Monday, July 4, 2011

First Half Awards: National League

As I did for the American League the other day, today I will list who I feel the major award winners in the National League would be if the season ended today.

Most Valuable Player: Matt Kemp (LAD)
The Numbers: .322/.406/.609, 22 Homers, 64 RBI, 22 SB.

In the real voting that will occur at the end of the season, Kemp will not benefit from the fact that he is playing on a mediocre team. But in selecting who has been the all-around best player this year in the National League, it is difficult to select anyone else. Don't get me wrong, there are certainly other candidates -- many of which are more likely to win the actual award at the end of the season given the teams they are on, but Kemp has been better. Kemp is first in the National League in Home Runs, first in Total Bases, second in OPS, third in RBI, fourth in Stolen Bases, and fifth in Hits. His impressive numbers across the board make it difficult for anyone else to compete with him, especially when he plays at a premium position like Center Field.
Honorable Mentions: Jose Reyes, Prince Fielder, Lance Berkman, Brian McCann.

Cy Young Award: Roy Halladay (PHI)
The Numbers: 136.1 Innings Pitched, 11-3, 2.44 ERA 8.6 K/9, 131/17 strike out to walk ratio, 1.027 WHIP.
Halladay may not have the lowest ERA in the National League, but his all-around numbers indicate that his season is more sustainable.
Halladay is leading the league in Innings Pitched and Complete Games, and Strikeout to walk ratio, second in Strike Outs and WHIP, and third in ERA. Halladay's high position on every single pitching statistic is indicative of just how great he is, in my opinion it is hard to argue that there is any better pitcher in the game right now.
Honorable Mentions: Jair Jurrjens, Cole Hamels

Rookie of the Year: Danny Espinosa (WAS)
The Numbers: .243/.328/.465, 15 Homers, 48 RBI, 9 SB.

In kind of a down year for rookies in the National League, Espinosa has been the best. He has provided valuable power for the Nationals who lost Adam Dunn last year and have been missing Ryan Zimmerman for most of this year. His slash-line numbers may not be excellent, but compared to other National League rookies he is quite good. Among rookies Espinosa is first in Slugging, OPS, Home Runs, Stolen Bases, and RBIs. Espinosa is still only 23, and looks like (if he could develop some patience) he could become an excellent hitter in the coming years for the Nationals.
Honorable Mentions: Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, Darwin Barney.

Comeback Player of the Year: Lance Berkman (STL)
The Numbers: Last year: .248/.368/.413, 14 Homers, 58 RBI. This year: .297/.409/.610, 22 Homers, 61 RBI.
Most people though Berkman's life as an elite producer was over after last year, but he has proved them wrong, being the most productive hitter on a team that has Albert Pujols. Berkman has already surpassed the majority of his numbers from last year, and is a legitimate MVP candidate if he can continue his production. He is first in the NL OPS, and Home Runs, and fifth in RBI.
Some may feel that Jose Reyes deserves to be here, but I based my "Comeback Player" on improvement over a previous season. While Reyes has certainly had a much better season this year, he was by no means a bad player last year as Berkman was. Also by definition a "Comeback Player" has to be someone who has had legitimate success earlier in their career but had a difficult season the year before, making break-out players (like Michael Morse) ineligible in my opinion.
Honorable Mention: Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran

Saturday, July 2, 2011

First Half Awards: American League

So I just recently discussed who I felt was the best player at each position in each league. I figure I will follow that up by discussing who I feel would win all of the major awards if the season ended today.

American League

Most Valuable Player: Adrian Gonzalez (BOS)
The Numbers: .349/.404/.590, 16 Homers, 73 RBI
Gonzalez is leading the league in Hits, Runs Batted In, Total Bases, and Batting Average. He has been the most consistent hitter on a wildly inconsistent Red Sox team. Gonzalez has also been a force on both sides of the ball, with most defensive metrics showing him to be one of the best defensive First Basemen in the league. On the whole, it is difficult to argue any other player in the league has been better than Gonzalez so far this season.
Honorable Mentions: Jose Bautista (TOR), Curtis Granderson (NYY), Paul Konerko (CWS).

