Thursday, September 13, 2007

Kick A Man When He's Down

Gary Bettman decides to get off his ass and actually does some commissioner work at the expense of the Toronto Maple Leafs and crashing their 2007 RBK Edge uniform debut party. The man decides to suspend newly acquired Toronto Maple Leaf Mark Bell after a big indiscretion on his part. The man drove drunk, injured another person via a car accident and left the scene of a crime. Those are pretty bad charges. Bell agrees to the charges, pleads guilty, gets 6 months in jail and has to enroll into the NHL substance abuse program without pay. That is pretty hefty sanctions taken against him and that is all by the California State justice system. Then on the biggest media day for the Toronto Maple Leafs the Commissioner lays down a 15 game suspension on Mark Bell. Ridiculous! I can understand if this has been done before and was to be expected but it was clearly out of left field. No precedence exists regarding any type of game suspensions involving NHL players and off ice activity. There are two larger cases to look at regarding NHL players and their off ice activities. I am referring to Theo Fleury and Dany Heatley. Both cases are different but Dany Heatley killed his teammate even though accidental. And Theo Fleury has been in and out of the substance abuse program until he left the NHL. This is nothing more than kicking a man when he is down. And give him an extra kick just to make sure he stays there. Theo Fleury has been a resident mainstay in the substance abuse program until he left and this is practically like the same case.

A few years ago I was arguing that Theo Fleury was still a great player and that all everyone was doing was poking him in the face. Just poking him and poking him, and what happens when people just keep poking you? You fight back, that is all he was doing and he was labeled a bad guy and washed up. Yes it was due to some of his problems but if you keep poking and prodding the man he is just going to lash out.

Mark Bell spoke yesterday saying that this is fair and he will abide by it, but it is complete bull. All of the people to start a precedent pick the one NHL Player who didn’t kill anyone and one who is actually going to repay his debt to society by spending time in jail. I could argue and agree to the points that this is just to set up future action against other players who decide to get in trouble off the ice.

I understand you can not go back and revise history but to just start handing out suspensions now is the wrong time. Start with Rick Tocchet or if Jay Bouwmeester faces no jail time, then start by suspending him. How many more penalties are going to be handed out to Mark Bell? How about suspending Mark Bell for doing interviews with the wrong colour tie, that should be worth 25 Games.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Boys Should Be Boys, Not Men

The boy becomes a man in 17 days. Well a man according to the Canadian Government. Although he is still unable to buy cigarettes and alcohol in the province of Ontario where he is employed as one of the biggest names, if not the biggest name in the Ontario Hockey League. After two seasons John Tavares wants to be eligible for the NHL Draft at the end of the NHL 07-08 season. The only problem is that he is 5 days to late to be eligible for the NHL draft. That and the fact that he began his OHL career at the age of 15.

If unaware with the circumstances around John Tavares, he was a special exemption into the OHL based on the fact that he was such a dominant figure playing Midget AAA. In his final year Tavares had 158 points with the Toronto Marlboro’s and finished with the

 Milton Merchants with another 28 points in the final 20 games. That is a pretty good year. I recall when they first started talking about him I said it would not be a good idea for him to be allowed to play in the OHL. But then again they did a good thing when they brought Tavares in. They said he has to play his 5 years in the OHL, no matter what club he is with. Although who would be stupid enough to trade the kid, it would be like trading Wayne Gretzky… oh wait some G.M.’s did that. How long did Mike Keenan stay in St. Louis after he traded Gretzky to the New York Rangers?

Back to the issue, Tavares is only 17 years old and he is not eligible till the 09 draft. That is how it should be. He should not be allowed to be in this draft just because he has some lawyers and a lot of potential. Yes he is setting the new General Motors Arena in Oshawa on fire. But other than personal accomplishments what has he done in his two years in Generals white and red? Has the Oshawa Generals defended their OHL crown? Have they won the OHL title in 1 of the 2 years? Have they been Eastern Conference Champions? Have they won the Eastern Conference’s Eastern Division Title? Have they made the playoffs? Well that is the only question that the answer is yes. I am not taking anything away from the kid because his personal numbers show that he is a force to reckon with being 6’ and around 190lbs. he is a big boy, shades of an Eric Lindros only he can skate with his head up.

Tavares racked up 45 goals and 77 points in his first season. Tavares was also -13 and had 72 PIM. I will never say anything bad about having PIM because as a Canadian born hockey player you should be well versed in scoring goals as much as dishing out punishment. Take a look at Mike Richards when he was with the Kitchener Rangers. Or even Evan McGrath, the same style of play with a pair of hands to slide the puck behind the goalie in an instant. Usually the London Knights goaltender, which was very annoying if you are a Knights fan and you, always placed a nice wager on blanking the Rangers.

