Colin’s 1st Annual Grapefruit/Cactus League All-Stars

Colin’s mysterious hiatus is over.

With one month in the books for the 2012 MLB season we have seen several surprises, some positive and some negative. On the positive side how about baseball relevancy in the Nation’s capital? This is about the time of year that the Nationals and Orioles get thrown off the back of a boat wearing cement shoes. Ahh, but not this year as both teams sit in the top half of their respective divisions.

The Nationals seem to be winning despite manager, “old man” Davey Johnson, looks to be sleeping and shows emotion only when post game fireworks remind him of the dinner bell at the local nursing home. For the Orioles, maybe they’re buying into Buck Showalter’s plan or maybe they’re winning in spite of Bucky.

Will it last? I highly doubt it. While Nationals expected win total is just one off their actual win total (based on runs scored/runs allowed), they are 9-6 in one run games and their starters have posted a microscopic era of 2.26. Wow! And that is done playing half of their games in a park that favors batters. I am pretty sure that we will see those pitching numbers regress and when they do the hitting isn’t explosive enough to carry them. Plus, their division is stacked with teams that figure to play better, see the Marlins and Phillies. I see the Nats making a run at the division until about August, and falling just short of a wild-card in September.

The Orioles face a much tougher battle to stay competitive. For starters, the AL East is brutal with three legit contenders in the Rays, Yanks and Blue Jays. Add to that they have been somewhat lucky so far, 19-11 record, but 17-13 Pythagorean expected record. Oh and let’s throw this in – they own a 6-0 record against the two worst teams in baseball, the Twins and Red Sox. By the All-Star break the Orioles will have re-located to 4th place in the AL East and there they will stay. Hey, it’s better than last place!

On the flip side is there any doubt about the two most disappointing teams out of the gate? It has to be the Phillies and Red Sox, right? The Phillies have owned the NL East for the last five years and were expected to do so again. Unfortunately, for them they have “Judy” but no punch, loosely translated – they can’t score runs! When teams struggle scoring runs even the best of pitchers, and the Phillies have maybe the best 1-2 in MLB in Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, try to be too perfect which seemingly never works well. The Phillies have scored 2 or less runs in 14 of their 32 games this season, not surprisingly they are 2-12 in those games. And sure we knew this team was going to struggle to score runs but the depth of their ineptitude has reached the bottom, it simply can’t get any worse. Translation – with their pitching they will be just fine.

Unfortunately, I am not as optimistic for the other disappointing team, the Boston Red Sox. For them the words “complete disaster” fit aptly. Too harsh? Maybe not harsh enough. For a team with virtually unlimited resources, is it acceptable that their starting outfield consists is like a “journeymen club of America” Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeney, Marlon Bryd and Darnell McDonald? Sure it’s a bit unreasonable considering the Red Sox clubhouse looks more like an M.A.S.H. unit with Youkilis, Crawford, and Ellsbury on all the DL. Ellsbury plays recklessly, you have to think there is at least a better than average chance he could be seriously hurt. Youkilis has been breaking down for the past few years. And Crawford, well let’s just leave it at this – Carl Crawford used to steal bases now he just steals money! So Red Sox management, where is the contingent plan? Oh yeah, Marlon Bryd was in the contingent plan. Really, Lucchino? I am sorry but if the Yankees suffered the losses the Sox had this season, they would go get a legit major leaguer. And sure they would have to eat a huge contract down the line, but they wouldn’t sit idle while Ryan Sweeney fails in the 9th with a running on third and less than two outs in a one run game.

Let’s switch gears from teams to players, specifically players who fooled us by posting great spring training numbers only to fall off the map once MLB starting playing for keeps. So, here is Colin Wynner’s 1st annual Grapefruit and Cactus league All-Star teams. These guys literally left it in Florida and Arizona!

