March 2011

Baltimore Orioles Offseason Recap and Preview

Baltimore Orioles 2010: 

 1. Badness in the first half. 
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 2. Buck in the second. 
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 Grade: A+ 
 
 
Notable Additions:
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Mark Reynolds, Derrek Lee, Kevin Gregg, JJ Hardy, Jeremy Accardo, Justin Duchscherer, Randy Winn, and Vladimir Guerrero.
 
Notable Subtractions:
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Ty Wigginton, Sean Henn, Corey Patterson, and Garrett Atkins.
 
 
Why?:  Why do the Orioles have a higher grade than the Red Sox? That is because the Orioles gained players that will make more of a impact wins wise than the Red Sox. They also didn’t lose as many impact players as the Red Sox did.
 
The Orioles gained an impact player at every position besides that which they already had settled, Brian Roberts at Second. In doing this they also, solidified the middle of their line-up. They have a difference making hitter at each spot in the line-up now: DH Vladimir Guerrero, C Matt Wieters, 1B Derrek Lee, 2B Brian Roberts, 3B Mark Reynolds, SS JJ Hardy, LF Luke Scott, CF Adam Jones, RF Nick Markakis.
 
I think that this lineup will be one of the best in the Majors. It’s like a discount version of the Yankee’s line-up (no holes in it). Can anyone argue with me that the only influential player they lost is Ty Wigginton? They really lost near nothing this offseason.
 
But who cares about hitters (And never begin you sentences with a conjunction)? It’s pitching that wins championships. Here the names are not as abundant nor are the names as big. The weak pont of this team is still starting pitchers but they did  get some bullpen guys.
 
 
Predicted Record Range: 70-75 they might have a vastly separated this year’s line-up from that of last but they still have to pitch and probably won’t repeat their post break record from last year.

Toronto Blue Jays Offseason Recap and Preview

The Blue Jays lose possibly the best pitcher in the league and what do they do:

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Oh, nothing much. Just hit the most home runs of any team in the major leagues.

 

Grade: B-

 

Notable Additions:

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Frank Fancisco, Rajai Davis, Carlos Villanueva, Sean Henn, Corey Patterson, Octavio Dotel, Chad Cordero, Jon Rauch, and Juan Rivera.

 

 

Notable Subtractions:

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Vernon Wells, Jeremy Accardo, Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs, John Buck, Shawn Marcum, and Lyle Overbay.

 

 

Why?: I know that they lost three really good bullpen guys, but look. They also gained four former closers. I know that they lost two middle of the line-up hitters but got a bonafide lead off hitter and whatever you consider Juan Rivera and Corey Patterson to be.

 

The only thing that suffered in the offseason was the rotation. Not only because of what you might think in Marucm leaving for Milwaukee but also John Buck leaving. With Buck leaving the pretty consistent Blue Jay rotation has had three catchers in three years (or more?) and it is tough. I would make the analogy to Quarter Backs in football playing in different systems every year. It is tough to have to keep adjusting. Just when you get comfortable pitching to a certain catcher he leaves town.

 

Will the Blue Jays continue to hit home runs? I have no idea. All I know is that even though there were more homeruns, there was also a way lower team AVG. Takee Aaron HIll for example, normally he hits around 15 HRs and bats .280 but last year he hit 24 HRs (or something like that) and had an AVG of around the Mendoza line.

 

One thing I would tell people is to watch out for Blue Jay prospects in the future. With the new GM, Alex Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays invested a whole lot into scouting, which may pay dividends down the road.

 

Predicted Record Range: 77-82 wins I see them declining a bit even though they have people like Kyle Drabek coming up because I don’t think they can keep the home run production up in 2011.

 

 

Boston Red Sox Offseason Recap and Preview

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This scene was way too familiar to Red Sox fans last year. As, a result they overacheived by underacheiving (it makes more sense if you don’t think about it).

 

Grade: A-

 

Notable Additions:

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Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Brandon Duckworth, Jason Bergmann, Dan Wheeler, Andrew Miller and Bobby Jenks.

 

Notable Subtractions:

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Victor Martinez, Adrian Beltre, Bill Hall, Felipe Lopez, and Mike Lowell.