Cy Young Award: Justin Verlander (DET)
The Numbers: 11-3, 135.2 Innings Pitched, 2.32 ERA, .862 WHIP, 130 Strike Outs.
Verlander has had dominant seasons before (see: 2009), but this season surpasses anything he has ever done if he can keep up this pace. Verlander is leading the league in strikeouts, Innings Pitched, and WHIP. There are not even very many relief pitchers who have a WHIP comparable to Verlander's. Some pitchers may have slightly lower ERAs than Verlander's, but WHIP is certainly a better number to look at for a pitcher as it indicates how sustainable a pitcher's numbers are. The fact that Verlander has put up the best WHIP in the most-innings pitched indicates how good he has been this season.
Honorable Mentions: Josh Beckett (BOS), Michael Pineda (SEA), Jered Weaver (LAA), James Shields (TBR).

Rookie of the Year: Michael Pineda (SEA)
The Numbers: 7-5, 2.65 ERA, 1.029 WHIP, 8.7 K/9.
Pineda has come on to the scene in Seattle as a force and is a big part of why Seattle is fairing better this year than they did last year. He is seventh in the league in WHIP, sixth in the league in ERA, and 10th in the league Strike Outs. These numbers make him one of the best pitchers in the league, not just the best rookie. Barring some unforeseen injury or a bout of ineffectiveness it is difficult to see anyone else winning the Rookie of the Year Award.
Honorable Mentions: Mark Trumbo (LAA), Jeremy Hellickson (TBR).

Comeback Player of the Year: Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS)
The Numbers: 2010: 18 Games, .192/.241/.485. 2011: 80 Games, .300/.361/.452, 25 SB, 9 Homers, 45 RBI.
While the NL is awash with Comeback Player of the Year Candidates, the American League is a little shorter on candidates. The only other legitimate comeback player candidate in my mind is probably Russel Martin, and Ellsbury is outperforming him in every way. Ellsbury's season last year was cut short due to a rib injury, and when he was playing he was not particularly effective. There was some worry that he would not come back and be a full speed, but he has been impressive. He has on track for his usual 50+ Stolen Bases, but more interestingly he has already tied his career high for Home Runs and is on track to set career highs in RBIs, Doubles, and Hits.
Honorable Mention: Russel Martin

That's all for now. I will tackle the National League in the coming days!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My All-Stars: National League

So today I am going to tackle selecting the National League players whom I believe have been the best players at their respective positions so far this season. The rules for my selections will be the same as they were for the similar post I made about the American League. Those rules really only being that I am only selecting a single player at each position, and there are no rules about team representation. So, let's begin.

Catcher - Brian McCann (ATL)
Brian McCann is sometimes overlooked for just how good he is, and is perhaps the best Catcher in baseball. Since he started playing in 2005, he leads all Catchers in Total Bases, Home Runs, and RBIs. He has continued to impress this year, perhaps posting the best first half of his career with a .317/.391/.533 line and looking like he may post 30+ homers for the first time in his career. McCann's .923 OPS is impressive, especially for a catcher, and the next closest full-time National League catcher to this number is Miguel Montero who has an OPS more than 100 points lower.

First Base - Prince Fielder (MIL)
Prince Fielder is the latest among a large number of players who have had impressive years in their walk year. Fielder is leading the NL in RBIs, and all NL First Basemen in Homers and OPS. Joey Votto has the next highest OPS in the NL for a First Baseman, and he is 100 points behind Fielder.

Second Base - Rickie Weeks (MIL)
As in the American League, this has been kind of a down year for Second Basemen. But, unlike in the NL, there is no clear leader at the position. However, I believe Rickie Weeks has had the best first half of NL second baseman, beating out guys like Chase Utley, Danny Espinosa, and Neil Walker. Weeks has posted a .290/.358/.495 line, and while he doesn't lead second basemen in anything but OPS, he has proven to be a more well-rounded player than the contendors. Espinosa has posted an impressive first half as far as power numbers go with 15 home runs, and Chase Utley missed a large portion of the season and hasn't found his power stroke yet.

Shortstop - Jose Reyes (NYM)
Another player having a career year for their walk year. There really should be no need for discussion here, as Reyes has in many ways been the best player in the National League in the first half. He leads the entire National League in a plethora of stats: Runs, Hits, Triples, and Batting Average. He may not have rediscovered his Home Run power, but despite that he is also leading in Total Bases. He has also managed to steal 29 bases, being caught only five times. Reyes' .349/.394/.528 line has him on track for a career year, and no other National League Shortstop (especially in light of Hanley Ramirez's off year), even comes close. Here is a comparison of the top three OPSes among Shortstops, just to give you a feel of Reyes' dominance.