Tavares undoubtedly had a coming out party in 06-07 when he recorded 72 goals and 134 points and being a +25 mark with 60 PIM. I got a chance to see him come to Mississauga and play, he is very good, even when he isn’t scoring goals he is a threat and a great presence on the ice. But no matter how good Tavares is the 17-year-old kid from Oakville is only a kid. Transitioning from the OHL, WHL, QMJHL or NCAA to the NHL is a huge transition and not everyone is ready for it. You can have all the skill in the world but it doesn’t mean it will translate into success. Alexandre Daigle anyone? How about Dan Blackburn? How many times have there been young kids rushed to make a buck and have killed themselves. Blackburn is now doing who knows what after completely tearing his shoulder up and Daigle, well you try to explain that one. There are two quick examples of kids who came in two fast and have done nothing but fizzle out.

Tavares was signed with the idea that the Oshawa Generals would have him for 4 full seasons, well probably more like 3.5 if a team needs a guy like him for the final push. He will probably end with a Guelph Storm, London Knight, Kitchener Ranger or Barrie Colts uniform on but he should not be allowed to make the jump to the NHL. He was signed as an ‘Exceptional Player’ and just because he has that label does not enable him to become one in the NHL. It is a tough playground when you’re just a kid. Think of all the bullies who do that for a living.

I am looking forward to seeing you in a Generals jersey for a few more years as I pay only $15 in Mississauga to boo the shit out of you. Too bad the St. Michael Majors of Toronto moved in to Mississauga. Bring back the IceDogs!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Stats Schmatz

I was going to discuss why Stephen Ames is more deserving than Mike Weir to be in the President’s Cup. But in reality just because it is in Canada doesn’t mean that there needs to be a Canadian in the field. I mean after all there is a ton of talent that is going to be at the event. There is no real need for a Canadian to be playing in this event. There is Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Stuart Appleby, Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Reteif Goosen, Angel Cabrera, Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Scott Verplank and more. If that doesn’t sell tickets in Canada then Canadians just do not like golf.

Also, there has been so much rhetoric about experience over what a player does now, which I actually agree with, although consistency is the only thing that Ames has right now over a recovering Weir. What I am going to discuss right now is an ongoing discussion I have with my former radio co-host and a few other friends of mine.

How much stock can you actually put into Sports Statistics?

Take a young pitcher such as Matt Cain who pitches for the San Francisco Giants. Last year Matt Cain went 13-12 as a rookie and many people believed there is much more potential in the tank that is untapped. This year Matt Cain is 4-13 and everyone has written this kid off. Does anyone actually see this kid pitch or are you just watching the stats. Moving to Hockey I have the displeasure of watching Andrew Raycroft play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. They did not make the playoffs this year but he did set a new Maple Leafs goaltender record with 37 wins. On the surface that is huge, BUT!!!!
If you watched him play he is god awful, just horrible and definitely not worth the $2.5 million he is making. Not to mention that a few of the wins came from shootouts, in which he blew the lead, or the team got a flukey goal. The point of it is that you can not just look at stats, and yes many people do not have the necessary means to watch more than their hometown coverage or any bonus footage.

Back to Matt Cain, 3 of his losses were outstanding losses, his first lost this year was 7.0Inn of 1H 1ER baseball. And the Giants lose the game 1-0. A loss against Oakland Athletics on 6/10 Cain pitched 8.0INN with 5H 1ER and 8K’s and loses 2-0. Another outing he pitches 7.1Inn with 2ER and 11K on 5H and the Giants lose 4-3. So is Matt Cain that bad of a pitcher? No. Is his stats bad? Yes. Even the best pitchers in the game today have severe trouble.

Former Cy Young award Winner Roy Halladay has had a winning pitching record 5 of the last 6 seasons, in 2004 he had an 8-8 record and was on the shelf for a good chunk of that time. In those 6 seasons he has gone 90-36 (current 2007 stats included). Every year Halladay has 2-3 starts where he will go 8+ innings of 1 run ball and lose the game 2-0. It happens to everyone. Some pitchers more than others. Matt Cain is just one example but there are at least 10 other pitchers who people are willing to get off the band wagon just because the end stats are horrific and ignore the fact that they are still a great pitcher that doesn’t always have their team helping them out. Just remember Gustavo Chacin last year. He finished the year 9-4 in 17 starts and finishing with an ERA over 5. He gave up early runs but for some reason the Toronto bats would come alive and bail him out so he can get the win.

The point is that you can only put about 55-60% weight in just looking at the stats when judging whether a player is good or not. There is so much more than a W-L record or how many HR a player can hit. Or how many goals or touchdowns an individual makes.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Devil Rays Problem 2 of 2: A Solution Is Near

So yesterday was a look at how the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have basically been a team with a history of… well losing. And it isn’t like the trend is stopping. As I am typing this up, they are currently down 3-0 to the Boston Red Sox and sit at the bottom of the AL East with a record of 45-72 and 25 games back of AL East Leading Boston Red Sox.

