Friday, December 23, 2011

The Cardinals Switch Things Up (Carlos Beltran)

Just when you think the Cardinals are out of it, they go ahead and TOTALLY redeem themselves. Not only did they score the best outfielder on the market in Carlos Beltran, but they also teamed up two of the best switch hitters of all-time.

Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran have always been great players, but due to injuries and a couple less than productive seasons, they became more of an after thought. That is until last season when Lance Berkman proved to the world that he can still play. Beltran also had a bounce back season, but it was shadowed due to his trade to the Giants and their inability to make it to the playoffs. Now, these two comeback kids have the same logo across their chests, and I'm positive that they'll help ease the blow of the Albert Pujols departure. I'm actually here to tell you that if all three players (Beltran, Berkman, and Pujols) repeat their 2011 production in 2012, then the Cardinals will be right back where they were in 2011.

Here are a couple graphs to compare Beltran and Berkman's WAR (Wins Above Replacement)throughout their careers. They've been eerily similar throughout their entire MLB existence.

Source: FanGraphs -- Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran

Source: FanGraphs -- Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran

If you notice, both Beltran and Berkman were on the decline until last season when they both ended up with a WAR close to 5. Hopefully for the Cardinals the two of them continue to trend upward. 

This last graph is so you can see Berkman and Beltran compared to Albert Pujols. It looks like King Albert has been declining significantly over the past few seasons. That's if you consider a WAR of over 5 declining...

Source: FanGraphs -- Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran, Albert Pujols

All three players had roughly the same WAR in 2011. Of course, Berkman and Beltran are older and they're most likely not going to trend upward, whereas Pujols has more time to turn things around. If these trends do continue, then the Cardinals actually improved their team with Beltran over Pujols. I'm sure the Angels would love to see Albert's graph shift towards the sky like Berkman and Beltan's did last season.

I know that the WAR stat isn't the only factor, but it is the best way to determine the impact a player has for a team statistically. I know that Pujols brought a lot more to the Cardinals than just statistics, and that's not something Carlos Beltran will be able to replace right away. Beltran has yet to win a World Series, and when it's all said and done, that's the only thing that truly matters. We'll just see how this 2012 season plays out, and hopefully everyone is left feeling satisfied.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Pirates Need to Attack (Pittsburgh Pirates)

It's time for the Pirates to win. Period. The NL central is for the taking, and the only team that realizes this are the Cincinnati Reds. This became apparent when they went out and traded for Mat Latos. I'm sure their not done. And there's a reason; the NL Central has imploded.

The Cardinals lost Albert, and they now have a rookie manager. The Brewers most likely lost Prince, and they've most likely lost Braun for 50 games. The Cubs are still floundering around. The Houston Astros are still the Houston Astros. As for the Pirates, well...they've picked up Clint Barmes, Rod Barajas, and Erik Bedard. The three Bs, which stand for BORING, BROKEN, and BOTHERSOME. I'm sorry, that's mean. They're good players and I think that they'll help out, but they're not game changers. The Pirates need to make some moves that won't only help them improve, but make their opponents worse. For instance, the Cardinals, Brewers, and Cubs need to find someone for first base. The best option, other than Prince Fielder, is the much cheaper, yet still effective, Carlos Pena. The Pirates need a first baseman! I'm sorry, but Casey McGehee isn't going to be the answer at first. I'm still not sure as to why the Pirates got him in the first place.

Another move that could benefit the Pirates while taking another option away from their enemies is picking up Edwin Jackson. Jackson is a decent pitcher that would benefit from having a steady home. Pittsburgh needs to be that home. Their rotation looks okay, but okay won't win you championships or push you over the .500 mark. I'm not saying Jackson will make the Pirates' rotation phenomenal, but he would give them a better option than what they currently have. Another pitching option could be Paul Maholm. He's been their constant for years, and despite his record, he had a pretty good 2011 season.