Jose Reyes: .922
Troy Tulowitzki: .818
Starlin Castro: .791

Third Base - Aramis Ramirez (CHC)
I may have said that Second Basemen in the NL are having a down year, but Third Basemen in the NL seem to be performing even more poorly. So much so that Aramis Ramirez, who got off to an extremely slow start, has been the best Third Baseman in the first half. He has of course been helped by the injury to Ryan Zimmerman, but the fact remains that he has been the best. He leads all National League Third Basemen in Total Bases by more than 20, and has the second best OPS for a Third Baseman in the league at a whopping (sarcasm) .790. It could be argued that Chase Headley has had the better season, but I feel that Ramirez should start before him based largely on the fact that he has become extremely hot of late and looks to finally be playing up to his level.

Left Field - Lance Berkman (STL)
Berkman is likely going to win the Comeback Player of the Year award in the National League, and for good reason. After looking like his career was at a close with the Astros and the Yankees last year, Berkman has rebounded to put up monster numbers. He has a .295/.404/.573 slash-line all of which are best among Left Fielders and while his power surge has certainly slowed down, his 18 home runs are still good enough for the most among Left Fielders.

Center Field - Matt Kemp (LAD)
Maybe the one thing that Los Angeles Dodgers have to be happy about. After having a year plagued by inconsistency, and after having been called out by the team's GM, Kemp seems to have finally harnessed all of his talent and has posted an astounding .332/.417/.630, all the best among all NL outfielders, and comparable only to Curtis Granderson among all outfielders in the major leagues. He leads the National League in Slugging, OPS, and Total Bases from a premium position. He already has a 20-20 season with 22 Home Runs and 21 Steals, and looks like he may make a run at the more exclusive 40-40 club.

Right Field Ryan Braun (MIL)
Ryan Braun is having a fourth consecutive All-Star caliber season. Braun isn't doing anything special this season, not for him anyway, but continues to consistently produce outstanding numbers having posted a .308/.391/.555 first half, and on track to get back above 30 home runs this season after falling short last season. No other Right Fielder is even in the conversation. The type of consistent excellence Braun has shown early in his career indicate that he should be a player we all keep our eyes on in the future.

Starting Pitcher - Roy Halladay (PHI)
Roy Halladay is the best active pitcher in the Major Leagues. It's difficult to argue otherwise, but you can try. He continues to be an extremely sturdy player, even now that he is getting into his 30s, and leads the league in Innings Pitched. His 2.40 ERA is not approached by many other Starting Pitchers in the league, and he also leads the majors with 5 Complete Games. Halladay's consistent dominance since 2005 is an impressive span of any pitcher's career that is unmatched by any player not named Sandy Koufax.

Closer - Joel Hanrahan (PIT)
Part of the reason for the Pirates (hopefully not temporary) return to relevance, Hanrahan has been the best closer in the National League so far this season. His name may not be a household one just yet, but if he has a second half anything like hist first half that will be hard to avoid. Hanrahan has 23 Saves this season and has converted 100% of his save opportunities this season. There is no other closer in the majors who has 10 or more saves who has not blown a save yet this season. Given this fact, there is literally no other Closer that the National League should be handing the ball to to protect a lead.

That's all for now! Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My All-Stars: American League

So, with the All-Star game upon us I thought I would take the time to go through and select who I felt was the best player at each position in each league. I will be selecting one player per position, including for pitcher, I will pick one Starting Pitchers and one Relief Pitcher in each league. I know it's not a perfect system, and it obviously would not make the best "practical" team, but that's how I'm going to it. It should be noted this is not necessarily my projection of who will be the starters on the All-Star team, but rather the players who I feel are most deserving of starting. I am also not taking into account the rules that one player from each team must be represented, only going by the numbers.

Today I'm going to be dealing with the American League.