My stance does not change. If the Devil Rays had a decent rotation with an Ace and 2 .600 pitchers they could easily move up to third in the AL East standings. The Toronto Blue Jays are slightly better than what the D-Rays will need. The Rays have their Ace in Scott Kazmir who is 9-7 with 160K’s in 151.0 Innings. Not bad for a 23 year old kid. The rest of the 2007 Rotation is a bunch of kids looking for a chance to play baseball. Jason Hammel, Edwin Jackson, James Shields and Andy Sonnanstine are only 24, 23, 25 and 24 respectively. Do you expect these kids to all of a sudden flip on a switch and become solid aces such as Johan Santana or Roy Halladay? What about great number two pitchers such as Derek Lowe or Dice-K? The Blue Jays had to wait for Roy Halladay to work his way back up through A-class ball back to the Bigs. Sometimes you just have to wait this out.

So lets look at a few ways the Devil Rays could possibly improve. Well they could always start by opening up their pocket book. There are a few veteran pitchers out there who wouldn’t mind working with these young kids. Gil Meche instantly comes to mind, and he did even want to come to a media centre. That is how he ended up in Kansas City. That and $11 Million a year couldn’t help. Opening up the purse strings can attract the most unlikely of talent. And right now they can use any talent. But looking at the history of paying players and looking at the salaries of everyone on the roster there is only Carl Crawford making some good money. Dan Wheeler is another who is making some money, just over $2 Million this season. Currently there are 18 players who are under contract for less than a $1million, and there are 5 players on the roster whose salary is not disclosed. There is a pretty good chance that they are making well under a million dollars. Are the Devil Rays actually going to start dishing out some cash? Probably not. Will they be able to attract some free agent pitching? Not unless they need a year salary to pay off some debts or they are over the age of 35.

So effectively there is only one more option. Wait for your staff to mature. And to be honest it is probably the most effective. If you are going to pay your talent, make it your home-grown talent. Since they are all 24 years old, give them 2-3 years and they will be all at least .500 pitchers. They are youthful. They have the power. They have the control. But you just have to wait. The Blue Jays gave Halladay 3-4 Years to develop; Kazmir is on to year 3 now, just wait for the rest of the staff to mature.

This team will be out of the basement next season but just barely ahead of Baltimore or Toronto. And in 2009 could just be in contention for… well maybe still 4th place.

As long as the Rays keep their young talent in the field and the young staff they will be able to upset some teams through out the season. You can count on it. Laugh all you want… Although I am aware that Toronto and Baltimore will pretty much have to not improve over the next few seasons even though the young pitching of the Blue Jays is a surprise to everyone this year. And Baltimore is looking pretty good. In the interest of competition Hopefully the Rays will improve ten fold and there will be a great race in the AL East for a few seasons to come.

It is a good thing that Mike Weir was selected to the President’s Cup Team… To Bad for Stephen Ames… Get this opinion and more coming tomorrow.

Devil Rays Problem 1 of 2: The History That Caused The Storm

For the purposes of this article I am just looking at the Tampa Bay Devil Rays short history in MLB and how every year, there is promise at the plate, but there is no pitching that save them.

In the Devil Rays 10 seasons they have never been better than a .500 team. To be completely specific this team has never been better than a .435 club. With only around 40 games remaining it looks as though the Devil rays will have to struggle just to make .400.

This team has been able to do a lot of high drafting in their 10 year history and has had a few bright spots in their lineup. Just take a look at what they were fielding back in their inaugural year.

John Flaherty behind the plate who is now deemed useless he is catching for Tim Wakefield in Boston. Fred McGriff at the age of 34 was their homerun champ at 1st base. The pair up the middle was Miguel Cairo at second and Kevin Stocker at short. The Hot corner was manned by Bobby Smith. From left to right, the outfield looked like this, Quinton McCracken, Randy Winn and Dave Martinez. Then there was also a man by the name of Wade Boggs who got his 3000th hit in a Ray’s uniform. As for their rotation and bullpen, there is just no reason to mention any of them. Not because they were not caliber pitchers, but because… well that is the reason, there was no pitching staff to go along with their C- hitting. The 1998 squad finished with a 63-99 record which is respectable considering it was their inaugural year.

Moving to the 1999 squad the D-Rays improved to a 69-93 record and showed some promise with their closer Roberto Hernandez who reached a career best 43 saves in the 1999 season, but was conceivably on the way down since he was 34 that year.

The 2000 Rays squad was poised to improve on their 69 wins but was only able to match their 69 wins that season but only had 92 losses to give them a better winning percentage of .429 over 1999’s .426. But there is still no stand outs just a mix between unknown youth, and over the hill veteran talent. It is almost like the Toronto Maple Leafs… But there time is coming.

The 2001 Squad took a turn for the worse and went to 62-100 making the first time the franchise has had 100 losses, a feat that will be match 2 more times in the next 5 seasons.

