Sunday, September 14, 2008

5 Years to Competitive - Year 3 Review

A few seasons back, I nearly left the world over my frustration with what I viewed as inequities in the way teams are put together when new worlds begin. It seemed to me, and by the way I continue to hold to this belief, that some teams start with major advantages that take many seasons for competition to overcome. I don't remember who, but someone here called me out a bit and more or less dared me to stay. I stayed. I also said at the time it would take me at least 5 seasons to get to a reasonably even competitive standing with two franchises in my division - LA and SF. This season we are wrapping up is the third season since I started trying to rebuild my franchise. Not sure if anyone cares, but here's a progress report.

Here's where the team has been:

Season 1 - 89-73 .548 2nd place - WC
Season 2 - 79-83 .488 4th place
Season 3 - 77-85 .475 4th place
Season 4 - 73-89 .451 4th place
Season 5 - 95-67 .586 3rd place WC

Entering season 1, this team had the 31st pick in the player draft, meaning it was a team "coming off" a loss in the WS. It was a veteran team with several very good players. But - it was also an older team with quite a few big contracts. In other words, I started with a solid team, but one in decline. I played season 1 to win, and the team did well. I was quite pleased with the season, and earned a WC playoff birth. Should have been smarter, though, and slashed the team to shreds to start rebulding.

Season 2 saw both LA and SF in the NL West emerge as dominat teams. LA got there after a horrid first season, but made several trades and used the older telant to wheel and deal its way to a high level. SF, on the other hand, was gifted 4 HUGE top notch ace pitchers that have anchored the team since season 1. My season two team (Helena Handbasket - a truer name there never was), kept on the dowward trajectory from a "WS" which I never saw. The team got older, and I didn't have much of a farm system, either. So - the rebuilding started in earnest. But - first a confession. I made a HUGE budgeting mistake to start season 2, and that forced my hand on some deals.

Seasons 3 & 4 were essentially "holding" seasons while I continued to make deals, scout heavily and work on building up the farm system. The payoff was a loaded farm system, a AAA WS win, and a core of youth ready to roll going into season 5 and beyond.


In season 2, I made three trades, only one of which yielded a true keeper - Edgar Saez (c) and a real stud. He's hit 43 and 38 HR with 102 and 107 RBI's the past two seasons. So - that's one piece in place.

I made 8 trades in season 3. Going - Bottenfield & Tracey,  ML level, Torres (1st round pick - LF), Torrealbla, Ozuna, Fetters, Hermanson (stud catcher), Grace, Knotts (retired), Fullmer, Kaufman, Riley, Stark (retired), Cooper, Gandarillas (current FA), & Padilla (stud starter). Coming: Sabathia, Perry, Alicea - all part of my current ML bullpen, Mark Calderon - CL (#2 NL Fireman of the Year), Seth Moses - current 2B, Roy Hughes (Season 4 NL ROY), Jackson AAA P, Jacque Thorton AA P w/ML starter potential, Derond Peterson AAA SS.
Coming in, but now gone - Don Key (traded Season 4), Dustin Riley (traded Season 3), Chritopher Harding (traded Season 4), Vitas Clark (FA departure) Craig Charles (retired), Thomas Lee (retired).

So I dealt away 6 current ML players - two of whom are legitimate stars - Hermanson and Padilla. I got my current 2B, 1B, CL and three important left-handed relievers, a potential ML starter and ML utility player.

In seasons 4 & 5 I made 9 total trades.
Going - Hammonds, Harding, Douglas, Brandon Woods, Nunnari, Hansel, Watson, Balfour (all season 4), Flores, Key, Sadler, Robinson, Mercedes, Fryman (season 5). Sam Hammonds remains a quality ML SS (New Orleans), Harding (CIN) and Douglas (LV) are workhorse relievers. Sadler (CLE) is a young CF, but there wasn't a lot of quality dealt away otherwise.