American League

Catcher - Alex Avila (DET)
Some people may be shocked to hear that so far this season Alex Avila has put up the best numbers for an American League Catcher. Sorry Joe Mauer fanboys, Avila's .304/.375/.542 slash-line is ridiculous for a catcher, and completely eclipses the horrible season Mauer is having. Avila's teammate Victor Martinez, who spends hardly time at Catcher these days, is the only other player who could be considered, with his .336/.385/.498 line. While Mauer is making a strong showing in the All-Star ballot based on name recognition, he certainly doesn't deserve to start over Avila.

First Base - Adrian Gonzalez (BOS)
No real surprise here. Adrian Gonzalez has taken to Fenway Park just as baseball pundits predicted. Gonzalez is leading all players in Hits (114), RBI (71), and Batting Average (.361), while playing almost every day. Mark Teixeira and Miguel Cabrera are the only other two AL First Basemen worthy of consideration, and Miguel Cabrera comes especially close -- until you take into consideration contributions on both sides of the ball.

Gonzalez: .361/.415/.611 (1.026 OPS)
Teixeira: .247/.358/.538 (.896 OPS)
Cabrera: .332/.451/.572 (1.023 OPS)

Second Base - Robinson Cano (NYY)

In an off-year for AL Second Basemen, Cano is far ahead of the rest of the pack posting a .290/.334/.502 Slash-line. There is not another American League second baseman who is even close to approaching that this year. For purposes of comparison, Dustin Pedroia, has posted a .276/.391/.400 line, and he is second the American League in OPS for 2B.

Shortstop - Jhonny Peralta (DET)
Peralta will more than likely be overlooked for flashier shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to start the actual All-Star game, but the fact is that Peralta has been the best offensive Shortstop in the league. Here is a comparison of the two players:

Peralta: .311/.360/.531 good for an .891 OPS
Cabrera: .295/.346/.502 god for an OPS of .848.

While OPS certainly isn't everything - as Cabrera has stolen more bases and in fact has more Extra Base Hits than Peralta, Peralta still beats Cabrera in every slash-line category.

Third Base - Alex Rodriguez (NYY)

Rodriguez has certainly aged and is no longer the player he once was. But guess what? His production at Third Base has been best in the American League so far this year despite that. Rodriguez has posted a .300/.377/.513 line, and leads all American League Third Basemen in OPS and Batting Average. Many will suggest Adrian Beltre is more deserving of the slot based on his better power numbers and excellent defense - and they may be right, but I'm standing by Rodriguez as the best Third Baseman of the first half.

Right Field - Jose Bautista (TOR).
Jose Bautista has proven that last year was no fluke (this is probably the thirtee time you've read that), perhaps even outdoing himself last year so far, posting a much better slash-line of .328/.469/.656. He is leading all MLB players in Home Runs, On-Base Percentage and Slugging -- and obviously in OPS. There is really no argument as to who else should play here.

Center Field - Curtis Granderson (NYY)
Curtis Granderson has finally been healthy for a full first half in New York, and has shown what he is capable of doing in that stadium, posting absolutely ridiculous numbers for a Center Fielder. He has a .276/.360/.572 slash-line and leads all Outfielders not named Jose Bautista in OPS and Home Runs. The only other player really in the running for this slot is Jacoby Ellsbury who has posted a very good .303/.365/.461 slash-line to go with his league-leading 25 Steals. Those numbers would have been enough for a starting slot in most seasons, but Granderson has made sure that doesn't happen.

Left Field - Alex Gordon (KCR)
There has not been a lot of impressive production out of Left Fielders this season, but former hot prospect Alex Gordon, who seems to finally be approaching his potential, has been the best. He has posted a .294/.363/.481 line and has pounded out an impressive 35 XBH.

Starting Pitcher - Justin Verlander (DET)

This is a difficult decision, partly imposed by my own limit of one player position, and partly because players like James Shields, Jered Weaver and Josh Beckett seem to be having career years (Year of the Pitcher II?) along with Verlander. However, I think Verlander has been marginally better than those three. Verlander leads the league in Innings Pitched, Strikeouts, and WHIP. His ERA is a touch higher than Beckett's or Weaver's, but he has down so in far more innings.

Closer - Mariano Rivera
Stop me if you've heard this before: Mariano Rivera just keeps producing. So far this season he has the lowest ERA among American League closers and is ranked second in Saves. Chris Perez is the next closest competitor, and his ERA is nearly a half-run higher than Mariano's.