 

Why?: Yes mister “my second dream in life was to play for the Red Sox” and Crawford were indeed big additions. Yes, maybe I am a bitter but optimistic Yankee fan but they also lost two big pieces in Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre. Now, I would take the trade of Gonzalez for Beltre any day of the year but I would rather have Gonzalez nothing, though. The piece that really bothers me is the  Martinez loss. This is because they don’t have a reliable cather behind him. Sure, he wasn’t the most reliable himself defensively, but he was a force in the lineup. One that will be replaced by either Jarod Saltalamachia (?) or Jason Varitek.

 

Though I am not sure why people are so up on their rotation, they added some nice armsto the bullpen. They now have, three possible closers, two guys who would normally be set-up  men, and a whole lot of depth.

 

Now on the issue of preformance. If you have a fantasy baseball team, pick Red Sox players. Adrian Gonzalez is going from the worst hitter’s ballpark to the best hitter’s ballpark. He hit 32 homeruns and has one of the best opposite field strokes in the major leagues. Many of the balls that he hit on the screws and were flyouts in PETCO, will be home runs in Fenway. I pedict somewhere in the 40 homerun range with somewhere in the 50 doubles and triples.

 

Crawford on the other hand, has behind him: Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, and David Ortiz. Sure having Jacoby Ellsbury in front of him may lower his steals somewhat from what they would have been had he been leadoff but remember that he has stolen 62 of 66 bases at Fenway. Maybe this was from the horribly throwing Red Sox catchers but he is still comfortable. I think it was in 2006 that he stole second, third, and home plate against the Red Sox.

 

Predicted Record Range: 94-99 wins They have the best line-up in all of baseball. However, these records do not account for injuries that have not yet happened.

Survey of Adults’ Perception of Baseball

I may have mentioned this is some other entry but here’s the actual layout of the survey:

I wanted to see how the average adult viewed baseball. So, instead of running up and down Fordham Road trying to get the ideas of random adults, I asked my 19 former and current high school teachers (20 if you count the baseball team’s pitching coach). The process went like this:
1. Ask teacher who their favorite baseball player was.
1a. If yes, why this was their favorite player
2. If no, what they would like to see in athletes as role models.
3. Wait a few weeks and then follow up with them if they gave me a name for the first question.
4. Asking who their favorite player was outside of New York.
5. Again, asking why.
The purpose of asking them their favorite player instead of outright asking what they think of the game is to see how well their ideals (or lack there of due to them compartmentalizing) matched up with what they think of the game. This is most evident in why they picked a certain player over another. Oh, and keep in mind that I am doing this in a private school in the Bronx so the results will be how adults view baseball in New York.
The Results:
5 Do not follow baseball
93% of favorite players were of New York teams (shocker) leading me to make step 4 (the one teacher that mentioned a non-New York player was a coin flip away from picking David Wright)
10 of those had a favorite player on the Yankees
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5 of those had a favorite player on the Mets
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The Players chosen for question 1:
Derek Jeter 6
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David Wright 2
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Jose Reyes 2
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Mariano Rivera 2
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Jorge Posada 2
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Andy Pettitte  2
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Robinson Cano 1
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R.A. Dickey 1
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Tim Lincecum 1
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 But like I said above, this study isn’t about the players themselves but how the teachers view the game. Let’s start with the teachers who don’t follow baseball:
This was by far the most varied bunch that I can categorized. With five different people there were five different answers, connecting occasionally but still, varied.
3 were about attitude
2 were about integrity
Because they were all different I will sum them all up (this is again, what they would like to see in athletes).
  1. This teacher actually watched as a kid but stopped in the 90’s because of the McGwire and Sosa steroids issue. His answer was: he would like to see more integrity in the game, less money, and more teams made up of non-superstars.
  2. I actually never asked him question 1 because he mentioned in a class that he didn’t watch sports. His answer was: An athlete should be gracious in both defeat and success. He repeated the same concept in different forms trying to get it just right. I have a feeling about what he meant. He was trying to get at that an athlete should not cry in defeat nor should he dance in victory. He should have grace no matter what the outcome. For example, if he loses, he should just walk off the field, comfort other teammates, and start preparing for the next game (professionally).
  3. He just thinks that professional athletes are a spoiled bunch. (Can anyone argue that this isn’t true in New York?) His answer was: he wanted to see less athletes living the fast life (he gave the example of Derek Jeter but I hope he meant it in terms of attitude because has anyone seen his mansion:
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Over 5,000 square feet). He wanted athletes to be down to earth and to play hard and work hard.
4.     He simply doesn’t follow baseball, no special story. He wanted to see more well behaved and humble baseball players.
5.    The last again did not have any special story and simply did not want to see PEDs in baseball.
I think that there is a relationship between the fact that these people don’t watch baseball and their opinions are so varied. I think that it is because baseball is so big in the country that morals are shaped by it.
The people who gave me a name were far more uniform. Probably because most of these centered primarily on one player and one team.
The top five characteristics listed are:
  1. The player tries his best 7
  2. The player is a good teammate 6
  3. The player is a good role model 5
  4. The player is a leader 5
  5. The player is a hard worker 4
Remind you of anyone? This is mostly why I think that for those who watch it, baseball shapes the person more than the other way around.
Because I was getting so many Jeter and Yankee responses, I thought I should add another question to get a truer response. I wanted to see if their beliefs for why they picked the first player held up for the second one or if they had picked the first one by his play and created a list of his positive attributes to justify it to themselves (sorry to the teachers but a lot of people do this).
Obviously I did not follow up with those who don’t watch baseball but the results were:
43% were players who played in this past World Series (counting the Lincecum fan from question 1)
36% were players from the rival of their favorite team because they had respect for what that player can do.
29% of teachers were completely stumped. Taking over 3 minutes to answer the question because they had never thought about it before.
There were three teachers that picked Albert Pujols. I think it might have been that he is the best player in baseball.
The remaining teacher picked Jeff Francouer because he used to be on the teacher’s favorite team, the Mets, and threw him a ball during bp (I have much to teach that one).
The players for step 4:
Tim Lincecum 3
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Albert Pujols 3
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Cliff Lee 1
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Buster Posey 1
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Jeff Francoeur 1
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Ryan Howard 1
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David Ortiz 1
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Josh Hamilton 1
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Carl Crawford 1
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Roy Halladay 1
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Dustin Pedroia 1
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and if you can’t believe that no one picked a certain bearded World Series hero. Well, neither can he:
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The top five characteristics for this group were:
1. The player is very talented ( it could have been worded differently like: “He is a five tool player” but the gist of the teacher’s reasoning was talent) 7
2. The player is a professional 3
3. The player is a teammate 3
4. The player is determined/persistent 3
5. The player is a family man 3
Now, there are two similarities between the two lists but the major difference shows in that the #1 attribute by far for the non-New York players was the player’s talent. This is because when a player is from your favorite/local team you are more apt to chose him as a favorite player. When the player is not on your local team, you differentiate based on the actual attributes you value in a player. The reason for the overlap of the two categories is because when amongst your local team, you find a player who fits your attributes you are more likely to see him as your favorite.
Of course, this is just my opinion of the numbers. The beauty in statistics is that as empirical and objective as the numbers themselves may be. The interpretation of those numbers is entirely subjective.
*No teacher’s names were mentioned in the process of making this blog. Any physical or emotional damage is done at the risk of the teacher for reading this entry and Observing Baseball and all of its employees cannot be held accountable for any lowering of self-esteem that occurred from this entry. However, any praise for his entry is freely accepted at fischerm@fordhamprep.org

New York Yankees Offseason Recap and Preview

Another year, another playoff. The only time the Yankees have missed the playoffs in my life time was in 2008 and they were closing a historic stadium:

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I mean even Manny has to accept the simple truth that the Yankees will always be at least good:
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Grade: C-
Notable Additions:
 
