I think the story of the Nationals’ 2011 season could very well be one person:
Michael Morse. Now he might not be that much of a household name, but as a person that went to Nationals Park pretty frequently last season I can say the dude is a monster. Just look at his spray chart,
For that reason he was a bittersweet person to have in the cage during bp. You knew he was going to hit the ball a ways, but deciding whether to play him as a lefty or a righty was a whole other frustrating deal.
Gio Gonzalez, Mike Cameron, Mark DeRosa, Chad Durbin, Edwin Jackson, Brad Lidge, and Ryan Perry.
Laynce Nix, Collin Balester, Todd Coffey, Alex Cora, Jonny Gomes, Livan Hernandez, Tom Milone, and Brad Peacock.
Why?: With this past offseason, it may seem like the Nationals did really well. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been around the Nationals so much, but it seems to me that they lost a bunch of players that, yes, were not starters, but they are just below that cusp. Mind you, a B is still improving the team a bit, but I think most everyone christened their ship to a much improved season because of the additions. For me, they will improve if those that were already in the organization improve, because I am a little bit skeptical about whether Gio Gonzalez can stay healthy after building up such an innings count for the first time.
All that said, it still can be a great season in that the talent on the team surpasses the record they had last year if they can just *solidify* their rotation. I’m not talking about making it a strength of the team, but if they can just not lose games because of their starters, their lineup could win them 85 games. I kid you not, the only offensively deficient spot in that lineup is the Short Stop position with Ian Desmond. The next closest position to being offensively below-average is the Catcher position with Wilson Ramos (aka the guy every Twins fan wishes had never been traded in order to get Matt Capps).
Predicted Record Range: 85-90 wins. I say this tentatively, though. For whatever reason, I have this strange feeling in my gut that SOMEthing will go wrong with the Nationals this year. My first thought was that Gio Gonzalez will be injured, but now I’m starting to think that it might be Strasburg again. Whatever, enough of my crazy feelings, that’s it for this entry except that you need to vote on the poll below.
Next Up: Atlanta Braves, then the NL West
First team in NL West:
First of all, let me wish you a happy Leap Day. It is always nice to have an extra day in the year, no. Is it just me, or is it weird to see them as the Miami Marlins? I typed in Florida in the title but then had to erase it, and this coming from a person that saw the preliminary sketches of what is now the Marlins logo in the Summer of 2010 (it’s sort of a longish story, but I met the “Director of Creative Services”, Alfred Hernández, or at least that is what it say on his card,and he was/is in charge of the Marlins logo and authorizing its use anywhere. It was through a program I’ll mention later on in the entry.) So why am I writing the Marlins’ entry on this day? That would be because March is National Optimism Month and I want to get all my pessimism out before then. Most of it surrounds this $650 million beaut:
Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle, Cahd Gaudin, Wade LeBlanc, Aaron Rowand, and Carlos Zambrano.
Chris Volstad, Burke Badenhop, John Baker, Mike Cameron, Clay Hensley, Jose Lopez, and Brian Sanches.
Why?: Yeah, yeah, I know that the Marlins gained a bunch of talent and lost essentially nothing. I agree that based just off of talent, their grade should be higher. Let me also set the records straight that I have nothing against the Marlins they are one of the middle-of-the-pack to front-of-the-pack teams when it comes to favorite teams with me. Now that we’ve gotten these things established, here is the real reason why I gave them the grade I did.
The Marlins’ plan as I interpret it is: get a bunch of players and hope it attracts a big crowd. There is some merit to this. First of all, Dolphins Stadium or whatever the heck you want to call it, is the equivalent of the Medowlands to New York in that it is fine to get to for a weekly event such as a football game, but it is 35 miles north of downtown Miami, so it was a pain in the neck to get to. Secondly, the new stadium is a much nicer one from what I saw while I was in Miami and the location also has the side effect of playing more towards the baseball-oriented Cuban residents that reside in the City closer to the new stadium (which happens to be the old Orange Bowl site).