Neil Huntington has said that they have some money to spend, so go ahead and spend it. Now is the time to make the push. I may be a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Their 2012 Lineup could look like this:

RF Alex Presley
LF Jose Tabata
CF Andrew McCutchen
1B Carlos Pena
3B Pedro Alvarez/ Casey McGehee
2B Neil Walker
C  Rod Barajas
SS Clint Barmes

This lineup doesn't only look decent offensively, but good defensively. Clint Hurdle LOVES defense. They need a power bat to drive in all of the speed that they have, and I believe Carlos Pena is the man for that job.

Their 2012 Rotation could look like this:

1) Kevin Correia
2) Erik Bedard
3) Charlie Morton
4) Edwin Jackson or Paul Maholm
5) Jeff Karstans/James McDonald/Brad Lincoln

The Pirates' pitching coach, Ron Searage, turned this pitching staff around in 2011. Their team ERA went from 5.00 in 2010 to 4.04 in 2011. The WHIP went from 1.49 to 1.41. The Ks went up a little and the BBs went down a little. With a couple of additions, and Searage's ability to coach, I think this staff has the potential to be top notch.

Who do you think will win the NL Central? Is this the year the Pirates break the .500 mark?

Casey Blake St. Bomber! (Casey Blake)

I usually cringe when the Rockies sign a "veteran" player, but for some reason Casey Blake brings a smile to my face. Is it because he already has a beard that's groomed for Colorado? Is it because he's always hit really well at Coors Field (Well, who hasn't?)? Is it because I'm ready to root for a another ballplayer (i.e. Todd Helton, Jason Giambi) that's looking for that last great season? Yes, it's all of these reasons.

Casey Blake is a very cheap risk for the Rockies to take to add some depth at the third base position. He comes at a one year/$2 million price tag which in today's game is really, really, really cheap. The Rockies were only set to have Chris Nelson and Jordan Pacheco at the 3B position, but now there's the Blake. Blake brings a decent bat, decent defense, and an insurmountable amount of knowledge about the game and third base. He'll be a great teacher for the young kids, even though they're not the Rockies' future plans for third base. That belongs to Nolan Arenado.

Nolan Arenado is currently on the Rockies' High A ball club. All of this depth at third will allow Arenado the proper amount of time to grow and develop. He had an amazing display of talent in the Arizona Fall League this past season where he hit .398 with six home runs and 33 RBIs in 28 games. I have a feeling that Nolan "Colorenado" Arenado will be the next Tulo in Denver. But for now, it's Casey "Blake St. Bomber" Blake holding down the hot corner.

My 2012 prediction for Blake: 350 AB with 10 home runs and a .280/.330/.460 line.

Who doesn't love the Blake?

What do you think of the Casey Blake deal? Do you think Arenado will finally be the answer for the Rockies at third base?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top 5 Remaining MLB Free Agents (December 2011)

5) Carlos Pena

  • I know that this is kind of a stretch at #5, but I feel like Carlos Pena is not as bad as he seems. Sure, he strikes out a ton and his average is sub-par, but his power and defense are undeniable. He struggled a little bit in his first season in the National League, but there are a few NL teams that could benefit from his presence. Where he ends up all depends on where Prince ends up. Possible Teams: St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians. Long Shot: Pittsburgh Pirates    

4) Hiroki Kuroda

  • I've always been a fan of Kuroda, and I'll be an even bigger fan once he's out of the National League West (Unless he ends up on the Rockies). He's durable, reliable, and will make a great addition to any rotation. Possible teams: Colorado Rockies (fingers crossed), New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox. Long Shot: Arizona Diamondbacks  

3) Edwin Jackson

  • He's been on six different teams by the age of 28, which means he's seen it all. Or it means that he's dispensable. It'd be nice to see him find a multi-year deal that will allow him to settle down and focus on pitching. He's coming off a semi-successful season in 2012 which included a World Series ring. Possible Teams: Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates. Long Shot: Kansas City Royals 

2) Carlos Beltran

  • He's been one of the best outfielders in the game for years and he continues to produce at the age of 34. He'll instantly make any lineup better, just as long as he stays healthy. Hopefully he can find a team that has a small outfield, or a team where he can DH once in a while. Possible Teams: St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays. Long Shot: Tampa Bay Rays

1) Prince Fielder

  • What else can I say that hasn't already been said? He's good, he's young, and he's looking to get paid. Possible Teams: Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles. Long Shot: Miami Marlins

Who are your top 5?  