Coming: Flores (traded), Mule Brantley (14-10 ML Starter - future #1), Ferrer (NL All-Star SS this season),  Pasqual Trinidad (ML reliever - 35 games 2.15 ERA), Mike Benjamin (ML LF), Bobby Joe Matthews (9-7 172 Innings, ML SP). Riggs, Rosario, Colbrunn, Cedeno, Cortes, & Pena - all minor league pitchers with solid upside potential. Bieser is a minor league 3B - AAA tops.

So I dealt a lot of quality, and I got fair value in return. I have two staring pitchers, my left fielder, a terrific SS and a high end reliever in hand. I also have 6 minor league pitchers who could all be good. So if only 2-3 hit, I had a nice set of trades. (Ralph Riggs might be the best of the bunch in a season or two.)


I am not big on free agents, BUT it can be a great way to get some immediate help. Brandon Woods was the most important FA signing this season. He won 16 games to anchor my rotation. I added a few role players here and there, but Woods was by far the most important signing.


I've drafted two players who are in the ML - Hermanson (CHI - traded) and my current ML back-up catcher - Walter Jordon.


There are two INT FA's on my ML team - Lonny Soto (SP) and Julio Hernandez. Soto had a fine season - 11-6, 184 innings, 3.95 ERA. He's improving, and should be a solid to good 3rd-4th starter. Hernandez, along with Saez, Hughes and Moses, will anchor this team for many season. As a rookie, 45 HR, 124 RBI'S, 24 SB, .296/.,372/.619. At $16 million, he looks like a steal.

SEASON 4 & 5 of Plan

The plan going forward is more of the same. I've got a nice system. Every team made the playoffs this season, AA in WS. There are lots of good pitchers coming, and I've got a couple more big bats coming to bolster an already good line-up. With some luck, the rotation will settle down. Brantley will get better, Woods is solid and so is Matthews.  Soto, an INT FA

My starting position players acquired through trade - Saez, C, Hughes, 1B, Moses 2B, Ferrer SS, Benjamin (LF0, Delgado (CF). I added Hernandez as an INT FA. I have potential upgrades coming at LF and 3B. The rotation is solid, and I have several viable candidates to add. I don't have a monster stud, and that's what's missing to push me closer to LA and SF.

So - I'm on track, and as solid as it looks, I have a long way to go before I catch my division rivals.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Playoff Preview - Through 1st Round

Playoff Preview -Through 1st Round


Expected Seedings:
1 - New Orleans Voodoo
2 - Los Angeles Dodger of Sarasota
3 - Wichita Force (eliminated)
4 - Chicago (eliminated)
5 - San Francisco Seals
6 - Scottsdale Gunners

The National League has been dominated al season by a three powerhouse teams - New Orleans, LA and San Francisco. Only the NL North had a competitive division race, and the two tops teams Fargo and Chicago struggled to play .500 ball.

The playoffs look like they are going to hold to form. Chicago and Wichita are out. Chicago’s “reward” for winning the NL North was a first round match-up with San Francisco. Chicago won the first two games, by SF’s pitching took over in the final three games and they advance. Wichita, with the #3 seed, drew #6 seed Scottsdale in round one, and in another 5-game series Scottsdale moves to round 2. So of the 4 NL teams left, New Orleans is the only team NOT from the NL West.