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Raphael Soriano, Russell Martin, Pedro Fecliciano, and Freddy Garcia.
Notable Subtractions:
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Andy Pettitte, Javier Vasquez, Austin Kearns, Chad Gaudin, Kerry Wood, Lance Berkman Marcus Thames, and Dustin Moseley.
Why?:   Another season of the Bronx is burning? I must have had at least half a dozen people ask me “Do you think the Yankees are making the playoffs this year?” My answer, I ‘m not sure. It isn’t because the Yankees aren’t a playoff caliber team but I see the Red Sox beating them for the division. As for the wild card, there are 3 really good teams in the AL Central, 3 great line-ups, and 3 solid pitching staffs. I don’t see this division as a purely “win it and in it” division. The wild card race will be competitive this year because there are three teams that will keep the pace up all year.
However, let me get something straight. The Yankees are not a horrible team all of a sudden because of the losses they took. Yankee fans see eight names in the “Notable Subtractions” section I see mid summer pick ups and easily replaceable players (except Pettitte) but losing Pettitte will not destroy this team. I will remind people that this team won NINETY FIVE games last year. I know they lost Pettitte but they didn’t have him for half of last year and he is not worth ten games in and of himself.

As far as the other players lost go. Most were the product of mid season trades anyway. Meaning, the Yankees were not afraid to lose them. The Yankees will almost always have mid season acquisitions because they will almost always be in the hunt (how they always have trade pieces is another issue).

Predicted Record Range: 87-92 wins They will slow up a little. Maybe I’m just a spoiled Yankee fan but I think they will indeed contend once more. Another thing to take into account is the impact Jesus Montero will have on the line-up which I cannot account for.

To parents: recaps of our last two games will be up tomorrow. To everyone else: the study I mentioned in some entry I can’t remember about adults’ perception of baseball will be up before next Sunday.

Tampa Bay Rays Offseason Recap and Preview

They did win the most games out of anyone in the American League:

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because I knew the they won the AL East but it is still shocking in retrospect.

Grade:D- F

Notable Additions:

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Manuel Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Kyle Farnsworth, Casey Kotchman, Felipe Lopez, and Dirk Hayhurst.

Notable Subtractions:

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Carl Crawford, Dan Wheeler, Rafael Soriano, Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Randy Choate, Carlos Pena, Dioneer Navarro, Gabe Kapler, Brad Hawpe, and Chad Qualls.

Why?:  Well, let’s see where to start? For one, that is the first three line notable subtractions segment I have written. Normally, its about five guys that are notable and then ten or something minor leaguers that they lost to free agency. Here, it was just the opposite. I think everyone knew that this was the year they would lose most of their top talent but they lost the barn with the cows, losing so many people in their bullpen:

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They did sell the barn to strengthen the farm though. They definitely know what to do with high draft picks. There was a book written on the subject. I think that the Rays will be better in the future because of not paying for their core but the grade is still how they helped their team THIS YEAR.

So, will they one up last year? No, but will they have a solid “time waste” year? What does that even mean?

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3rd Place? 4th Place? Or just surviving the year with minimal financial loss?

Predicted Record Range: 65-70 wins Even if they can get a lot of runs. I see this being like the 2007 season. If anyone remembers, they would get ahead of very good teams and then give up afew runs late in the game because of their bullpen and lose. Their bullpen is even worse now but I think that their offense is much better as well. That year they didn’t have Evan Longoria in their line-up.

Kansas City Royals Offseason Recap and Preview

Well they didn’t do that well in 2010:

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… again but the Royals have never been about winning today (seriously, have they won since George Brett was there?). They are building for tomorrow. Take that into this preview with you.

 

Grade: B

 

Notable Additions:
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Vin Mazzaro, Joaquin Arias, Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress, Lorenzo Cain, Zack Miner, Jeff Francis, and Pedro Feliz.

 

Notable Subtractions:

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Zack Greinke, David DeJesus, Gil Meche, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Brandon Duckworth.

 

 

Why?:  I know that they lost Zack Greinke this off-season. However, even though the grade is for how well the team set up for their immediate future, I lessen the penalty of losing a star player if the team got something good in return. The Royals definite deserved this slight bump for what they got back for Greinke. Also, they added some crazy depth everywhere. Although, am I the only one to notice that Robinson Cano’s best year came after Melky left? We’ll see what impact he has on players like Alcides Escobar.

I would like to point out that KC’s rotation overall did improve because of names like Vin Mazzaro amongst others. Although they did come in last in their division last year and lost their ace in the offseason, I see a solid transistion year. Let me make an argument for a better rotation in 2011. They traded for Vin Mazzaro and must have seen something in him to give up a piece like David DeJesus. Zack Miner is a solid back of the rotation starter that constantly hovers around 4.00 ERA.