 

Grapefruit League All-Stars

C – Russell Martin, NYY
ST: .275/.396/.721 7RBI/40AB RS: .188/.316/.641 7RBI/80AB
I wonder if the Yankees regret that Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda trade? I love this commentary from Pineda’s Wikipedia page regarding the trade – “The Mariners felt they could afford to part with Pineda because of their depth of top-tier pitching prospects…” Yeah, that and the fact that Pineda had an anterior labral tear that somehow went un-noticed by the Yankee doctors.
 
1B – Ike Davis, NYM
ST: OPS .798 RS: OPS .548
Ike is sporting a Mark Belanger-esque OPS of .548 so far in 2012. And about a week ago it gets reported that Ike Davis battled loneliness during spring training. Thank goodness for Ike that he is back in New York where there has to be at least a dozen or so groupies that don’t smell like urine and/or have an STD.
 
2B – Danny Espinosa, WAS
ST: .241/.302/.644 RS: .189/.278/.521 1HR
After a 2011 campaign that saw Espinoza blast 21 home runs, most experts figure that Espinoza would shake off rough 2012 spring and be a viable asset in the regular season. Who knew that spring training would be Danny’s hot streak for the year.
 
SS – Clint Barmes, PIT
ST: .288/.300/.639 RS: .152/.188/.481
There is quite a battle going on between Barmes’ OPS and David Wright’s OBP.
 
3B – Danny Valencia, MIN
ST: 4 HR, 12 RBI; 75 AB OPS: .845 RS: 1 HR, 11 RBI; 100 AB OPS: .494
Twins fan admit it – those 4 spring homers had you thinking this guy would make you forgot all about Corey Koskie.
 
OF – Matt Holiday, STL
ST: .383/.442/1.102 RS: .263/.338/.796
Holiday’s is a victim of the monster numbers he put up this spring and certainly no way deserves this reply to the question, “Should I trade Matt Holiday for Matt Cain?”, “Definitely, Cain is a stud and you’er trading away a spare part.” Ouch!
 
OF – Darnell McDonald, BOS
ST: .447/.512/1.327 RS: .179/.277/.634
Now I know why the Red Sox didn’t hastily attempt to acquire an outfielder after Ellsbury and Crawford were DL’d, because they actually believed in those spring numbers by McDonald. Because you know 33 is the age most players start to figure it out.
 
OF – Brennan Boesch, DET
ST: 6 HR/17 RBI; 73AB OPS: .928 RS:4HR/ 13 RBI; 126 AB OPS: .572
Brennan might be coming out of his early season funk now that he has been dropped to the 7th position in the batting order – .032 increase in his OPS in two games. Next stop – Ozzie Smith-land
 
SP – Francisco Liriano, MIN
ST: 33 K/5 BB; 1.11 WHIP RS: 21 K/19 BB; 1.356
Oh, where to start with this guy. Goodness is there a player in MLB more mentally weak than Frankie? He dominated the spring, those numbers were Koufaxian. But now that the regular season has begun he’s morphed into John Lackey, circa Theo Epstein. Yup, he can’t throw strikes, hardly gets outs and looks completely lost on the mound. You know it is bad when if your ERA is like an A1C test result of a high risk patient.
 
CL – Heath Bell, FLA
ST: 8IP, 0ER, 12K, 1-1 Save Opp RS: 11.2 IP, 13ER, 8K, 3-7 Save Opp
Four blown saves in the first month of the season has got Heath some mop-up duty of late. Marlins fans have been begging Heath to do his patented full speed slide at the mound in hopes he would tear a ligament in multiple leg locations.
 

 

Cactus League All-Stars

C – Kurt Suzuki, OAK
ST: .243/.349/.727 6BB/5 K RS: .216/.250/.534 3BB/17 K
Billy Beane hates players who don’t walk. Kurt you’re about to get a one way ticket to Minnesota. In fact maybe Suzuki and Liriano have some kind of Freaky Friday body switch thing going on since the beginning of the season. Kurt, for goodness sake, give Frankie back his strikeouts!
 
1B – Albert Pujols, LAA
ST: 7HR/20 RBI; 60AB RS: 1 HR/12 RBI; 138 AB
Al should have saved a few of those spring homers for the regular season. Still, I’d bet on the over 30 HR for him.
 