In 2002 the Devil Rays had a much better looking lineup and their pitching depth… was still missing. The Rays went 55-106 that season but saw the emergence of a few talents. The Rays now had a young catcher that would be ready for the everyday job in Toby Hall. They had an outfielder who they could build the outfield around in 20 year old Carl Crawford. There was also Aubrey Huff who broke out and emerged as an offensive threat with a team high 23HR and a .313BA. The Devil Rays were definitely getting better offensively but pitching was still a major concern.

2003 was the start of the new Devil Rays with Lou Pinella at the helm and this was definitely going to be a season to watch. The outfield was helped out with the arrival of LF Rocco Baldelli who didn’t post power numbers but was second on the team with 184 hits trailing RF Aubrey Huff who had 198 hits. For the second straight year their lineup looked good and was only getting better with an average age of 26.5 for their starters.

2004 was the Devil Rays best year in franchise history. They finished with 70 wins and the basement of the AL east finishing ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays for fourth place. The year was an improvement all around even in the pitching. Not a big improvement but there was a 20 year old fire-baller by the name of Scott Kazmir that made his debut. And although heout of hasn’t won 20 games yet, He is only 23 and a 10 perennial 10 game winner also helps out the D-Rays. Also debuting in 2004 was a 23yr old outfielder by the name of Joey Gathright, and 23yr old Jonny Gomes who would be thrusted into a more serious roll in 2005.

The 05 season is probably the best squad to march on to the field in history. They had a legitimate power duo in Aubrey Huff and Jonny Gomes. They had a solid everyday catcher in Toby Hall. Infielders Travis Lee and Alex Gonzalez added veteran presence in the clubhouse, and a slightly better than average outfield featuring young talent that can throw and run down any ball hit past the infield. Their pitching was even a vast improvement. Scott Kazmir led the staff, veteran Mark Hendrickson gave leadership and guidance. Even Casey Fossum, Doug Waetcher and Hideo Nomo was an improvement over any other starting rotation. They also had a closer in Danny Baez who posted 41Sv that season. The Rays finished with a record of 67-95 which is a considered a disappointment and a step backwards from their 70 wins in 04.

This ended the tenure of Lou Pinella who stepped down due to medical conditions. In 8 seasons the Rays did not crack the .500 mark and had almost 3 seasons of 100 losses from 2001-2003 (62-100, 55-106, 63-99).

The Start of the Joe Maddon Regime is about to begin in 2006 and it should be the start of something good with all their players on the rise and a respectable rotation and the buildings of a bullpen.

Check back for the 06 and 07 season recaps as well on thoughts of why the Florida Marlins were able to win 2 world series in their first two years and to why the D-Rays can not make the .450 mark.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Griffey Is Still A Threat

There was a time when Ken Griffey Jr. was one of the most feared hitters in the game. Griffey was feared more than Barry Bonds is now and even more than Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa during their chase for Roger Maris’ homerun record. Now-a-days when you discuss the greatest hitters of the game, with ‘average’ or today’s fans, you only hear names like Berkman, Rodriguez, Pujols, Bonds, and Ichiro etc. Griffey is now an afterthought in these discussions unless you find someone old enough to remember when he played for Seattle. For the most part his time in Cincinnati is considered a waste and a blackmark on his career because of all the injuries during the ‘end’ of his prime. Even though his power numbers has severely dropped off and he is no longer going to break every offensive record imaginable, just take a minute to reflect on why Griffey should still be considered a big threat in the National League today. Griffey broke and re-wrote every offensive number that the Seattle Mariners had in their record books while he had on #24. He was the super kid that drew fans to the Kingdome for no other reason to see the 19 year old phenom that was dubbed the next Willie Mays. He had a stellar Rookie campaign cut short due to broken fingers but still finished with 120H in 127 G, 16HR and 61RBI and 16SB. Not bad for a shortened Rookie season. The rest of Griffey’s credentials while in a Seattle Mariners uniform speak for itself. Griffey received 10 straight Gold Glove awards from 1990-1999. He is a 4 time AL Homerun Champion (1994, 1997-1999) and the AL MVP for the year of 1997. When Griffey finished his time in Seattle he had 1742 hits, 398 homeruns, 1152 rbi’s, 167 stolen bases and finished 11 seasons in Seattle with a 298 batting average. To digest these numbers as they stand, at the age of 30 Ken Griffey was just short of 400 homeruns, and presumably with 9 years left in the majors, at an average of 35 homeruns per season, Griffey would hit approximately 715 homeruns in his career, that would be 3rd on the all time list. This is of course ignoring logic that would dictate he would still hit 40+ per season as from 1993-1999 he hit well over 40 per season. Rbi’s are a hit and miss stat but how bout just doubling the mark to be around 2300 for his career and would make Griffey the all time RBI leader. Griffey has all of this potential and then he goes and requests a trade and ultimately ends up in Cincinnati. Instead of testing the open free agent market Griffey makes a 9 year deal with the Cincinnati Reds worth $116 Million. This is of course a lot less than what he would be offered in the open market, remember A-rod got $250 million, Griffey could have easily got above $175 Million.