Royal Improvements (Kansas City Royals)

The Kansas City Royals haven't been taken seriously for a very long time. They're like the Ralph Naders of baseball. That's all about to change. My American League "dark horse" team for 2012? The Kansas City Royals.

The Royals' offense has improved drastically over the past few seasons. Alex Gordon finally played up to the Alex Gordon everyone expected him to be when he first entered the majors. Eric Hosmer, a 21-year-old rookie in 2011, had a fairly decent campaign and should be one of the top seven first basemen in the American League next season. KC lost Melky Cabrera to the Giants, but in return they got Jonathan Sanchez, who should improve their rotation. Billy Butler, who is shockingly 25 (thought he was older) brings his steady bat back to their lineup. This team is absolutely loaded with young talent. Their bullpen is young and strong with the likes of Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, and Louis Coleman. Joakim Soria will be closing out games again, but this time he'll have Jonathan Broxton as his set-up man. Broxton is a risk, but if he pays off, then the Royals have one of the best setup/closer duos in baseball. The problem that the Royals have had is getting it to the 8th and 9th innings with the lead.

Luke Hochevar had a decent season with a few hiccups in 2011, but I feel like he'll be even better in 2012. The addition on Jonathan Sanchez gives them a good #2 or #3 guy in the rotation. They re-signed Bruce Chen, who had a shockingly good year with them in 2011. I hope they let Jeff Francis go, and look for a more reliable starting pitcher from either a trade or free agency. It looks to me as though the Royals could finally be contenders. I'm not saying that they're going to win the World Series in 2012, but I do believe that they're going to be a thorn in the sides of a lot of teams.

What do you think? Who is your American League "Dark Horse"?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Parra D-"Back Up" Outfielder? (Gerardo Parra vs. Jason Kubel)

Not often do you see a Gold Glove winner benched the following season, but that's the case for Gerardo Parra. The Arizona Diamondbacks signed Jason Kubel to a two year/$15 million deal with a mutual option for 2014. Kubel is expected to be the D-Backs left fielder, which pushes Parra into the fourth outfielder role.

I'm impressed with Arizona's aggressiveness this off-season, and I applaud them for not settling with last year's success. They've picked up Trevor Cahill via trade with the Oakland Athletics (It's that time of year again when the Athletics unload their young pitching studs for prospects) which will solidify a very young and intimidating rotation. They've also signed a slew of aged veterans such as Lyle Overbay, Henry Blanco, and Takashi Saito. These signings only add insurance and experience to a young team of good ballplayers. The Diamondbacks, in my opinion, are groomed to be the NL West Champs again in 2012. The only thing I don't like, is that Gerardo Parra's contribution and development last season will be halted by Kubel this upcoming season.

Kubel will add some extra pop to the lineup, but what they'll be missing is Parra's gold glove defense and speed. I'd say this would be a nice platoon for the Diamondbacks, but $7.5 million a season is a bit pricey for a platoon player. Especially a platoon player who mostly DH'd for the past few seasons.

I would have rather seen the Diamondbacks spend less money and pick up a fourth outfielder such as Luke Scott and allowed Parra to have the deserved starting job. Scott (Career: .264/.349/.494) would provide close to the same offensive numbers as Kubel (Career: .271/.335/.459), but without the price tag due to injury and age. Scott would be a risk, but I believe he could be had at a two year/$10 million contract. This gives you a little more financial wiggle room in case you would like to add an extra reliever or save the money to start locking up some of the youngsters.

I'm a fan of Kubel, but I'm more of a fan of Parra. I believe Parra will be a dynamic player, but only if he gets the right amount of playing time. I'd hate to see his talents sit next to the water cooler for the next two seasons.