Well, that's it for those. I realize my team ended up being extremely waited towards the New York Yankees (with 3 players), and the Detroit Tigers (with 3 players), but such things happen. There is a reason both teams are leading their divisions, albeit by the narrowest of margins.

I will try to post my National League All-Stars tomorrow night. Have a good one!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Offensive Deflation: What's the Cause?

If you haven't realized it, offense has been going down for the last two years. Last season was the beginning, but this season has really shown a much greater decrease. The number of shutouts in the game is up -- if the current trend holds there will be 338 Shutouts this season. By comparison, in 1999 there were 193 shut outs. Baseball is on track to have its worst offensive season since 1972, which was the year that caused the American League to implement the Designated Hitter.

These are simply the facts -- the question is, why is this the case? Personally, I don't think there is any one reason, and it is difficult to say what reason is having the greatest effect. However, I can still list the contributing factors and why I think they are contributing.

1. The end of the "Steroid Era".
This seems to be the most commonly cited reason for the offensive deflation, and it seems likely that it certainly plays a role. PED testing has become widespread, and players have been suspended who don't conform to these new rules (see: Manny Ramirez). However, while the apparent purification of the game has certainly had an effect, it is difficult to say that it is the only one.

2. Pitchers are getting better.
Of course, it's hard to say this since the statistics that a pitcher has are clearly effected by the caliber of hitting in his day and age, so the main thing that I'm going to use in my discussion of this is the average miles per hour of fastballs for major league hitters, as it is something that is static and is not affected by the pitcher's environment. According to data gathered by Bill James, the average fastball speed the lat few years is as follows:

2006: 90
2007: 90.8
2008: 91.4
2009: 92.5
2010: 93

Obviously there is a trend developing here. You probably could have figured it out without looking at the numbers simply by thinkign about the number of young pitchers who are around right now who throw extremely hard: i.e, David Price, Daniel Bard, Joel Hanrahan, Stephen Strasburg, etc.,
In short, I think the caliber of pitchers right now certainly plays a role in the loss of offense.

3. Failure of hitters to adjust their philosophies
Baseball players today strike out a lot. That's no secret. Personally, I believe it to be a remnant of the so-called "steroid era" in that players did not mind striking out so much because offense was so easy to come by, so an all or nothing approach was efficient. Now, with offense coming at a premium, and players hitting fewer home runs, players have failed to change their strategy. Players are still striking out a lot but are not supplying the power necessary to make their strikeouts worth it. There are of course players who are exceptions to this such as Adam Dunn and Ryan Howard, but there are many other players who should probably change their approach (See: James Loney, Mark Reynolds).

4. More emphasis on defense.
I've talked about the increased emphasis on defense by General Managers on this blog before, this emphasis is a product of General Managers adjusting to the of the steroid era. In general, the fact that more and more General Managers have become more interested in players who can provide solid defense and hit, there are simply more guys on the field who can effectively play both sides of the ball and fewer hulking outfielders and first basemen. This is more certainly a contributing factor to the decrease in offense.

Anyway, that's it for now. Let me know if you have any other ideas as to why offense has decreased.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Luckiest No-Hitter Ever.

Most of you probably already know that Francisco Liriano threw a no-hitter last night because of the way the media covers such things -- which is kind of the point of this post.

In my opinion, Liriano's start last night is a perfect example of how overblown the idea of a no-hitter is. No-hitter's are largely unfairly glorified by the media and the majority of baseball fans. Liriano's no-hitter last night was largely a product of luck. Twenty-Seven of his Twenty-Nine outs were on balls put in play -- the average Batting Average on Balls in Play would indicate how extremely good Liriano's luck was last night. I haven't looked at the numbers yet, but the two strikeouts Liriano had last night have to be among the lowest number of strikeouts for a pitcher throwing a no-hitter.

My real point here is that a no-hitter is not really a reflection of how good a pitcher is or how good a pitcher's stuff is on a given night due to the fairly large luck factor in baseball. The fact that Roy Halladay can throw a Complete Game and allow four hits and strike out double digit batters and get less fan-fare than Liriano got for his very much inferior start is kind of a flaw in the game. In general, many of the main stream pitching stats seem rather flawed to me with Saves the biggest culprit but with the "milestone" of the no-hitter being a close second.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Recent Extensions Worth the Risk?