His first season in Cincinnati was a continuation of his pace to close in on Hank Aaron’s Homerun record. With the Reds Griffey hit another 40 Homeruns and recorded 118 RBI’s, his 9th season of over 100 RBI’s in his 12th MLB season and that includes his shortened rookie campaign and the MLB strike season. Just absolutely impressive. There is the saying that goes, All good things must come to an end, and beginning in 2001, is when everyone started forgetting about Ken Griffey Jr. as he embarked on consecutive years of injuries that would cut his chances of chasing history. From 2001-2004 Griffey only played in 317 out of a possible 648 games. Over half the games lost from the ages of 32-35 definitely key years for baseball players, just ask Bonds as he didn’t start his big time hitting until he was 32. Griffey returned to form back in 2005 as he earned ‘NL Comeback Player of the Year’ hitting 35 Homeruns with a .301 Batting Average while driving in 92 RBI’s. Many people remembered Griffey existed after that year but one thing has definitely changed. He may not be as feared as he was but this allows him to be a bigger threat and he can still pop out the homeruns. As I sit and type this Griffey has hit 2 Homeruns and is now only 19 away from making the 600 Hr club. He would be only the 6th man to hit 600 in his career, presuming Sammy Sosa will hit his one as he currently stands at 599 Homeruns. The point to all of this is that Ken Griffey Jr. should be given more credit and despite his ‘disappointing’ years in Cincinnati. He is still a great hitter and whether he stays in Cincinnati next year, or he is traded to another team, preferably an AL team so he can be a DH and continue to play through his early 40’s. You always have to remember that if it wasn’t for Griffey in Seattle, there would not be ‘The House That Griffey Built” and the Seattle Franchise may be somewhere else in the continental United States.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Central Will Be Exciting To Watch In '07

There is no doubt that the Pirates are going to have to rape and pillage the wins from their divisional opponents if they do not want to finish in the basement again.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates

RHP Franquelis Osoria
RHP Yoslan Herrera

3b Joe Randa

There are a few bright spots with the rotation. Well the whole team has a few bright spots. The Pirates rotation is undoubtedly young and has all the makings to be a solid five for years to come. The average age for the five projected starters is only 25. Zach Duke looks to lead the rotation past their 2006 67-95 record and continue their second half surge through 2007. Duke has a 10-15 year with 4.47ERA; he is not a bit strike out pitcher, sitting down 1 batter in every 6 outs. But he does have good experience and a good bond with the rest of the home-grown rotation. Ian Snell will be the number 2 man and lead the team with 14-11 record with a 4.74ERA. He is the first Pirates starter to win 14 games since the 1999 season. Snell ha more success at the plate as he sat down 169 batters in 186 Innings of work in 2006. Paul Maholm went a 8-10 last season but the bright side is that in the second half he got over his control issues and was 5-2 in the second half of 2006. The 4 and 5 spots will be a toss up but will most likely be Tom Gorzelanny and Shawn Chacon respectively. Gorzelanny solidified his spot in the rotation in the 11 appearances he made last season. Gorzelanny went 2-5 with a 3.79ERA and knows how to strike out batters, sitting down 64 in 61.2INN of work. The thought is that Chacon will have to fight to keep his spot in the rotation. Chacon had a combined record of 7-6 but had a 2-3 season while playing with the Pirates. His ERA was well over 6 and unless he has a strong spring rookie Lefty Shane Youman will get a chance to show what he can do in Pirate Black.

The Bullpen will be closed by Salomon Torres as they sent lefty Mike Gonzalez who went 24-24 in SV opportunities to Atlanta for Adam LaRoche. Torres did save 12 in the final month of the season since Gonzalez was sitting out due to injury. Matt Capps has remarkable control for 23 year old. John Grabow has turned into a good situational lefthander and Josh Sharpless had great promise in 2006. The bullpen is a good mix of young and old and will only improve as the young learn from the rest of the bullpen.