What do you think of the Kubel deal? Do you think Parra should be the starting left fielder for the D-Backs?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mile High Risk? (Michael Cuddyer)

This is going to be short and semi-sweet.

Why did the Rockies spend $31.5 million dollars on Michael Cuddyer who is three years older than Seth Smith and produces roughly the same offensive numbers as Seth Smith? Nothing against Michael Cuddyer, because I know he's a great veteran utility player, but I feel like the Rockies' money could have been better spent elsewhere. I would have rather seen them spend their money on a semi-young starting pitcher such as an Edwin Jackson or Paul Maholm. The Rockies lost their ace in a trade last year, and I know that their current rotation won't be able to keep up with the likes of the Diamondbacks and Giants.

I'm sure the Rockies' ultimate plan is to move Seth Smith for some pitching, but I don't know why they're not into Seth Smith anymore? He was one of the team's best hitters last season, and he's only shown improvement. Dan O'Dowd is going against what their organization is supposedly all about...home grown talent. Within the past year they've seen Ubaldo Jimenez, Ian Stewart, and Chris Ianetta join new teams. Now, they're spending big money on a free agent that doesn't have much upside. The last time they did this, they found themselves with two gentlemen named Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle (please refer to their stats, age, and salary while they were with the Rockies). I know I stated earlier that the Rockies should invest in starting pitchers, but I mean pitchers that can fill the #4-5 spots in their rotation, not hopeful "aces".

I'm glad the Rockies are making moves, but I'm not sure if they're going to be the right moves. I can only hope that Seth Smith finds a new home where his talents are appreciated, and that the Rockies get an acceptable return for him. Preferably a starting pitcher.

What do you think of the Rockies' new game plan? Who do you think will be more successful over the next three years: Seth Smith or Michael Cuddyer? Do you think that Colorado's thin air will always deter aces?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yu Want Darvish. I Want Darvish. We All Want Darvish. (Yu Darvish)

Yu Darvish is the hottest pitcher to come from Japan since Hideo Nomo (wicked windup). But who's going to be the lucky team to land the coveted Yu? The three teams that reportedly made bids are the Blue Jays, Cubs, and of course the Yankees. The Blue Jays seem to be the favorites at this point, and frankly, I sure hope it is the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays have been quietly building a decent team, and I believe that Yu Darvish is worth the risk for them. They're in a division that includes the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, yeah, the Orioles. Darvish would fit perfectly in the number two spot in the rotation behind Ricky Romero. Romero had a solid season in 2011, and there isn't any sign that Romero is going to slow down in 2012. If the Blue Jays land Darvish over the Yankees, then I will say it now, the Blue Jays will have no fewer than five more wins than the Yankees in 2012. The Yankees are getting nothing but older, and they're in desperate need for rotation help. If the Yankees don't land Darvish then it might behoove them to take a shot at Edwin Jackson in free agency. They need to inject some youth into their team.

Another reason I like the Blue Jays for Darvish is because he comes with a HUGE fan base. Anytime a popular player from Japan comes to America, it automatically makes the MLB team that picks him up a popular team in Japan. The Yankees and Cubs already have too many fans. Just go to any hat shop outside of New York and Illinois and see for yourself. The Blue Jays on the other hand is the only team in MLB that's located outside of the USA. Not to mention they're in a country that's fanatic about hockey. The added fans from Japan will help the Jays financially as well as give them team some added support. It must be tough being in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox AND be located out of the country. They might as well be in the west coast.

Looking at Darvish, I see nothing but great things. A lot of people are worried about his transition to America, but I don't think there'll be a problem with that if he goes to Toronto...because it's not America. Toronto is considered to be one of the most pleasant cities to live. See, if Yu ended up in New York, that might be a little overwhelming, but Toronto has always seemed like the mature, fun friend that knows really great taste, but doesn't flaunt it around. I believe Darvish's talents will flourish in Major League Baseball, even if the ball is a little heavier and if he goes from throwing every seven days to five days. He has natural talents, and those will only get better over time and working hard. I won't doubt his work ethic because he dominated in Japan, which is considered AAAA (right between AAA and the Majors) in America. If I were to rank the top 3 pitching prospects in 2012, it would go Matt Moore, Yu Darvish, and then Stephen Strasburg. I really like Moore. I really like Darvish. Strasburg makes me nervous. I hope he has a solid season, and I'm glad he had surgery and has fully recovered, but the hype is what worries me and I hope he can focus on pitching and not pleasing the Washington fans. I hope he proves me wrong because the Nationals are one of my dark horses for next season.