2B – Gordon Beckham, CHW
ST: .275/.346/.766 RS: .208/.280/.600
I think Gordon Beckham is the Michael Crabtree of MLB. High draft pick, loads of talent and, most importantly, roto owners all believe this is “the year” for him. Not. Going, To, Happen.
 
SS – Erick Aybar, LAA
ST: 5SB, 18R, .389/.421/.963 RS: 1 SB, 8 R, .200/.227/.470
Remember all the buzz about Aybar after Pujols was signed by the Angels? How he will be a run scoring machine? Remember when Erick scored 18 runs in spring? Yeah, that was fun. I am no sabermetrician, but it seems like a .227 OBP doesn’t give you many opportunities to score runs.
 
3B – Scott Rolen, CIN
ST: 4 HR, 12 RBI; 75 AB OPS: .845 RS: 1 HR, 11 RBI; 100 AB OPS: .494
Nobody has hit .400 since Teddy Ball-game’s .406 back in 1941, but Roeln is going to give some serious chase with that .494, oh wait that’s OBP, nevermind!
 
OF – Alex Gordon, KC
ST: .383/.442/1.102 RS: .256/.351/.762
How many times do you see it – a guy signs a huge contract in the off-season, then after lighting it up in spring, he falls off the map, his career goes in the tank, ends up on the Yankees and somehow resuscitates his career?
 
OF – Lorenzo Cain, KC
ST: .371/.450/1.193 5HR/11RBI RS: .133/.176/.310 0 HR/1 RBI
It’s a little unfair given that Cain has only played five games this season. Unfortunately, being fragile and batting 2/15, after having the spring Cain makes him a candidate for Cactus League MVP.
 
OF – Alfonso Soriano, CHC
ST: 6 HR/18 RBI; 56AB OPS: .963 RS:0HR/16 RBI; 112 AB OPS: .587
Maybe Alfonso can pick up some home runs on EBay. Over/under on what the Cubs will pay per Alfonso home run this run – $1.5 Million. Yup, 18 million just doesn’t get you as much as it used to.
 
SP – Luis Mendoza, KC
ST: 4-0, 0.47 ERA, 21 K/5 BB RS: 2-2, 4.76 ERA, 13 K/ 18 BB
Let’s be honest nobody gives a crap about spring ERA, but 0.47! Really? Wow and the K-BB ratio was great, so you had to think Luis was about to become the ace of a fairly mediocre staff. Then it hit me – the spring training strike zone is like Hillary Clinton’s jowls, already over-sized and growing by the minute.
 
CL – Hector Santiago, CHW
ST: 2-0, 0.82 ERA, 1-1 Save Opp RS: 1-1, 5.25 ERA, 4-6 Save Opp
Santiago named closer on virtually opening day, he then rewarded manager Robin Ventura’s by going 3-3 in the first six games. He hit a rough patch in the next 3 save opportuinites, blowing 2 of the 3. No biggie, right? Wrong, bye-bye Hector. And you thought your boss was a prick.
 

 

 


2011 MLB Playoffs – NCLS Prediction

NLCS – St. Louis Cardinals vs. Milwaukee Brewers

It is good to see the Central representing baseball! As with most teams in the same division they’re natural rivals without much love lost between the two. Of course, more often than not the hatred is more a creation of media-hype than true bad blood. That is not the case with the Cardinals and Brewers, they really hate each other.

Whether it’s Nyjer Morgan, aka Tony Plush, cussing out Chris Carpenter while whoipping a wad of chew at him or Morgan tweeting taunts to the Cardinals that they should watching the Brewers in the post-season, this series is filled with more sub-plots than a season of Survivor.

Of course, it doesn’t that when confronted with the opportunity to eliminate the Cardinals from contention, the Brewers lost 6 of 7 to keep them alive. The Brewers might regret not killing the Cardinals when they had the chance.

The Brewers have the home field, which will make a difference if the Brewers can find a way to close it out in six. If this series goes seven, the Cardinals win with Carpenter on the mound.