The line-up has some good pop and the ability to get runs without hitting long balls. CF Chris Duffy owns the CF and you will find him roaming all over the place. Duffy has limited power as he only hit 2 HR in 2006 but he is a threat on the base path stealing 26 bases. Jack Wilson had a horrible defensive season posting a career high 18 errors. His .273BA matched the type of season he was having only hitting 8HR and having 35RBI in 2006. 3B Freddy Sanchez won the job from Joe Randa last season and then he went on to win the NL Batting title. Castillo took the NL by storm last season driving in 85RBI with only 6HR, oh yeah, batting .344 in the third hole last season. Adam LaRoche was required to give the team more pop from the left side of the plate. LaRoche hit for a .285 average but slugged out 32HR for 90 RBI. The Pirates new ‘Barry Bonds’ is batting in the fifth spot. The kid from Trail, British Columbia will take the field in left. Jason Bay will look to put up more power numbers in 2007 after hitting 35 with 109RBI last season. Bay looks to improve on all batting categories especially lowering his Strikeout total that has grown since his 2004 rookie season. His Walk total has also increased which has shown his growing patience at the plate. Improving his BA will look good on a trading card but if he can walk more and still continue to hit 30-100 and make stellar plays in LF I am certain the Pirates will not mind him striking out occasionally. Xavier Nady who played 1B will likely be moved to RF, his move from the Mets to the Pirates stunned his power numbers for 2006 but the Pirates hope he will regain his swing and hit at least 20 out of PNC. Ronny Paulino got his chance to start behind the plate and showed that he is ready to become the everyday catcher that the Pirates are looking for. Paulino has to improve defensively as he recorded 9 past balls and 11 errors in 2006, but those are just growing pains for a rookie catcher. Paulino showed that his arm has no problems throwing out 32% of would be base stealers. Bottoming out the order will be 2B Jose Castillo, after a great year in ’05 with his middle partner Jack Wilson, Castillo also lost his numbers and his defensive ability. His errors rose to 18 from his 12 in 2005, and so did his waistline. Castillo carried more weight in 2006, which is what cost him a step. Hopefully he can return to his 2005 defensive form and continue to improve his batting numbers with experience.

The Pirates have the stuff to be great down the road, it is a shame the road is a few years away. The young team will mature over time and nothing but experience will help the squad. The Pirates will bottom out one more time this season but will be on the rise and show great promise.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Dodgers Have The Power To Be The Western Champs

The team that boasts the most in the Western Division of the National League will be the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles. The team spent over $98 Million last season and this year looks to be worth a division title.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Colorado Rockies
3. San Diego Padres
4. San Francisco Giants
5. Arizona Diamondbacks

OF Juan Pierre

LHP Randy Wolf

C Mike Lieberthal
RHP Jason Schmidt
OF Luis Gonzalez


SS Julio Lugo
RHP Franquelia Osoria

RHP Greg Maddux

OF Kenny Lofton

C Toby Hall

OF Jayson Worth

RHP Eric Gagne

OF J.D. Drew

The rotation has removed a 40 year old and put in his place is a 34-year-old RHP named Jason Schmidt. Schmidt went 11-9 with 3.59ERA in 213.1 INN with the Giants and will benefit from the improved line-up the Dodgers possess without the LF burden of Barry Bonds. Derek Lowe will take his 16-8 record from 2006 and will try to duplicate the number including his 218 innings of work. The hard throwing Brad Penny will look to post another 16 wins in the cause for the NL West Division title. Randy Wolf who is coming off a surgery that cost him a year. The Lefty still has heat in his arm and will be a solid addition to the rotation full of right handers. 22-year-old Chad Billingsley will most likely earn the 5th spot of the rotation after going an impressive 6-3 with 78K in 70.2INN in AA and going 7-4 with a 3.80ERA with 59K in 90 INN with the LA Dodgers last season. The kid has some very good stuff and this rotation will just be dominating with or without the run support. That will be generated from the line-up.

The bullpen has changed and features a new closer and a few starters now in relief roles. Takashi Saito took over the closing role from injured Eric Gagne last season and fared very will with 24SV and also posting 6 wins for the Dodger blue. Jonathan Broxton was able to go 4-1 in a setup role and sitting down 97 in only 76.1 innings of work. This 22-year-old will has the tools to be the closer of today for the Dodger blue but with a little maturing he will be another Eric Gagne, hopefully without all the surgeries. Mark Hendrickson, Elmer Dessens and Brett Tomko are the starters who have been sent to the bullpen and they will work wonders in the bullpen setting up for Broxton.

The line-up has improved leaps over last year’s squad. SS Rafael Furcal will still be the lead off batter as he had a good year batting .300 with 15HR and 63RBI while swiping 37 bases. Juan Pierre is a great addition to the line-up, not so much defensively in CF but hitting behind Furcal. Pierre had .292 average in 2006 with the Chicago Cubs and that earned him another 200+ hit year while swiping 58 bases from opponents. Steady Jeff Kent will be in the 3 hole, he had a really bad year as far as his career numbers are concerned. His 14HR and 68RBI are the lowest since 1996 when he hit 11and 55 respectively. Kent is going to be 39 at the start of the season but he can still contribute to the ball club, as well as their newest LF Luis Gonzalez. Gonzo departs the desert and now resides in the LF of Los Angeles. Gonzalez hit 15HR and drove in 73 last season and his numbers will look the same in 2007. His knowledge and leadership will be a greater asset to the team than his arm out in left field. The comeback player of the year, Nomar Garciaparra will be back at 1B and will hope to keep his good fortune going. Nomar hit .303 while driving in 93 runs with 20HR. he is no longer a threat on the base path but he is a smart runner who can go from first to third with the best of them. Wilson Betemit will get a regular spot at 3B, he is not a threat yet but at the age of 26 his good years are still to happen. Andre Ethier will be out in RF and he has as a good arm to match his bat. In 25G in AAA he hit .349 with only 1HR and 11RBI, but in 25G with LAD he hit .308 with 11HR 55RBI and 20 doubles and 7 triples. The kid can will be someone to watch this season. Russel Martin has worked his way through the system and has earned the starting catcher spot for the Dodgers. Martin will even learn more about catching from his backup C Mike Lieberthal. Martin will see about 120 games this season, preserving the young starter for years to come. In 121 games last season with the LAD he hit .282 with 117H, 26 doubles, 10HR and 65RBI. Oh yeah, Martin also stole 10 bases in the 2006 campaign. A far improvement from his AAA power numbers that saw him belt out 0HR and only 9RBI. Martin has to at least repeat the success he had at the plate this year, if he wants to continue sitting behind the plate.