My Prediction: Yu Darvish signs with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays finish second in their division behind the Rays. The Red Sox finish third and the Yankees drop to fourth. These are my predictions as of now, but if the Yankees find that rotation help and the Red Sox find an actual closer, then this might all change. Yu Darvish will have a 15-5 (quite a few no decisions because he won't be able to pitch late into games as the season progresses) record with a 3.20 ERA. He'll be the AL ROY. And either the Jays or the Rangers will win the Wild Card. Good?

Who do you think will end up with the Yu?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

MLB's New Labor Contract (Tattoos, Replays, and Single Rooms))

Major League Baseball got a face-lift. A few new rules and regulations are being implemented at the beginning of next year, and here's a list of my top five newbies:

5) Teams from the same division have the opportunity to play each other before the league championship series.

  • Before, the best team couldn't play the wild card team if they're in the same division. Now, it's a free-for-all. No more Red Sox vs. Yankees in the LCS. This also means we won't be able to see the Marlins and Phillies face off next year in the LCS. It's finally a fair playoff bracket.
4) Expanded use of replay on fair-or-foul calls, trapped fly balls and line drives, and fan interference around the entire stadium.

  • Not quite sure about this addition yet. Every year, MLB is expanding on the use of instant replay. Pretty soon there will only need to be one umpire behind a computer screen. I'm glad they're implementing technology, but I hope they don't due away with the human aspect all together. If instant replay takes over, there'd be no need for managers to throw classic tantrums or "The Worst Calls of All Time" shows. In regard to the fan interference, I'm sad to see this one on the list because there will never be another Bartman Incident. Bartman just thanked the high heavens.
3) The possibility of players wearing microphones during games.

  • I love this idea, if not only for being able to hear the profanity being used instead of trying to read the player's lips. Can you imagine Carlos Zambrano being mic'd up? We'll finally be able to hear what he's saying to the water cooler as he beats it to a pulp with a teammate's bat.
2) Players on the 40-man roster are assured their own rooms.

  • This makes total sense when there are players in the league such as...actually i can't think of any players currently that are absolutely disgusting, but I'm sure we'll see another John Rocker at some point. Imagine sharing a room with that guy and his multiple personalities, the main one being a psychotic bigot. This isn't a high school trip to a regional tournament, these are the Major Leagues, and now the players can comfortably sneak in as many guests as they like.
1) A ban on getting tattoos with corporate logos.

  • I'm glad that this rule even needed to be implemented. Who's out there that would get a tattoo of a corporate logo? Ryan Howard with a Subway logo across his chest? Dustin Pedroia with a calf tattoo of Elevator Insoles? I like the idea that this is even an option for advertisers. "Can we permanently place our WNBA logo on your neck?"
What do you think of some of these new additions? Yay, Nay, or Whatever?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ryan "The Brawniest" Braun (Ryan Braun)

Ryan Braun proved that it's tough to trust anyone these days. Either he's lying about his use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) or the test is lying. When you look into Braun's doe eyes, you see hope, you see a leader, you see strength (possibly PED strength?).  This could all be tarnished. The Golden Boy of baseball has become the the Anti-Golden Man of baseball. Even if it turns out that the tests are false, or there's another reason why he tested positive, he's going to have to deal with always being questioned. He'll forever be under the microscope, much like stem cells. I can already see the signs in rival cities..."The Brauny Man"..."MVP: Muscle Via Pills"..."A Braun Caught in Headlights"