 

Now… the Jeff Francis case. Does anyone remember that he was the ace of the Rockies’ World Series run in 2007? Anyone? Well, he was. He had 17 wins and had an ERA of 2.21 until the World Series (where the whole Rockie team shut down). He did horribly in 2008 but it was later revealed that he had an injury in his shoulder. He didn’t pitch in 2009 because of arthtoscopic surgery. Pitched badly again in 2010 with an ERA of 5.00 on the dot. I think that this may have been because of the recovery from the surgery. For most shoulder surgeries, it is usually takes a few years to fully recover. If he can get anywhere close to where he was before, the Royals have a much better staff than last year.

 

Predicted Record Range: 68-73 wins Like I said, this depends on the pitching staff because their young defense will be unpredictable and can fluctuate ( so their wins will fluctuate). We have yet to see how the offense will come together but with solid pitching they can improve a bit on their win total last year.

 

For those of you who did a little link clicking and wonder why I am so behind on game recaps, I have a lot of homework which is also why this entry took so much time. I have yet to see how baseball will affect my blogging but I can’t post the game recaps of games last weekend until next Monday because my pictures for those games are in a computer that I do not have access to.

Cleveland Indians Offseason Recap and Preview

Yeah, remember how in the recap of the Tiger’s offseason, I said it’s bad if you’re remembered for a failure rather than your successes. Well, does anyone remember the Indians for anything else than failing at failure:

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I mean really, can anyone think of anything else ’cause I’ve got nothing. I would say that this is a bit worse, than being know as the Tigers are that is. At least the Tigers got a great deal of good publicity but the Indians: Lost the game, almost got a perfect game thrown against them, messed up a perfect game by running a ball out, forever a side note, and still best know in 2010 for this error.

 

Grade: C

 

Notable Additions:

Austin Kearns, and Adam Everett.

 

Notablr Subtractions:

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I tried looking up all the names of the player they had lost and saw nothing special about any in the group. Can’t lose what you never had. Except for obviously, Carlos Santana to injury.

 

Why?:  They didn’t lose anything but didn’t gain anything. Had they made their improvements and subtractions with bigger names I probably would have given them a better grade just because bigger names fire up the fan base more, but the Indians don’t have the capital to accomplish this. If any doubt that the Indians lost no notable players, here are the names Drew Sutton, RJ Swindle, Winston Abreu, Luis Rodriguez, Chris Gimenez, Andy Marte, Wyatt Toregas. If you see any please tell me.

 

I like that they added two good players in Kearns and Everett, which is why I didn’t give them a C-. Overall, not much to report on this front. They do look to develop with the forever anticipated and maybe only fantasized day that Travis Hafner returns to his former greatness as the second best DH in the game (this was when David Ortiz was hitting 40 HRs) and Carlos Santana develops into an above average catcher (he may be now but we haven’t seen it because of the previously mentioned injury).

 

Predicted Record Range: 73-78 wins. This is again the mean for the possible scenarios that develop with Santana, Hafner etc. This means the range could go to 75-80 if everything goes right or they could actually lose more games because of their lack of improvements and the much improved AL Central.

 

Next up: Kansas City Royals

 

Again, well see when it comes to today’s double header at Fordham. One thing to look forward to (for some people, I get that not all of you like Spring Training much less High School Baseball) is that these following entries *WILL* have pictures! So no more pictures showing how awesome are field is:

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but look at it. This is college level field where I have my own luxury suite (more on that in the entry). Where was I going with this point again? Oh… yeah, the following entries will be much more extensive and more visually appealing than there outdated counterparts.

Detroit Tigers Offseason Recap and Preview

Any time your team is most remembered for a failure than its successes. It’s not good:
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Grade: B+

Notable Additions:
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Victor Martinez, Joaquin Benoit, and Brad Penny.

Notable Subtractions:
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Armando Galarraga, Zack Miner, Adam Everett, and Gerald Laird.

Why?: Although they did make some improvements, they did so in a way that managed to anger the other 29 teams for what may be years to come.  Now, I’m not saying that it wasn’t inevitable but whoever gave the first big multi year deal to a middle reliever was going to be hated. It just so happens that the Tigers made that move. From now on, acquiring and developing middle relief talent will be changed forever in that it is now a more valuable asset.