The Dodgers are undoubtedly the team to beat this year in the NL West. And anything short of all the starters falling off the face of the planet will not stop them from winning the NL West crown. They have invested money and they will now invest time in a balanced squad with above average bats and a great rotation with a bullpen to back them up.

Runner Ups In The West

In a surprise to most people I actually have faith in the Colorado Rockies. There is something about this franchise that is going to get them farther this year, and have a serious year that should have some new career highs and even more surprises. If everyone is healthy and the coach does not become a complete bonehead then this team will be fighting for first in September.

2. Colorado Rockies
3. San Diego Padres
4. San Francisco Giants
5. Arizona Diamondbacks

RHP Latroy Hawkins
OF Willy Taveras
RHP Jason Hirsh

RHP Taylor Buchholz


RHP Jason Jennings

RHP Miguel Ascenio

2B Jason Smith

RHP Jose Mesa

LHP Justin Hampton

The rotation took a bit of a hit when the Rockies sent Jason Jennings to Houston for Jason Hirsh and Willy Taveras. This year it looks as though Jeff Francis will become the ace of this franchise and although he is not the most dominating ace in the NL or even the NL West he will still improve all of his numbers this year and improve on 2006’s 13-11 record and his 4.16ERA. Francis was just one inning short of pitching 200 last season and will more than likely be around 210 as he will be able to stay and inning or 2 longer in most games this season. Aaron cook will follow behind Francis and look to have more wins this season and at least finish with a .500 mark. Cook is a workhorse posting 212.2 Innings last season and like Francis will have to lower his 4.23ERA from 2006. Jason Hirsh who comes over from the Houston Astros trade looks like this 25 year old needs some big improvement. Hirsh had a rough stint in the big leagues last year garnering a 3-4 record with a 6.04ERA with Houston. So why did the Rockies send Jennings for Hirsh? In Roundrock, the AAA affiliate of the Houston Astros, Hirsh pitched to a 13-2 record with a 2.10ERA with 118K in 137.1 Innings. This is why he was brought up and although all his numbers inflated he still has all the tools to be a big time pitcher in the MLB. Veteran Josh Fogg and Byung-Hyun Kim will end the rotation and look to provide the Rockies with at least 20 wins in the final two spots. Last year these two hit 19 wins with an average ERA of over 5.50, this club may not be able to have low ERA’s but it can definitely win them by any means necessary, even if the stats do not favour statisticians.

The addition of Latroy Hawkins gives a solid setup man for Brian Fuentes. Hawkins is looking to rebound after posting a 4.48ERA last season while Fuentes is looking to improve on what was a good year for his club. Fuentes had 30 SV with a 3.44ERA in 06, Fuentes also posted 73K in his 65.1 innings of work with the Rockies. The rest of the bullpen has a lot of men who know how to record K’s and as soon as the bullpen matures a bit more it will be one of the best in the NL. Ramon Ramirez and Manny Corpas are two young guns that are able to go out and be the situational one or two batter pitcher, with a high probability of sitting a few of them down. Ramirez sat down 61 batters in 67.2 innings last season while Corpas took his success from AA and was able to show that he can hang with the big boys. Corpas was 2-1 with a 0.98ERA with 19SV striking out 35 in 36.2INN, while with the big club Corpas had a 3.62ERA and striking out 27 in 32.1INN.