It saddens me that Ryan Braun possibly used PEDs. Even as a Pirates and Rockies fan, it makes me sad to know that the reason he could have won the ROY over Tulo is because he was juiced. Or the reason why the Pirates have won only 10 games in 3 years in Miller Park could be because the Brewers' left fielder was the every-man's version of Barry Bonds. When you compete with another person, you hope that person is not only a worthy competitor, but a trustworthy competitor. In this case, I hope I can trust Ryan Braun. He's that guy that I love to hate. I want to see the Pirates win their division this year without there being excuses like, "Oh, well we didn't have Braun for 50 games." It's already bad enough that the Brewers are going to lose Prince Fielder this off-season and that the Pirates traded for Casey McGehee. The Pirates will be pretty much playing themselves from five seasons ago. If you look at what's happened so far in the NL Central, the Cardinals have lost Pujols and the Brewers are going to lose Fielder. When two of the best players in baseball leave your division and they weren't from your team, then you're feeling pretty good about your chances. Especially when the Astros are also in your division.

I hope for Baseball's sake that Ryan Braun isn't found guilty. Even though I don't like the Brewers or what Ryan Braun does to the Pirates, I'm still a fan of baseball. I'm a fan of fans, even Ryan Braun fans.

What do you think? Is Ryan Braun's reputation tarnished forever no matter the outcome? Will Milwaukee be able to succeed without Braun and Fielder? What are some of your Braun signs?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game (Albert Pujols)

As Ice-T once rapped, "Don't Hate the Playa, Hate the Game!" This couldn't be more true this baseball off-season. Albert Pujols now wears a halo, but in St. Louis his name is synonymous with Devil. The "fans" in St. Louis have already looked past King Albert's accomplishments in their city, and are now focused on scratching his statue in front of his restaurant like a jaded girl scratching the paint off of their ex-boyfriend's prized automobile. Why? Albert didn't cheat on you. The relationship was over. You had a chance to win him back, but he didn't get what he needed from the relationship and moved on to a west coast HOTTIE.

It's more than obvious that St. Louis didn't care to retain Albert. I've heard people say that they couldn't bid because it would jeopardize the future of the Cardinals. Excuse me, but if Albert was that important in the first place, wouldn't he have been considered a part of the future? They did make a push for him...with an initial offer of five years and $130 million. Seriously? He's the best player in baseball, and he's contributed so much not only to your team, but to your community, and you offer him that nonsense? He wanted the years and security of knowing where he was going to be playing for the rest of his career.

I can't blame Albert for looking elsewhere to showcase his HOF talents. Albert would have made more money annually in St. Louis than he's going to make in Los Angeles of Anaheim city place that has more names than residents, but what LA-Anaheim did differently was give Albert the security of being an Angel for the rest of his playing career AND beyond. Who in their right mind would accept a five year deal over a 20 year deal? The same people that would rather chastise a player that did nothing but great things for their team instead of chastising the ownership of that team that allowed said player to walk away. I blame the Cardinals and I blame baseball. Like everything else, baseball is about the money. The owners want money. The agents want money. The players want money. The fans want players to not play for money. There's the problem. We expect these players to not want the big bucks, even though we adore and worship those that are celebrities/stars. The ones that entertain will always get paid. But if your Albert Pujols, and you see other players that aren't as good as you make more money than you, wouldn't you want to get paid more than them? It's human nature. Business men and women are always looking for promotions, but when a ball player takes a promotion and moves to a new city it's considered the worst thing EVER. Even worse than boy bands from the 2000s.

In closing, I'd like to take this time to ask all of the St. Louis Cardinals "fans" to please stop hating on Albert Pujols. We all know it's horrible, but it's not the Man's fault, but the game's fault. If you want to blame someone, blame George Steinbrenner. He's the one that opened the flood gates of cash. Someday, St. Louis, you'll have another Albert Pujols, and sure enough, he'll find a new home, and then another, and another, and another. It's only going to get worse, so look at this like a first relationship. There will be other men, but the first cut will always be the deepest.

What do you think? Do you think Albert's strictly in it for the money? Do you think St. Louis could have done more to retain Albert? Are there too many song lyrics in this post?