Here’s how the teams ranked entering the playoffs:

New Orleans - #1 - runs scored, #1 avg., #1 opp. runs, #3 era, #1 fielding %
LA - #2 - runs scored, #6 avg., #2 opp. runs, #2 era, #3 fielding %
Wichita (eliminated) - #6 - runs scored, #5 avg., #4 opp. runs, #4 era, #2 fielding %
Chicago (eliminated) - #7 - runs scored, #4 avg., #9 opp. runs, #9 era, #4 fielding %
San Francisco - #5 - runs scored, #9 avg., #3 opp. runs, #1 era, #10 fielding %
Scottsdale - #3 - runs scored, #3 avg., #6 opp. runs, #8 era, #11 fielding %

New Orleans looks like the favorite and deserving of their #1 seed. New Orleans pitchers won league-wide pitcher of the week honors 4 times - Maeda (2), Jamison and Tavarez, and they had two players of the week - Gonzalez and Yoshii. They have 8 NL All-Stars - Maeda, Gonzaga, Cummings and Tavarez from the pitching staff, and Ramirez, Cambers, Gonzalez and Peters. This is a great team, and their season success 113 wins - is no fluke.

LA is the number 2 seed, and they are likewise, an excellent team. They are one season removed from back-to-back WS titles. They have deep and excellent pitching, put up excellent offensive numbers in a VERY tough home park for hitters. Watch out for their pitching staff, though. Cora and Brew lead a rotation and bullpen that can lock down opposing bats, and if their pitching gets on a roll, they could very well pose a real threat to New Orleans. Key players - Cora (SP), Brew (CL), Dixon (SS) and Gonzalez (RF), Ross (1B) and Franco (3B).
San Francisco has - I think - the best overall pitching in our league. There simply isn’t a better rotation than theirs: Jones 23-6, 1.97 ERA (the likely NL Cy Young winner), Tucker 15-8, 3.06 ERA, Matos 15-4, 3.65 ERA, Mattingly 12-9, 3.27 ERA and Leary 12-9, 3.59 ERA. Then Rogers closes things down, and he’s a stud - 40/51 SV/OPP. 2.55 ERA. If San Francisco’s pitching gets hot, I wold not be surprised to see them beat New Orleans and advance to the WS.

Scottsdale is the #6 seed and the third team from the NL West remaining in teh NL playoffs. They edged Wichita in a 5-game series, but they will have their hands full with LA in the division series. That said, Scottsdale is a dangerous team. They played in a hitter friendly park, so their hitter’s numbers might be easy to dismiss. But - this is a terrific hitting team with power from the top through the bottom of the order - six hiiters with 23+ HR and 80+ RBI’s. Hughes 48 HR, 124 RBI’s, Saez 38 HR, 102 RBI’s and Hernandez 45 HR, 124 RBI’s (a leading NL ROY candidate) form a tremendous 3-4-5 in that order, and they can beat anybody on the strength of these bats. The pitching is not bad, either. Woods is a 16-game winner, and Calderon finished 2nd in the NL Fireman of the Year standings. A series win against LA would be a big upset, but it’s not impossible.


Cheyenne Beagles
Florida Flounders
Chicago Style Pizza (eliminated)
Charlotte Knights (eliminated)
Cleveland Curse
Charleston Hurricanes

Cheyenne is the defending WS Champion, and they won 120 games to dominate the AL. Charlotte won a tight division battle with 87 wins (advanced on tie-breaker), but every other AL team had at least 97 wins.

As expected, the two play-in series went 5 games each. Cleveland knocked Charlotte out of the playoffs and Charleston beat Chicago in a mild upset.

Here’s how the teams ranked entering the playoffs:

Cheyenne - #2 - runs scored, #2 avg., #1 opp. runs, #1 era, #6 fielding %
Florida - #4 - runs scored, #5 avg., #2 opp. runs, #2 era, #5 fielding %
Chicago (eliminated) - #5 - runs scored, #6 avg., #3 opp. runs, #5 era, #3 fielding %
Charlotte (eliminated) - #10 - runs scored, #8 avg., #6 opp. runs, #7 era, #2 fielding %
Cleveland - #6 - runs scored, #3 avg., #4 opp. runs, #3 era, #7 fielding %
Charleston - #3 - runs scored, #4 avg., #5 opp. runs, #4 era, #12 fielding %