The line-up is one of the reasons that this team will steal some games not only from divisional opponents but also from the rest of the NL. This homegrown crop has matured a lot and has made people think about what this future can be like in the next 5-7 years. Willy Taveras will likely lead off and he will look to improve on his .278BA but will be a valuable asset in the field running down balls in CF as well as looking for another 30+SB this season. Matsui should follow providing that he stays with the big club, and can be consistent with his bat other than just his glove. Playing in 32G with the Rockies Matsui was able to bat .345 and drive in 19 while taking 8SB; the 3-4-5-6 spot in the line-up will be threatening and should provide at least 110HR between the four players. Garret Atkins, Matt Holliday, Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe will be the offensive muscle. Atkins hit .329 with 29HR and leading the Rockies with 120RBI and 48 doubles. Holliday batted a .326 with a team leading 34HR and driving in 114RBI with 45 doubles. Todd Helton looks to rebound after his un-Helton like season where he only belted 15HR, only the second time in his Career he has not hit 20HR. Helton still batted .302, another low since his 97 debut. Helton was still able to record 81RBI so he has not lost all of the pop from his bat. Even though Helton turns 33 at the start of the season he is not done yet. 27 year old Brad Hawpe will look to improve his numbers and put together a consistent year in his third full season with the Colorado Rockies. Hawpe sent 22 balls out of the park while driving in 84RBI and having a .293 average. Hawpe has the potential and the power to be a 30-100 guy in MLB and has years to learn. Troy Tulowitzki and Chris Ianetta will be at the bottom of the line-up as both look to keep a full time job in the big leagues and provide some help before getting to the pitchers.

This team will surprise and if you want to call it bandwagon jumping than call it bandwagon jumping. There is a lot of potential and great veterans to help teach the young kids how to stay focused. A lot of guys are not in their ‘prime’ yet and will grow with the experience. I have no problem saying that the rockies will lose the battle of the west again, but will be pretty darn close finishing second.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Back To Back To Third Place

Dont you hate when work gets in the way of Baseball. So here is the late edition and look for 2nd and 1st place finishers in the NL West tomorrow.

3. San Diego Padres
4. San Francisco Giants
5. Arizona Diamondbacks

This franchise has a good young staff and a good line-up, which also features the best closer ever in MLB history. So why will the Padres finish in third? Take a look at the reasoning.

The rotation was bolstered with the addition of the 41 year old, 4-time Cy Young winner Greg Maddux. Maddux rebounded in the second half of 2006 and created a service for him and at $10 Million the Padres are hoping that he still has something left in the tank. Ahead of Maddux will be the young duo of Jake Peavy and Chris Young. These two young guns are 25 and 28 respectively and just about finished maturing. Peavy had a dismal year finishing 11-14 with a 4.09 ERA. Peavy was still able to rake up 215K’s in 202.1 innings but when Peavy was hit, Peavy was hit hard. This year his ERA will come down and should go back to at least a .550 pitcher while racking up over 200K’s again. Chris Young who almost threw a No Hitter twice last year is odds-on favourite to get the franchise’s first No-No. After finishing 11-5 expect almost a duplicate year while Young probably pulls down his ERA from 2006’s 3.46 mark and raises his K total to about 180. These two are the future of the franchise and will only get better under the tutelage of Greg Maddux. The fourth and fifth spot will be occupied by Clay Hensley and David Wells, probably not in that order, but will be solid none the less. Hensley’s first full season netted him a 3.71 ERA that earned him a 11-12 record. The rotation looks promising with the age and wisdom mixed in with the youth and high K totals.

The Bullpen is owned by the most Savingest Closer in the Big League’s who recorded NL Leading 46 SV in 2006. Hoffman is 39 this season and will be as dominate with his changeup and perfect location fastball. Scott Linebrink who is mentioned in every trade rumour is still around as the Padres hope he can replace Hoffman as the closer. Meredith has a deceiving side arm delivery and will be a good reliever. The Padres also picked up Heath Bell and Royce Ring in the off-season. Royce Ring was not very good with the Mets posting a 2.13 ERA in 11 games, but a new location and a new style of play could see those numbers shrink.

The big move that the Padres made to their everyday line-up is adding hometown product Marcus Giles after the Atlanta Braves let him walk free. Marcus Giles will most likely be hitting second in front of his brother Brian Giles who has seen the pop in his bat fading, but makes up for it by drawing a lot of walks. Leading off for the Padres and replacing Dave Roberts who now serves in a S.F. Giants uniform is Terrmel Sledge. The Left Fielder is expected to pick up his bat and hit for some power as that was the only thing Dave Roberts was not able to do within Petco Park. Adrian Gonzalez who surprised a lot of people with his power will be cleanup as his 24 HR lead the team and his 82 RBI was one short of the team league. Expect the 24 year old to improve his numbers to at least 25-90, as usual he will have a little slump but do not be surprised if he makes even 30 balls soar over the fence. Mike Cameron is the only real Gold Glover taking the field and his bat is staying steady but at the age of 34 expect some drop off. Expect young Josh Bard and Kevin Kouzmanoff to make their mark this year and be starters for years to come. Injury Prone Khalil Greene will be at the bottom of this line-up and it is basically what you see is what you get. If Greene can stay healthy he could be up for a Gold Glove, but the SS position at NL is a little tougher these days.

The Padres have all the making of a team to win their third NL West title but with the other four teams in the division beefing up it will be unlikely as they will be in the dreaded hunt for second place in the division. Maddux will pay off for Peavy who will rebound and also teach Chris Young a few things about pitching with your head, not just your arm. The young guns will mature both in the Pen and in the Field but this year will be tough for the Padres and will just miss out on second place in 2007.