Sunday, December 4, 2016

Season 33 Al East Preview

Season 32: 106-56, Won Division, won World Series

Season 32 In A Nutshell
After knocking on the door for many years, the Blitz finally broke it down.  In most seasons Kelvim Hasegawa would've been the MVP (.321/35/129 with 51 SB's), but he had to settle for runnerup to Itou's 8th.  An early-season injury cost him 100 extra-basehits.

Season 33 Preview

Huntington pumps out the runs (977 last year) behind its contact/power/batting eye trio of Hasegawa, CF B.C Alfonzo (.319/41/137) and RF Olmedo Lee (.300/27/108).  Added bonus:  neither Hasegawa nor Alfonzo ever needs to take a day off (although Alfonzo does present an injury risk, having missed big chunks of Seasons 26 and 27).  They routinely pick up complimentary pieces for peanuts - this year's were C Eduardo Franco (4 years, $15.6MM) and Daryl Armstrong, who amazingly they got on waivers.  Their offense will be right there at #1 or #2 again.

As the team has aged it's the pitching staff that has taken the brunt of the losses.  The team ERA has risen from 3.29 in Season 30 to 3.79 in Season 31 to 4.10 in Season 32 (Who cares when your playoff ERA is 3.06, right?  But it's a trend worth watching).  Mark Martin had an incredible 3-year run as a sometimes-starter, sometimes middle-reliever throwing 140+ innings a year, but age had eroded his skills and he moved on for 1 more contract in Charlotte.  Jerry Ball and Boots Snider auditioned for that critical role last year; Ball failed miserably while Snider was encouraging in 85 innings. The reliable and sometimes-spectacular Shane Phillips and Vladimir Andujar will probably both get about 35 starts again and you know they're going to give you 450-470 good innings.  They're turning to Dioner Duran to fill the short relief hole left by Fausto Rodriguez.

A little unconventional but imminently effective...another 100+ win season coming in Huntington.

Durham Dark Monsters
Season 32:  75-87

Season 32 In A Nutshell

Well, the 2 years in Durham have produced more fireworks (scoring up nearly 20% plus an MVP for Monahan) but pretty much the same result.  Monahan (.279/51/137) and Eddie Harvey (.300/35/136) were outstanding, but the pitchers couldn't keep the ball in the park, allowing 247 HR's en route to a 5.08 ERA.

Season 33 Preview
The lineup gets a rookie-infused refit, with Victor Brady (Season 31 #11) at 2B, Jose Rosa (Season 29 #18) at SS, and Radhames Mendoza (OK, nor a rookie...200+ AB's last year) moving into starting roles.  Not stars but good compliments to the Monahan/Harvey RBI machine.  Vicente Rodriguez is pretty much a guaranteed .300 at DH, and Bernard Clifton is hugely valuable as a both a top leadoff man and defensive CF.  I don't know if they'll score more than last year's 807 runs, but it will cost them less to do it, and that's a good trend.

The Leon/Webster/Brooks - led rotation that looked so good in Burlington doesn't in Durham. While the 5.26 home ERA can be excused by pitching in a closet, the road ERA of 4.88 isn't appreciably better.  This year's FA addition, Christian Nakamura, isn't likely to help.  When they turn it over to the 'pen, it's old pro Yamil Duran who seems most capable - he managed a 3.82 ERA in his first year in Durham although he only pitched 33 innings (I'm guessing he was injured but didn't go on the DL).

The pitching will hold them back again, although the elevation of 3 rookies is encouraging.  This is probably the last season they'll be able to get a top prospect (or 2) if htey decide to trade Monahan...could we see a 1-year rebuild ala Charlotte with trades of Monahan, Harvey, Leon, Webster?

Chicago Capone's
Season 32: 66-96

Season 32 In A Nutshell

Trending down for a couple of seasons now as they concentrate on developing the farm.  The offense was pretty good (745 runs) with Jacob Sheldon smacking 40 HR's and Addison Oropesa posting a .298/.372/.578 slash in a shortened season.  The pitching really disappointed (5.10 ERA) with only long reliever Andy Richmond able to keep his ERA under 4.

Season 33 Preview

We're looking at another building year...much the same roster as last season.  The offense definitely has some pop with Sheldon at third, Oropesa in right, Javier Fernandez  (.279/28/108) at first and Vlad Henriquez catching (.266/28/79).  

Of the rotation, Eury Galaragga (injured last year, but a 3.68 ERA in Season 30) seems most likely to break out and have a good season.  While I'm not optimistic that Davey Bolick's ratings will translate to great succes, they will produce some interesting box scores.  Of the relievers, Pascual Hernandez has the stuff to produce good numbers, although it's been a few seasons since he has.

Some nice young stars to watch in Chicago, but very little pitching to go with them.  Let's hope they nail their #6 pick as well in this draft as they did with #12 (Zack Sears) last year.

Indianapolis 4th Chamber
Season 32:  80-82

Season 32 In A Nutshell

Steadily improving...52, 69,72,80 (those are the win totals the last 4 seasons).  The offense really arrived with 794 runs; Arthur Wells, obtained in an early-season trade, hit .282 with 31 home runs and a team-high 117 RBI.  The pitching staff improved but continues to rebuild.

Season 33 Preview

The lineup/run production is there: 1B Yean-Carlos Gonzalez and RF Darren Walton are superstars and MVP contenders; 3B Trenidad Durazo, LF Wells and DH Mule Byrnes are rising stars; Dillon Hull is among Hobbs' top CF's; and C Pablo Rosado and 2B Edgar Martin are + hitters.  This offense will improve on those 794 runs scored and could crack the top 3 in the AL.

The pitching staff is not as accomplished but it's getting there.  The Season 32 trade that brought Gonzalez also landed Geroge Camili, who's an anchor (250-260 innings) but not quite an ace (.693 career OPS-against).  
 Phil Newfield and Wily Osoria look to be of similar quality...looks like a rotation front 3 that's good enough if the offense really lights it up.
It's really a similar take on theoir late-inning guys - Sipp, Arcia and Caxito.  All are young and unproven...I think they'll all have their share of bright moments and more than a few epci meltdowns.

Division Outlook
It's Huntington again, all the way, although Indy will probably inch a bit closer.  Yes, Durham and Chicago have started well, but will be 3/4 sooner or later.

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