It’s just Wisconsin’s time (Packers, Brewers, Badgers? and Packers?). . .

Pick: Milwaukee 4-2

2011 NLDS Prediction – Phillies and Cardinals

St. Louis @ Philadelphia NLDS Prediction –

Starting Pitching – If the Cardinals could run out game one starter Chris Carpenter for every game, the might have a chance. With Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Oswalt this is a major mismatch!

Edge – Phillies, huge!

Relief Pitching – The thing is the Phillies starters are so good they relegate the bullpen to virtually meaningless. Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo have been effective, if not spectacular at times. The Cardinals counter with a largely unproven closer in Fernando Sales. The setup men are solid in Michael Boggs and Jason Motte. All in all, this is a wash.

Edge – Even

Offensive Intangibles – The Cardinals have clear advantage in offense, but is it enough to offset the distinct advantage the Phillies have in pitching. What the Cardinals really need is Pujols or Berkman to have a “James Loney”-type moment where they deliver a huge bomb early in game one to set the tone for the entire series.

Edge – Cardinals

Finish – Phils finished the key “50” at 33-17, while the Cardinals were merely 29-21. But the Cardinals finished the regular season on a 21-8 run; they caught the Braves and have “Rockie”, circa 2007, like fell to them.

Edge – Cardinals

Managers – I never been a LaRussa fan and his series rotation decisions are perplexing at best. The Cardinals skipper is starting his number four in game one and waiting to start a very serviceable Edwin Jackson until game four or game one of next season! Wow, just wow. LaRussa optimizes the manager who gets in the way of the team’s success. On the other side, Charlie Manuel’s goal in life is to breath, which gives the Phils a giant advantage.

Edge – Phillies

Anti-Yankee bias – There is no way I want to see the Cardinals being able to defeat the Yankees in the World Series. If that happens, chalk up #28 before the series begins. But the Phillies have motivation (2009 WS), as well as the dominate pitching.

Edge – Phillies

Prediction – Phillies 3 Cardinals 0

 

2011 NLDS – Brewers and Diamondbacks

Arizona @ Milwaukee NLDS Prediction

Starting Pitching – This is going to be a great series, too bad only 25,000 people will see games three and four, come on D-Backs fan get on the bandwagon.

The Brewers top two starters, Yovani Gallardo and Zach Greinke wash with the D-Backs top two, Ian Kennedy (did you know Kennedy won 21 games this season, me neither!) and Daniel Hudson. The advantage for the Brewers comes in their third and fourth starters, Marcum and Wolf who easily out-distance two of Collmenter, Saunders and Miley.

Edge – Brewers

Relief Pitching – While Axford causes Brewers fan to drink (hilarious, like the Brewers fan needs an excuse to drink), Putz (seriously it’s pronounced Pootz, come on, man, it’s Putz, like you’re a Putz) is far from a Rolaids-free closer. I trust Axford just a bit more, so I give a slight advantage to the Brewers. A bigger advantage is gained by the Brewers with the rest of the bullpen, they have a former closer as their 8th inning pitcher in K-Rod while the D-Backs counter with David Hernandez. In addition, the depth of the Brewer pen is superior to the D-Backs.

Edge – Brewers

Offensive Intangibles – The Brewers firepower is far superior to the D-Backs. Fielder, Braudn, Weeks, Hart and Morgan versus Justin Upton and, uh, uh, Miguel Montero. Not really that close!

Edge – Brewers

Finish –Brewers, 35-15. D-Backs, 32-18. Not a clear advantage. One thing that is very clear is that we have the eight best teams in the playoffs, every single team in the playoffs took care of business when it mattered most.

Edge – Even

Managers – This is the one category where the D-Backs have a significant advantage – Kirk Gibson is is bordering on supernatural with what he has done with this team. It is truly, truly remarkable to win the division with that rag-tag bunch. Some guys are just destined to be successful in whatever they do, Gibby is one of them. He’s fiery guy who probably early on got in the faces of a few players to send a message early and then he merely had to give “that look”, you know the “look”.