Cheyenne looks like the best team in the whole league, and I don’t see a serious challenger to them in the AL playoff field. Cheyenne has great pitching, with a rotation that nearly matches San Francisco’s: Williams 23-4, 2.46 ERA (Cy Young winner?), Frias 24-5, 3.47 ERA, Thomas 18-9, 4.38 ERA & Bruske 16-6, 3.73 ERA. McMasters is a dominant closer - 56/62 SV/OPP, 1.37 ERA. Leads don’t get away from this great team. The offense is just as good. Two players on this team I really like are JD Jackson (LF) (130 Runs, 224 Hits, 84 XBH, `23 RBI’s, .328/.385/.540) and Estrella (SS)(IMHO - he’s the best position player in the entire Mattingly World)(138 Runs, 23 HR, 87 RI’s, 43 SB, .287/.419/.454) Then there’s Torres - 38 HR and 129 RBI’s. Tis team should roll over the rest of the AL playoff field, and probably won’t get pushed until the WS. Of course, we’ll see about that!

Florida has another great individual player - Zhou (37 HR, 146 RBI’s) a player of the week winner. They won 101 games, so this is a solid team, and they earned their #2 seeding. The strength of the team is its pitching, and they have a very good top three to the rotation: Perry 22-5, 3.34 ERA, Meyer 19-5 3.53 ERA & Robbins 15-4, 2.74 ERA anchor a very good staff. McConnell closes, and he converted 89% of his chances - 34/38, 3.02 ERA. This team - if the top three pitchers - can hold Cheyenne down, might be a challenger to Cheyenne.

Cleveland is an interesting team. They are a wild card team with 99 wins, so they can’t be taken lightly. But there really isn’t a major standout on the team. They have a solid, well-balanced rotation: Davis 16-6, 2.81 ERA, Terraro 13-6, 3.09 ERA, Hayes 12-9, 3.13 ERA, Michaels 14-4, 3.87 ERA and McGee 11-5, 3.74 ERA. This rotation won’t scare anyone, but they have been really good over the 162-game season. The issue I see, is that in the playoffs, you rally need an “ace” or two, especially given the match-ups tey will face. The offense is very similar. There isn’t a big stud you have to shut down, nor are there lots of great bats. But there are several good hitters lead by Mathews, 31 HR, 116 RBI’s, .306/..409/.526. Beyond him, there aren’t any stars, but they do feature 5 hitters with 20+ HR’s. That said, this could be a tough team in a long series.

Charleston is the 4th wild card team still standing - in fact - all 4 WC teams are still alive! This is a team I see as a real dangerous AL team, and maybe the one with the best shot at beating Cheyenne. They have a good pair of starting pitchers: Delgado 22-5, 2.12 ERA (AL Cy Young winner?) & Peters 18-9, 3.74 ERA. If Delgado can win his games, they only need to take two more to advance. That’s possible. Charles also has an offense built around three big-time sluggers: Hammond 51 HR, 126 RBI’s, Mota 41 HR, 97 RBI’s (low durability limited him to 134 games) and Webb 41 HR, 109 RBI’s. This is the sort of team - a couple of big pitchers and some hitters who can carry a team, that can be real trouble for a higher seeded club.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rule 5 Review - Season 5

I took a stab at the picks and graded each pick and also added notes that I found interesting. In addition to stats I considred age and upside. I hope you all enjoy it.

Quinn Turner in Toledo, Sam Wilson in Arizona, Magglio Franco in Chicago, Mac Stull in Cheyenne, and Larry Creek in Wisconsin get special mention.

1 – pick returned to owner

2 – Martin Garcia (C-) Has to be considered a disappointment. His .228 AVG and .279 OBP are poor, but he has performed better in the last week. The upside is he is 23 so he may be better yet if Toledo has patience.

3 – Little Rock – Rafael Gallaraga (C-) A really high ERA at around 7.87 so the number 3 pick has soaked up innings but has been bad overall.

