacksonville

Friday, July 1, 2016

Big Single-Season Records Under Assault

Ruth-Gehrig.  Mantle-Maris.  McGwire-Sosa.  Nothing lights up the fans like an attack on the home run record.  In this presumably "dead-ball era," that's exactly what we have this season.

Bob Tucker and Jin-Chi-Itou, after 83 games, have 38 and 36 homers, respectively.  That puts them on pace for 74 and 70, with Sidney Fabregas' 73 standing as the record since Season 2.

To put this in time perspective, teams averaged 4.93 runs per game in Season 2.  We're down to 4.67 the last 2 seasons (not down as much as I thought...this may be a young enough world that we didn't get much of the "steroid era"), although up a bit to 4.73 so far this year.

Itou also has a great shot at Fabregas' RBI record of 189, set in Season 8.  He has 101 through 83 games - 197 for the season if he can maintain the pace.

Neither Tucker nor Itou has taken a day off yet, so that may factor into the chase as the season wears on.  But in a "pitcher's era" it's fun to see this generation's top sluggers reaching the pinnacles of greatness.

Speaking of pitchers, Sam Stock has 21 wins and is on pace for 41.  That would shatter the previous wins mark of 34 set by the gold standard of prolific middle relievers, Orlando Fernandez, back in Season 22.  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Season 31 Draft Analysis

With most of  the first round players signed, I thought it was time for an analysis of this year's draft.   Interesting that the first round was so pitching heavy.  So without further ado:

1 (SLC) Tuck Howard.  Ostensibly a SS.  Arm won't let that happen, but CF/2B should be a solid option.  Will hit with very good contact, especially against lefties.  All other hitting attributes are good but not stellar.  Good player, should play in a couple of AS games, but as an overall #1, he gets a B+.

2 (CHY) Wayne Langerhans.  Great pick....except for that whole not signing thing.  Hopefully nicbase has the cash to get the comp pick next year.  Grade: Incomplete.

3 (SD) Mark Pettitte.  Not HOF fame material, but should make several AS games, especially pitching in Petco.  An above average player in every respect, the main quibble I have is that he will probably struggle to go over 200 IPs.  Grade: A-

4 (BOI) Jayson Purcell.  Another really good  pitcher except for one little thing.  He can probably only make 15-20 starts per year.  Relief looks like the better option.  Still a quality arm who should sign fairly soon.  Grade: B+

5 (NY1) Heath Dickerson.  My scouts missed him.  Grade: Incomplete.

6 (PIT) Theo Schulte.  Another solid arm who should sign soon enough.  Soft tosser who may struggle with the occasional tough righty, he is otherwise a good SP.  In this draft: Grade A-

7 (SAL) Arthur Taylor.  A future LF masquerading as a 2B.  His best attribute is speed, should be a good base runner who will draw walks.  Otherwise, he is pretty pedestrian at the plate.  Should be a plus defender in Left.  Grade B

8 (IND) Pep Walsh.  A good hitter with plus power.  Probably a better 1B than LF.  Won't steal bases and could do a better job drawing walks, but that is nitpicking.  Grade A-

9 (SFE)  Chris Lemaster.  Looks like the sort of player I usually pick.  Doesn't look even close to what the scouts are saying.  Definitely a RF rather than a 3B, his splits look more like 70's rather than 80/90's, and all his other hitting numbers scream mediocre at best.  Hitting in Santa Fe can only help so much.  To top it off his health and playing time both look sub-par.  Grade C+

10 (TEX) Rico Alomar.  SP whose splits look to undermine some decent ancillary numbers.  I'm seeing number 5 starter....maybe.  We are definitely at the point in the draft where talent is dropping off.  Still, there were better players out there.  Grade: B-

11 (DUR) Victor Brady.  Another of the many SS prospects destined for 2B, He has the ability to steal a ton of bases, and should be a decent hitter despite his lack of power.  While his splits do not impress much, his eye and contact are both quite good.  Grade B

12 (NAS) Dan Eibner.  Classic soft tossing lefty reliever.  May strufle to get some right handers out, but great 1st pitch and GB rating.  Grade B

13 (VC) Arodys Herrera.  Not a bad pick for this spot.  Will struggle some against lefties, but I have come around to thinking that the importance of the vL rating is overrated.  Otherwise projects as a solid middle of the rotation SP. Grade B+

14 (ROC) Matt Shaben.  Should be an OK 4-5 SP.  Throws very soft, and could keep the ball down better, but otherwise looks to be a major league caliber pitcher.  Grade B

15 (SCZ) Walt Hughes.  Think Matt Shaben with better velocitya nd FB/GB, but lesser pitches.  Grade B

16 (CHA) Freddy Martin.  Good setup A pitcher.  None of his ratings are eye-popping, but they are all at least above average and should be mostly better than that.  If he could throw more innings or start, I would rate him higher, but still a solid Grade B.