Ron Roenicke is a fine manager, but in this series he is a little like showing up to an awards show wearing a solid outfit, but you just happen to arrive at the same time as Halle Berry. Forget about it.

Edge – D-Backs

Anti-Yankee bias – Uh, neither team can beat the Yankees. Therefore, I have to go with the least threatening team to the Phillies . . .

Edge – D-Backs

Prediction – Brewers 3 D-backs 2

 

2011 ALDS Prediction – Yankees and Tigers

NY Yankees @ Detroit ALDS Prediction

Starting Pitching – Two aces – C.C. and Verlander meet in what might be the most critical game one is the history of the division Series. It’s not a terribly bold statement to assume that the winner of game one will win the series, nor it is overly bold to state that the series will end in a sweep. The playoffs are all about momentum and the game one winner will have the lion’s share for the next two games. The pitchers on both sides for games two and three are mediocre at best, meaning lots of runs, which favors the team with “mo”.

Joe Girardi has decided again to go with a three man rotation. That puts a ton of pressure on C.C. having to return for a game four with only three days’ rest. Come on, Joe you don’t trust Colon, Hughes or Burnett out there? Wow, you have a few bas starts and the manager turns on you.

  1. C.C. Sabathia
  2. Justin Verlander
  3. Take your pick between Nova, Fister, Porcello, Garcia and Scherzer, games two and three will look like the entry to Macy’s on Black Friday.

Edge – Yankees, slightly

Relief Pitching – How much do you want to bet that Jose Valverde blows a save in this series? “Papa Grande” went 49-49 in save situations, anyone remember Gary Anderson of the Vikings and his perfect regular season! In an honest moment, Tigers fan would openly admit that it would have been better if Valverde would have blown one of those meaningless September games.

Valverde has been solid, but he walks the tight rope a little more than you would like out of a closer, his 2011 BABIP is a little low, suggesting that he might have lady lucky on his side this season. And the Yankees closer is this guy named “La Arena El Hombre“, yeah, the Yankees have the advantage.

Also, the Yankee setup guys (Soriano, Robertson and Logan) have a slight advantage over the Tigers (Coke, Benoit and Alburquerque).

Edge – Yankees

Offensive Intangibles – These are two hulking, brawny offenses that hit the ball with authority and have no need to play small ball. Though it’s close, the Tigers top offensive players have been better than their Yankees counterparts in virtually all offensive categories, except salary.

The best base stealer on either team is Brett Gardner, but with the Yankees lineup will he even be given a chance to run? My guess, neither team is going to apply too much pressure to the others defense for fear of taking the bat out of the hands of the competent, highly priced bat.

Edge – Tigers

Finish – The Tigers played the “key” 50 at 34-16. The Yankees 31-19, not a huge difference between the teams; the difference is easily explainable by the fact the Yankees play in the AL East teams while the Tigers were fattening up on the AL Central.

Edge – Even

Managers – It’s a bit of a panic move by Girardi to opt for a three man rotation, but he literally doesn’t have any viable options with Hughes, Burnett and Colon. Those three were so inept in meaningless games down the stretch that Girardi would be better off sending himself to the mound.

I would also throw this in – the “Dream Team” was in the same division as the Yankees this season, so they were a pre-season after-thought; therefore, for the Yankees winning the division is a bonus, so they’re playing with house money this post-season. That makes them an extremely dangerous team and Girardi will be at his best. Plus, Leyland spends the majority of his in-game time running between the dugout and clubhouse ramp to get in a smoke!

Edge – Yankees

Anti-Yankee bias – Uh, it’s the Yankees, I hope they lose in three games by a combined score of 68-0. And unlike the Twins, the Tigers have sacked up to beat the Yankees in the post-season, so I’ve got that going for me.