4 – Mexico City – Damon Tallet (C ) Another pitcher and another high ERA, this time not as bad at 6.09! MC expected better than they got on this guy.

5 – Arizona – Marquis Pride – (B-)The best of the top three pitchers but still no star with a 5 plus era. At 22 he appears to be a pretty decent pickup. Is he a starter or a LR? That remains to be seen.

6 – San Diego – Alex Flores – (B) Injured but has a promising future with the Conquistidors. We expect SD is fairly pleased with this pick.

7 – New York – Patrick Morton – ( C)Another average pitcher with a 5 plus era. As we work through this list the question lingers, were there any stud Rule 5 pitchers in this draft? So far
the answer is no.

8 – Cincy – Oscar Chang – (D)Offered back and claimed off waivers. He now hurls for Fargo and he is not setting the world on fire.

9 – Fargo – Julio Flores – (B+)A decent Catcher with decent numbers both hitting and catching. Fargo got a cheap player to fill some gaps with Julio! At 22 he is young so Fargo may be onto something with him.

10 – Wisconsin – Larry Creek –(A) Drafted, offered back and claimed by Las Vegas. His 3.33 era as a setup man makes him the best pitcher of the first 6 taken this year.

11 – Cleveland - Dave Spencer – (B+)Drafted by Cleveland, cleans out his locker but just drives a few hours to Toledo where he is playing well. He is on pace for 65 RBI and 33 stolen bases. Toledo has a nice young player here.

12 – Charleston - Bennie Cooper –(C-) He tried to do the Charleston and the Toledo shuffle but neither team seems too excited by him. He is just 22 so he may be held onto for now.

13 – Chicago – Magglio Franco – (A) Mags has decent numbers. He is a good gap filler for the Pizza guys. That is what I wrote a week ago, but that underestimates him. A good young player.

14 – Cheyenne – Mac Stull – (A)Nothing short of fantastic work by Stull. The best team in the AL West was shrewd to get this guy. A great pick at 14.

15 – SD – Paul Hall – (D)First pick of Round 2 ends up in Pawtucket and he is a nice inning eater but he does not have the numbers to show he will get much better!

16 – Toledo – Quinn Turner –(A) Just a super player for Toledo. He has been another nice find for the GM in Ohio, solid work!

17 – Arizona – Sam Wilson – (A)What’s not to like? He will easily get 100 RBI and hits .300. He is the best hitter of the group picked so far and will be hard to top!

18 – New York Bombers – (F)Lorenzo Cruz – An era approaching 10…..yikes!

19 – Fargo – Felipe Perez – He was offered back and accepted back. Playing AA ball

20 – Chicago – Gaylord Hudek – (inc)A part time player that at 23 may be kept by Chicago.

21 – Cheyenne – Stump Barkley – (inc) ERA of 8 plus, no great shakes……but he has only pitched 18 innings

22 – Toledo – Jerome Murphy – (inc) Part time 22 year old, upside is the reason for this rebuilding project

23 – Chicago – Arthur White – Not likely to be kept after this year. He is a part timer and 26.

24 – Toledo – Rob Price - He was offered back and accepted back. Playing AAA ball

25 – Chicago – Gus Harriger – (B) A surprisingly good pickup! He strikes out a lot but he is pushing toward 35 home runs.

26 – Toledo – Cody Heath – (C+) A nice young player for that may show some improvement next year more than this year.

27 – Chicago – Jamey Bennett – ( C ) A gamble pick that is average at best. Chicago took a flyer on him to see what would happen. The results are mixed.

28 – Toledo – Denny Park - He was offered back and accepted back. Playing AAA ball

29 – Chicago – Wilton Hollins – (B+) Plenty of upside for this young pitcher. Likely to stick with Chicago and stay in the pen.

30 – Toledo - John Thurman - He was offered back and accepted back. Playing AAA ball

31 – Chicago – Bucky York – He was offered back and accepted back. Playing AA ball