The losses, although insignificant in talent could come back to bite the Tigers if they keep the injury bug with them in 2011. Although they upgraded the spot of fourth and fifth starters with Brad Penny and Phil Coke, they sacrificed depth when they let go of Galarraga and Miner. Now if any starter goes down (and who ever heard of a rotation going through the season completely healthy) they will have to turn to Mr. AAA instead of a proven starter like Galarraga. This might cost them just enough spots to be edged out by one of the other strong teams in the Central.

Also, they did get rid of defensive depth in Laird but took care of that by getting Omir Santos. Everett on the other hand, should have been kept. I know the Tigers like to think optimistically but when was the last time he played 120+ games. I’ve got the answer, 2007. Again, I like Everett significantly better than a AAA shotstop or second baseman or even Ramon Santiago.

Predicted Record Range: 84-89 They made some significant additions and are getting players back but the Tigers’ players do tend to ebb and flow (Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera). Will they finally all have good seasons at the same time? If so, this team has enough talent to win the division but the mean of the ebb and flow is the predicted range.

Next Up: Cleveland Indians

Tomorrow is a double header for Fordham. So the data from this game might back me up over part of the weekend. I will get the first entry by end of Saturday but make no promises about the second. I will try and get the player bios on the roster entry as soon as I can but baseball season can be hectic. We’ll see.

Chicago White Sox Offseason Recap and Preview

Remember when the White Sox were in first place? They went on a big surge and kept it up for a while even after this:

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All was well on the south side of Chicago they were making fun of their neighborhood Twins fans because their team couldn’t get them out of first even with a lost Peavy. Then… it happened, they went on a I don’t know how many game slide and lost first place in their division almost as quickly as they had gotten there. For the rest of the season, all they would do is have their defecit increase as the twins were the best team in baseball over the second half of the season. So they needed to make some moves, right?

 

Grade: B+

 

Notable Additions:

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Adam Dunn, Jesse Crain, Lastins Milledge

 

Notable Subtractions:

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Bobby Jenks, Manny Ramirez, Scott Linebrink, Freddy Garcia, and JJ Putz (maybe Mark Kotsay).
Why?:  I think we can all agree that the White Sox only added two impact players, if that many. Though this grade isn’t for just the additions vs subtractions it is for the offseason as a whole and they sure did capitalize on what I predicted would be a disastrous offseason for them with both AJ Pierzinski(Is that right? I was never good with the spelling of the polish surnames. Then again, who is?), Paul Konerko and all the rest of the notable free agents that left.
What really stood out to me was that the White sox were able to both get an impact lefty bat and keep Konerko and Pierzinski. Had they lost Konerko and Pierzinski they would have been more in the D range but they not only resigned Konerko and Pierzinski but saved some tens of millions of dollars over, or should I say under, market value. They then solidified their bullpen with Jesse Crain. Would it have been better to have Jenks and Linebrink? Yes, of course. Would it have cost them more? Yes, of course. Do they have any role in the bullpen that is not filled? Yes, of course. Wait… no! They don’t have any unfilled roles in the bullpen. I must have hypnotized myself.
Predicted Record Range:85-90 wins They still don’t have a defined ace until Jake Peavy recovers ( before y’all Sawx fans get up in arms I do not consider John Danks an Ace because of his inconsistency. It has nothing to do with how good he can be at times. I do in fact think he will (may) be an ace in the future but he is not at this moment). So, until Peavy get back ( and I mean *really* gets back) I cannot put this team above that figure. If Peavy comes out of Spring training a Cy Young candidate we’ll talk but until then, this is their range.
Next Up: Detroit Tigers
The Fordham Prep baseball team just played its first game of the pre-season. I will get that up by tomorrow in hopes of making fans out of lazy parents (please don’t read this, please don’t read this). So , the MLB fans just bear with me until it is snagging season. I will be still doing the team previews simultaneously but for those who do want to read about my High school’s games I will be getting that game’s recap up tomorrow some time. Here is the schedule if you want to know approximately when the recaps will be going up.
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