17 (LOU) Dave Zerbe.  We are definitely at the point in the draft where there are still ML quality players, but they are all roster fillers rather than potential stars.  Zerbe looks a lot like Shaben but with lower quality pitches.  Grade B-

18 (SJU) Dicky Kubitza.  One of those RPs who can save a staff by throwing a ton of innings.  Only problem is that his innings won't be real high quality.  His other numbers may not be too bad, but his vR looks marginal.  Grade B-

19 (CHR) Steven Decker.  Good news is he is a 2B who actually should be able to play decent defense there.  Bad news is his hitting may not make it worth playing him.  If he was a GG caliber SS, you would be ecstatic with his bat, but otherwise he is average at every thin ecept his batting eye, which is not good.  He should be able to steal a base though.  Grade B-

20 (SCO) David Kivlehan.  I like this guy.  Hs only Achilles Heel is his vL, but it should be good enough to get by.  He won't pitch a ton of innings as a SP, but they will be good quality.  Grade B+

21 (CH2) Matty Reyes.  If he was 18, he would be an exciting prospect, but at 22 he looks to be a bottom of the rotation SP.  Looks very average other than his velocity and GB/FB, which should both be well above average.  This late, that is worth a Grade of B.

22 (JAC) Carter Altherr.  This old man may turn into a late first round gem.  His power bat may make him worth playing his just acceptable defense at catcher.  Of course, his low health may mean he is too busy picking splinters to ever develop.  Grade B

23 (PHI) Chris Lush.  Assuming he signs (and he should), he is yet another SP who is weak against lefties, but should make up for it with his power arm and pounding it into the ground.  Solid B pending the outcome of his ratings when he signs.

24 (JAX) Sidney Seaton.  My scouts were afraid to look at him as they thought he was a gay porn star.  Grade Incomplete.

25 (SLC) Benjamin Peacock.  Speaking of gay porn stars, Mr. Peacock looks to have the range of a 2B stapled to the glove of a LF.  He does possess the ability to steal bases, but his bat looks like a backup for a few seasons at best.  Grade C+

26 (BUF) Colin Basile.  Another inning-eating RP, who will struggle to hang on to a big role in a big league bullpen.  Should make an OK SetupB for a few seasons.  Grade C+

27 (KC) Carter Rowen.   Maybe destined to be a reliever rather than a starter, but for this point in the draft I am happy with his potential.  Definitely a flyball pitcher, but that plays better in Kaufman than many stadiums.  If only his last 4 pitches were a little better....Grade B

28 (LV) Ignacio Morlan.  If that tightwad mongoose would actually sign his players, we would know more, but he looks like a potential GG LF who might platoon against lefties.  Grade C+

29 (LV) Orval Schneider.  Won't be worth signing for the money he will want.  Grade D-

30 (SAL) Gareth Damon.  May be a signability issue.  Looks like he will be a very good RP capable of over 100 quality innings.  Assuming he signs, and his projections are fairly accurate, Grade B+.

31 (DOV) Will Acker.  Appears to be a possible number 5 SP....or, just as easily, a mopup.  Grade B-

32 (NO) Tony Pelaez.  See Acker, Will.  Just not quite as good.  Grade C+

33 (HUN) Rick Ondrusek.  Same thing, just a liiiitle worse.  Grade C+

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Team Notes Game 32

We're just about one-fifth of the way into the season.  Reality is starting to set in.  That sketchy left-hander with the career 5.32 ERA is not going to bust out his career year and win 20 for you. But there have been surprises, both good and bad.  Here's a team-by-team look at items of note throughout the league.

Chicago Orphans:  Despite a 4.89 Team ERA, the Orphans are in the middle of the NL North race.  They're 2nd in runs scored in the NL...the early standouts are RF Brad O'Connor (.336/8/21) and CF Yoslan Goya (.314/6/25).

Chicago Capone's:  Total pitching collapse so far...ERA more than a run higher than last year's.  Ray of sunshine:  their power hitters are connecting (4th in AL)...Oropesa leads with 10.

Cheyenne Huckleberries:  Starters Bellinger (2-2, 3.38 ERA) and Atchley (3-2, 3.38) are trying to keep the staff afloat, but after those 2 it's just a big barrel of napalm.  Despite being short on power (AL-last 18 HR's), the offense is scoring pretty well...1B Cooke leads with 24 RBI.

Charlotte Steam:  Could this team put away the NL South early?  2nd-best Team ERA (3.64) says bet on it.  4 starters under 4.00 ERA...T.J. Maybin has been lights out at 2-2, 1.79.  Remember last year's big trade of Kelvim Hasegawa for Rich Kohn and Zoltan Keppinger?  Keppinger only leads both leagues in HR's with 19.

Charleston Flying Divots:  Looks like a rebuilding year after all for the Divots.  I still can't figure out who's the bigger mystery, Derrick Dawkins (5.26 ERA) or Nashville's Jason Haywood (7.84 ERA).

Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalobuffalo:  We knew they'd hit HR's - their 57 lead the NL.  If ROY favorite Carlos Valdivia (a tepid .261/3/5 so far) heats up, watch out.  The pitching just needs to get back to last year's level for them to eventually pull away in the North.

Boise Spuds:  Just trying to stay competitive during the rebuild.  Standouts:  SS Alex Duran (.299/6/23) and RP Jolbert Escobar (2 wins, 1 save, 1.07 ERA).