However, the Marlins have a couple things that could mess this whole experiment up. First, the Marlins ticked a LOT of people off when they asked for public funding for the stadium. I personally know a couple Miami natives that just refused to go to games the last two seasons for this simple fact. Second, the Marlins got a lot of money from Miami-Dade County to fund their stadium (the total cost of the stadium was around $650 million and Miami-Dade raised about $500 million by selling bonds to help pay for the stadium. That’s almost 80% (76.9 is close enough, right?). I was in Miami for a three week course in Sports Administration a the University of Miami right when it was announced most of the stadium would be publicly funded. So, in addition to looking at how people in South Florida fudge the numbers to convince committees to let them hold the Super Bowl there so often, we also looked at how skewed the numbers the Marlins were using to convince the county to help fund the stadium. Now of course we weren’t using the real numbers, but we were estimating using numbers we did now, and if those number held any truth, the numbers were fudged quite a bit to convince people they needed help with the funding. Interestingly enough, it was announced December 3rd that the SEC would be investigating the Marlins’ use of public funding to build their new stadium. Unless the Marlins can come up with some clever way around this, they will in all likelihood be punished. How much? I have no idea, but the numbers do not stack up well in their favor, let’s put it that way. Lastly, the Marlins are assuming their newfound players will result in a winning team. However, they did only win 72 games last season good for dead last in the NL East, so I don’t know if they are as automatically in contention as everyone thinks. They may very well be, but the Nationals are also on the rise, the Braves have a good young foundation that will probably get better, and the Phillies are the Phillies. So it might not be the case that they win for the foreseeable future (and have high attendance figures) like they are expecting.
Predicted Record Range: 85-90 wins Let’s see, this would mean they added 13-18 wins in the offseason. This is a big jump. I’m not so sure about this prediction.
Once again in the pitcher-friendly Citi Field, it was the Mets rotation that helped them stay afloat in 2011:
Why?: Let me put it to you this way, the Mets would have had a way worse team even if they had not lost Jose Reyes.
Now that I’ve said that, let’s compare the two columns side-by-side. Sure they got two good bullpen options in Fransisco and Rauch, but they don’t have either of their closers from last year (K-Rod and Isringhausen).
The other two additions the Mets made were to add an Outfielder and a shortstop via Torres and Cedeño. What they lost, however, were three Outfielders-two of which were starters- and quite possibly THE best (offensive) Shortstop in the game last year.
If all that weren’t enough, they also lost two starting pitchers and a decent bullpen option that happens to be the only player I’ve played catch with.
I think I might be a little too harsh with them due to them being my local over-shadowed team, but I’ll stick with it.
Predicted Record Range: 67-72 wins. I wouldn’t surprise me, though, if they surpassed this total. The Mets seem to be one of those teams that does the opposite of whatever is expected of them. When they are predicted to win the division, they falter at the end of the season. When they are predicted to stink, the go on a run in June where they are the best team in baseball.
I know I haven’t been watching baseball for THAT long compared to most people, but I can’t remember a team ever living up to the hype set in the preseason so quietly as the Phillies did last season. Their roatation was by far the best in the Majors:
Why?: I know that it may seem like a no-brainer to some people that the Phillies got better this offseason. However, once I actually looked at the list of names, they really added no value to their team at all, and you know what? They didn’t have to. This team won 102 games last season and that was WITH a ten game losing streak down the stretch. I distinctly remember tweeting something along the lines of “Whoa, the Phillies have won 97 games and still have 12 games to play?!” (this was amid their ginormous losing streak). So, they could still most likely win the division by just treading water and waiting for Ryan Howard to come back from the DL.
Predicted Record Range: 95-100 wins
I know the more hardcore Orioles fans might not like it, but the highlight of their season, from a national perspective was game 162:
Wilson Betemit, Luis Ayala, Endy Chavez, Armando Galarraga, Jason Hammel, Matt Lindstrom, and Pat Neshek.
Luke Scott, Jeremy Accardo, Jeremy Guthrie, Mark Hendrickson, Felix Pie, Jai Miller, and Ronny Paulino.
Why?: This is almost the opposite of the Blue Jays’ situation in that the best players the Orioles lost were better than the best players they gained, but ue to the sheer number of players gained, did they end up improving on their team. As for the pictures, if you don’t know, I usually put up the picture of the player I perceive to be most notable in both the addition and subtraction categories. For this entry I put up Wilson Betemit and Luke Scott.