You have probably already heard the news that Ryan Braun signed a five-year extension with the Brewers this week for $105 million. The interesting thing about the deal is that the Brewers already had Braun locked up through 2015, so this extension does not kick in until after 2015.

You probably also know that Troy Tulowitzki signed a lucrative contract this winter that extends him through 2020. Like Braun, Tulowitzki was already locked up for a number of years, so his extension will not kick in for a while.

It is clear that Tulowitzki and Braun are excellent players and certainly good players to have as cornerstones of your organization, but the question I'm asking here is whether or not it's worth extending these guys in this way. Specifically, I'm asking if it's a wise investment to decide to extend players who are already locked up for a number of years.

On the surface it seems fairly wise, especially given the production these two have put up early in their careers. They will also only be in their mid-30s by the time the contract ends, so both the Brewers and the Rockies will be getting the best part of these players' careers. However, that kind of assumption implies that the two are going to continue to be productive, and it also assumes that they are going to stay completely healthy, which is a much more dangerous assumption.

There have been many players who have been spectacular early in their careers but were then de-railed by freak injuries. Mark Prior is the first that comes to mind for me, but there are countless others. I'm not saying that Braun or Tulowitzki are any more likely than any other player to suffer one of these injuries (though Tulowitzki has proven to be injury prone early in his career), only that the risk is certainly there. The problem in giving one of these pre-mature extensions is that the player being extended receives this injury while still playing under the pre-extension contract. These two teams will still be on the hook for a massive amount of money.

Typically extensions are performed by teams who realize that a player is very likely to achieve their ceiling, but has not quite gotten their, so they may as well lock them up before they get to that level and demand even more money (see: Evan Longoria, Josh Johnson, Jon Lester, etc.,). It seems fairly unlikely that Ryan Braun and Tulowitzki have much higher to reach -- and in fact Braun seems to be on a modest decline.

So really, my conclusion here is that I simply don't understand what the benefit is of extending these players while they are still on multi-year contracts. It's entirely possible and in fact probable than Tulowitzki and Braun perform well over the course of their extremely long deals, but there is no reason that these extension deals should not have been delayed until Tulowitzki and Braun were much closer to the end of their respective contract.

What do you think? Do these contracts make sense?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Should Joe Mauer be catching?

It has long been said that Joe Mauer will stop catching at some point in his career -- though not by anyone in the Minnesota Twins organization. The belief is that at some point, the Twins will decide the wear and tear on his body will become too much, especially given the $184mm invested in him, and move him to another position where he will not get hurt. However, once again, I have heard everyone but the Twins say this. The question is, should he be moved?

Yes, Mauer has missed a number of games with injuries the last three years (and he also missed games in '07 because of injury), and this is a major reason that people argue he should be moved. However, does anyone really know if he will no longer be somewhat injury prone if he DOES stop catching? The answer is no. It may very well be that Mauer is just a guy who ends up on the DL every year, which sucks for the Twins, but he can still be a productive player going on the 15-day DL once every year.

However, that's not my biggest argument agaisnt moving Mauer. The biggest argument I have is that his bat really isn't THAT valuable if you place him anywhere else he can play. Mauer's career .326/.406/.479 line is impressive for sure, but his 81 Home Runs in 3616 Plate Apperances is not. While it's true the Twins could probably deal with a 3B putting up Mauer's numbers, you can bet that they'd rather get some of their Home Runs out of their 3B. Left Field and Right Field -- the other positions suggested for Mauer, are also positions that are typically expected to produce some pop. Shortstop and Centerfield are the only other positions Mauer could occupy and still be considered an elite player at the position -- and neither of those positions is an option for Mauer. So my point here is really that Mauer has maximum value at Catcher, where he is arguable the best in the game right now. Compare Mauer's numbers to any of the other positions he could play, and he's in the middle of the pack.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Manny Ramirez Retires

If you haven't heard, Manny Ramirez has announced his retirement. Reports indicate that he failed another PED drug test, and was informed he would need to serve a 100-game suspension, and he told the MLB he was retiring.