Edge – Tigers

Prediction – Yankees 3 Tigers 1

 

2011 ALDS Prediction – Rays and Rangers

I utilize six key metrics to handicap the MLB playoff series – in order of importance – 1. Starting pitching, added weight for dominate “ace”-like pitchers; 2. Relief pitching – top three relievers, closer and starter turned reliever for the playoffs; 3. Offensive intangibles (otherwise known as “Catch-All”). Which team is best at applying pressure on the defense versus which team is likely going to sit waiting for a big-booper to hammer a three run shot; 4. How did the team finish the season (games 102-152, I ignore the last 10 since most teams that have clinched a spot tend to treat those games as exhibition); 5. Managers, a good MLB manager doesn’t win games, he merely has to keep from losing them; and 6. Anti-Yankee bias, the completely random “who can beat the Yankees” category. Mix those six metrics together and it’s pretty easy to pick the series winners.

2010 Record – Division Series: 1-3, LCS: 0-2, WS: 0-1 (you might want to fade these picks)

Tampa Bay @ Texas –

Starting Pitching – Neither team has a lock down, ace-type pitcher, however, the Rays hold the advantage, 1-8.

  1. James Shields, TB
  2. C.J. Wilson, Tex
  3. David Price, TB
  4. Matt Harrison, Tex
  5. Matt Holland, Tex
  6. Jeremey Hellickson, TB
  7. Colby Lewis, Tex
  8. Matt Moore, TB*

The asterisk next to Moore’s represents that he might be 8th or he might be 1st. According to Fan Graphs, Moore has the best stuff on the Rays roster, but he is making just his second career start (the first was against the triple-A team the Yankees were trotting out at the end of the season). Let’s say Moore goes belly-up, I give slight the advantage to the Rays, but if Moore lives up to the hype the Rays gain a huge advantage.

Plus, I don’t really trust C.J. Wilson in the playoffs; imagine how I feel about Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis and Matt Holland. The Rangers need those four guys to keep games close, where the bullpen advantage can come into play.

Edge – Rays

Relief Pitching – The Rays starting pitching will need to go deep into games to mitigate the clear advantage the Rangers have in the bullpen. I ask you the question, if your favorite team is clinging to one run lead in the 9th, who do you want closing – Kyle Farnsworth or Neftali Perez? That’s a little like asking – do you want your balls crushed by a falling anvil or a help yourself bowl of yogurt loaded with tantalizing toppings?

Edge – Rangers

Offensive Intangibles – The Rays have the athletes to put massive pressure on opposing defenses, but in order for that to be a factor the Rays have to get on base. Therein lies the problem for the Rays, they have trouble getting on base.

And how often can the Rays count on a guy with hitting splits of .119/.187/.202/.389 (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS) to rescue them from the abyss? Conversely, the Rangers are just as athletic but unlike the Rays they can mash. The Rangers lead the Rays in virtually every offensive category. Of course, the Rangers play in one of the most hitter friendly parks, while the Rays play in a definite pitchers park so that accounts for some of the difference.

I feel a little more comfortable with a lineup that includes Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre and Michael Young over a lineup with Evan Longoria and . . .

Edge – Rangers

Finish – One would think the Rays played sizzling baseball down the stretch based on overcoming a nine game deficit. Nope it was sheer incompetence from the team they were chasing – 17-10 in their last 27, however, the Rays were 36-14 in the key “50” or .720 baseball. The Rangers countered with a 35-15 record, so both teams are playing exceptionally well heading into the post-season.

Edge – Even

Managers – I’m not in love with either manager, but Joe Maddon would scare me to death if I were a Rays fan. From the decision to start Matt Moore in game one to wacky lineups based on his Oui board feeling, this guy walks a fine line between genius and effing moron.

Ron Washington is a little more conservative, consistently playing the percentages and making the “smart”, justifiable moves.

At the end of the day, I will take a manager that doesn’t get in the way of the team winning versus one who takes too many risks and can end up costing his team a win.

Edge – Rangers

Anti-Yankee bias – Bottom line for the Rangers is – beating the Yankees is playoff ritual (I know, it’s only one year), so we know that can take down the Yankees. On the other hand, I think the Ray can beat the Yankees. I will take “know” over “think” every day.

Edge – Rangers

Prediction – Rangers 3 Rays 1