Betemit I really have no defense of other than that there really was no player that stood out to me. I could have just as easily put any of four players up as the picture, but I was feeling indecicive and Betemit was at the second on the alphabetically ordered list and he signed for the most years of any of the players. Luke scott on the other hand, I did pick more carefully. I know that for many, the instinct would be to put Jeremy Guthrie as the pictured subtraction, but I took into account the opportunity cost of losing Scott. With Guthrie, he would have been here for another year and the Orioles would have lost him for nothing (well a draft pick, but you know what I mean). With Scott, they probably would have signed him for a few years, and they also would have been getting a better player than they saw last year where as Guthrie has a potential to improve, but would have been less likely to.
Anyway, that’s pretty much all I have to say on the subject.
Predicted Record Range: 62-67 wins I just see the rest of the division getting that much better that there won’t be enough wins for the Orioles to win more games even with their roster improvements.
I think the Blue Jays’ 2011 season is best summed up by the culture lead by the one and only, Joey Bats:
Francisco Cordero, Ben Francisco, Jason Frasor, and Darren Oliver.
Frank Francisco, Shawn Camp, Nelson Figueroa, Chad Gaudin, Brad Mills, Jose Molina, Jon Rauch, Omar Vizquel, and Dewayne Wise.
Why?: First of all, let me say that this team definitely leads the league in “Francisco” related transactions. Maybe it’s just me, but they added both Fancisco Cordero and Ben Francisco. Then I think they made sure not to re-sign Frank Francisco just to add him to the list.
Really the grade from this came in that the average talent level of the players they added was far greater than that of the players lost, but there were just too many players lost to give the Blue Jays a grade that suggested they got better this offseason (for those who don’t know, a “C” means the team added just as much talent as they lost in an offseason. Anything above means they improved in terms of talent, anything below means they got worse in terms of talent. The degree to which they were better or worse than a “C” dictates how much talent they gained or lost. Also, by talent, I mean to suggest how much better they made the team itself for the next season. So although a minor league may be talented beyond belief, if he isn’t expected to play in MLB that next season they didn’t add any talent as far as I am concerned. I do give brownie point in the grades for good moves in terms of the long term, but the grade is based on how well the team set itself up for the immediately subsequent season. So that would be 2012 for this offseason.)
I really don’t feel like getting into the specifics, but I feel as though this is really the same team, talent-wise, as last season, so I gave them a “C”.
Predicted Record Range: 80-85 wins I don’t know why, but I just think this team could get a few games better this season, even though they really added a net-value of nothing.
As much as I feel dislike towards the Red Sox as a person who grew up as a Yankee fan, I know that they are people with feelings too and I know I am causing them enough damage by just showing this picture of game 162. So I won’t add any commentary, but I have to show the picture because it *was* the story of their 2011:
Andrew Bailey, Aaron Cook, Mark Melancon, Clayton Mortensen, Vincente Padilla, Nick Punto, Cody Ross, Kelly Shoppach, and Ryan Sweeney.
Jonathan Papelbon, J.D. Drew, Jed Lowrie, Hideki Okajima, Josh Reddick, Marco Scutaro, Kyle Weiland, and Dan Wheeler.
Why?: When you actually look at the talent changing hands, the Red Sox are probably more of a C+/B- type offseason. However, the Red Sox’s owner, John Henry, also owns the English Premier Legaue Football club, Liverpool. Over the past year, Liverpool has added players totaling a dollar amount that is comparable to the Red Sox’s total payroll (when converted from pounds to dollars). Due to this spending spree with Liverpool, and the spending spree last year with the Red Sox, it is understandable that Henry didn’t want any major additions to the payroll. Given this fact, I bumped the Red Sox’s grade up to a B, because they managed to add some key pieces without spending a lot. Let me tell you, they were REALLY close to being a B+, but I didn’t want to bump them up too much.
As odd as it may seem, I think the Sox may have actually upgraded at the closer position. Since Andrew Bailey has been closing out games for the small-market Oakland Athletics, he really isn’t as exposed to mainstream America as most closers, but I can tell you he is one of the best in the business. Sure, he played for the A’s, which were offensively anemic, and thus gave him more save opportunities, but I remind you that he *did* win the AL ROY a few years ago and has maintained this production since.
I guess you can argue that Cody Ross is a good signing with the Green Monster out in Left Field, but I really can’t think of many RHBs that wouldn’t benefit from having a wall 300 feet away from them while they’re at the plate. Seriously, can you think of more than ten hitters that wouldn’t be helped by that? The only names I’m coming up with are right handed slap hitters like Derek Jeter, but I have a feeling even he would be assisted by the wall.