The point of this post isn't really to discuss whether or not Manny Ramirez belongs in the Hall of Fame, because it's pretty clear he does -- if you can get past the PED issue. He is one of the best hitting Outfielders of all time, and he is in the top 25 in Homers, RBIs, and Adjusted OPS. It is difficult to argue against Manny Ramirez's Hall of Fame candidacy assuming the voters eventually decide to let PED users in.

The real point here is how Manny retired. First of all, he didn't inform the Rays first that he was retiring -- the MLB Office had to call the Rays and tell them. That alone is kind of disrespectful on Manny's part, and probably does a little more damage to his already questionable reputation. It also leaves the Rays in an undesirable situation, which I will get to later.

The other thing is that he clearly does not have a PR guy looking out for him. Unlike every other potential Hall of Fame player who has used PEDs, Manny Ramirez was essentialy forced to retired because of his drug use. Other PED usersretired essentially under their own power, and played out their careers after they tested positive. Alex Rodriguez, when he retires, will not be immediatley remembered for PEDs (in theory), for instance. Any time Manny Ramirez is discussed, any biography of him that is ever written, people will be forced to note that he retired after a failed drug test because he did not want to serve the 100-game suspension.

Anyway, that's really it for discussing Manny himself, but the other question here is how the Rays will deal with him leaving. If my understanding of contracts is correct, if a player retires, the otherwise "guaranteed" contract is no longer guaranteed, so at least the frugal Rays are off the hook for the majority of Manny's two million dollar salary. The real issue is that early season trends really seemed to indicate that Manny Ramirez was going to be their full time DH for the most part, somewhere Manny probably could have excelled in the long run (he did start the season rather slow). Manny started at DH for every game he was with the Rays and not dealing with his "family problems" which in retrospect may have dealt with the PED issue. He also got the same amount of at-bats as starters did during Spring Training. So the Rays plan this season was for Manny to get around 450 at-bats, and be a presence in their line-up. Now they don't have that because of Manny's indiscretion, and it is hard to see where they will go from here given that they don't have a huge presence of great power-hitting prospects in their system who are ready to go.

In general, I am sure the Tampa Bay Rays front office is not happy with the way their plan has been dismantled tihs season between Evan Longoria's injury and Manny Ramirez's retirement.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Are these early season trends for real?

It is kind of amazing to me how big of a deal people seem to be making over early season struggles or success of various teams that seem to be defying the various pre-season predictions. Despite the fact that everyone should have a fairly good idea that baseball has a very long season, I have heard in person, and even seen articles online, that are either pushing the panic button (Red Sox and Brewers) or already proclaiming that the division is theirs (Baltimore Orioles).

So the question is, will this early season trends stand up?

Red Sox (0-3): Yes, the Red Sox gave up 11 Home Runs in their opening season series. Red Sox pitching has struggled in the first three games of the season, but is it a trend? Probably not. Jon Lester has a bad April almost every year, Buccholz start was really not that bad, in that he gave up only 5 hits and yes, 4 were homers, but 2 of them were fairly clearly wind blown. The more positive and important trend of that series that may be (at least more) indicative of thigns to come, is David Ortiz's two home runs. He has started horribly the last two years, and his fast start this year is a good sign -- though it certainly does not mean he will not have a prolonged slump at a different time this year. The short answer is, the opening season series for the Red Sox has been overblown as a sign that the team is overrated, and they should certainly compete.

Brewers (0-3): The Brewers issues are not as clearly temporary as the Red Sox, but it still seems likely. The Brewers are missing Corey Hart and Zack Greinke, both of wihch are fairly large losses. Assuming they don't dig too big of a hole for themselves the return of those two will certainly help. It is also pretty much a guarantee that Prince Fielder will get it going. While I dont' see the Brewers winning their division, I can certainly see them contending for it.

Orioles (4-0): The Orioles young pitching so far this season has panned out and the Orioles offense has been as good as advertised. Can the Orioles young pitching continue to produce? I think it would be great if it did, but unfortunately trends indicate that having a rotation filled with such inexperienced guys will probably not pan out, not this year. Next year, it would not be completely shocking to see the Orioles compete in 2012 or 2013 after they get some more innings under their belt. The short answer is, I do not see the Orioles continuing to compete this season, although, as I stated in an earlier post, the Orioles could certainly surprise this season.