Other than this, I really have nothing else to report on the subject that could be summed up in less than 500 words. The names on the lists suggest that the Red Sox probably deserve a higher grade, but I do have my reasons behind the grade.
Predicted Record Range: 90-95 wins A bunch of people didn’t do as well as they could’ve. Also, I never thought I would say this, but it might be a good thing that John Lackey is out for the season.
The Yankees season was really a culmination of surprise seasons from players. Including, but not limited to, the guys in this next picture:
Michael Pineda, Russell Branyan, Bill Hall, Hiroki Kuroda, Hideki Okajima, and Dewayne Wise.
Jesus Montero, Andrew Brackman, Bartolo Colon, Hector Noesi, Jorge Posada, and Scott Proctor.
Why?: Ok, I know that everyone wants to know how the Yankees and Mariners could possibly both end up being better. I *do* think that the Mariners got the better talent. However, I think the Yankees did what was best for the team. The Yankees have long been an offensive powerhouse, but they needed cheap pitching. The Yankees may have been able to effectively use Montero, but what we know they needed is to get more pitchers in their rotation. That is what all the Yankees fans were complaining about. I realize that being a GM is mostly about winning and not pleasing people, but when you operate your own network like the Yankees do, it has an elelment of pleasing the crowd to it, because hype surrounding the team going into a season boosts the rating early on in the year.
While this may be a short-term benefit, there is also a long-term one to this trade. As you may or may not have heard, the Yankees are trying to get under the luxury tax threshold within the next two years, as MLB is hiking up the penalties for being over it. The goal being to try and save about $100 million over the three years after that with the raised penalties. Pineda satisfies this goal, because he will cost about $7 million a year for what appears to be a number 2 starter. Starting Pitching usually cost more on the open market than hitting. So the Yankees will be both trading a surplus category for a stregnthening of a weakness and will be getting a pitcher for less than a pitcher of his talent would have cost on the open market. So if they had to sacrifice some talent and take on some risk, so be it. This is my take on it, anyway.
As for the other players, I really don’t feel much like analyzing EVERY one of the players added and subtracted. I mean like “Hiroki Kuroda is better than Bartolo Colon, but is he given the fact that Scott Proctor went to Japan?” Yeah, that stuff, I don’t see as that important when looking at the Yankees’ offseason this year. I just looked at the aggragates and thought it seemed like they a B/B+ job this offseason. The aformentioned, Montero, Pineda trade seemed like a C+/B- trade so I averaged.
Predicted Record Range: 94-99 wins Yeah they did win 100 games last season, but I also think that a bunch of players over performed what they usually do and the Yankees will come back to earth this year.
This, for whatever reason, was pretty much the gist of the White Sox’s 2011 season:
Mark Buehrle, Jason Frasor, Juan Pierre, Carlos Quentin, Sergio Santos, and Omar Vizquel.
Why?: Did you SEE all of their notable addition made this offseason? I looked up and down the list of Hot Stove people related to the White Sox and the highlight of their offseason is that Lastings Milledge is still on the market as a minor league free agent. Not even the prospects they got back in all of the trades were listed on the page. It just said: Jason Frasor, traded for two minor leaguers, or something like that. I like that the White Sox are trying to finally focus on their future as their Alex Rios and Jake Peavy moves have gone south, which is why I didn’t give them an “F”, but geez, they really lost a lot this offseason to have gained absolutely nothing.
Actually, no, I take the Lastings Milledge thing back. The highlight of the White Sox offseason has been re-signing Brain Bruney. Still, though, I don’t think that the highlight of any team looking to have even mild success in 2012 would be in signing a guy you had the previous season to a minor league contract. This mediocre-at-best offseason is most likely the product of Ken Williams’ signings of Alex Rios and Jake Peavy. Yes, the Adam Dunn deal has been a bust up until this point, but no one foresaw Dunn going this cold. When Williams traded for Rios and Peavy, there was a buzz among GM to the tune of: “Well he is really bold in making these moves, but I don’t know if I would do this. Rios is getting paid way more than he is performing and Peavy is coming off an injury.”
Predicted Record Range: 70-75 wins Dunn may return to form still, which would shift this range upwards, but they just lost too much net talent for my taste.