Saturday, January 29, 2011

AL Central Looking More Competitive

Unlike last season, when the Twins ended up winning the AL Central by a comfortable six games over the White Sox, the AL Central is shaping up to be a much more competitive division in 2011.  While the Twins resigned both Jim Thome and Carl Pavano and will get Justin Morneau back from injury, the Tiger and White Sox made moves that will help them compete with Minnesota this season.  Expect a three team race, while the Indians and Royals should have years similar to last season, when they won 69 and 67 games respectively.

The Tigers finished last season with a disappointing 81-81 record.  They played well at home in Detroit, going 52-29 at Comerica Park, but played horribly on the road, finishing with a record of 29-52.  The Tigers, however, should be better this upcoming season.  They added slugging catcher Victor Martinez to an already solid lineup that includes Miguel Cabrera (2nd in AL MVP voting in 2010), Carlos Guillen, Brandon Inge, Austin Jackson and a hopefully healthy Magglio Ordonez.  Their rotation should also be improved, as starters Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello started to pitch better at the end of last season and will be a solid 2-3 after ace Justin Verlander (18-9, 3.37 ERA in 2010).  If they can play more consistently away from Comerica Park, expect them to compete.

After winning the division last season and returning most of that team, the Twins should be considered the favorite to win the AL Central again in 2011.  They have a dangerous lineup that includes two of the best hitters in baseball in Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.  Solid hitters also surround them in the lineup: Delmon Young, Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer, Jim Thome, and Jason Kubel.  Third baseman Danny Valencia, who hit .311 in 299 at-bats last season as a rookie, could experience a bit of a sophomore slump now that pitchers have seen him before, but the Twins still have enough hitting to produce runs.  The Twins rotation will be the same as last season, with Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano at the top.  After a horrendous 2009 season, Liriano bounced back and had a great 2010 season.  Can he produce the same type of numbers again this season as Minnesota's ace?  The key to the division could be closer Joe Nathan, who saved 47 games in 2009 but missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery.

White Sox
The White Sox are upping their payroll roughly 13 percent for 2011, signaling that Chicago's south side franchise wants to take the AL Central title from the Twins this year.  They retained slugger Paul Konerko and also added country-strong Adam Dunn (who hits absolute taters).  Both of them will need to have great seasons for the Sox to win the division, as there are question marks throughout the rest of the lineup.  The White Sox are still depending on the always questionable AJ Pierzynski behind the plate, they don't really know who is going to step up and take the third base job, and their corner outfielders (Juan Pierre and Carlos Quentin) aren't the most reliable tandem.  The middle of their infield is solid, with Gordon Beckham at second and Alexei Ramirez manning shortstop.  Their rotation is also one of the best in the American League, with Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Edwin Jackson and a hopefully healthy Jake Peavy.  If they pitch up to expectations and Konerko and Dunn stay at the level they played at last season, expect to Sox to compete with the Twins for the division title.

Here's how I think it will play out:
1. White Sox
2. Twins
3. Tigers
4. Indians
5. Royals

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Who Will Win the AL East?

So it's been awhile since I last posted, but now that I'm back at Trinity for the spring semester I will start posting regularly again.  Tonight I'll look at the AL East and I'll eventually get to each division.

As usual, the main competition for the AL East title will be between the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Rays.  However, the dynamics between the three teams have changed drastically since the end of the 2010 season.  The Red Sox had the best offseason of any team in baseball, while the Yankees stayed pretty stagnant and the Rays lost a lot of talent.  Here is a look at each team...

Red Sox
The Sox are the favorite to win the division after trading for slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and signing free agent outfielder Carl Crawford.  They also upgraded their bullpen by signing Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler to complement Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon (who they should trade before he gets worse, in my opinion).  Even with all the new faces, the only way Boston goes from third last season to first this upcoming season is by getting bounce back seasons from Josh Beckett and John Lackey.  That was their downfall last season and even with the two-headed monster of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz at the top of the rotation, the season depends on Beckett and Lackey.  Expect them to have better seasons and to see the Sox win the AL East

The Rays lost enough talent that people wouldn't be surprised if there is a significant drop off from their 96 win season in 2010.  However, they still have plenty left on their roster to make another division title run.  Even after trading Matt Garza, the Rays rotation should be good.  They still have ace David Price and solid starters behind him in James Shields, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, and youngster Jeremy Hellickson.  In terms of their lineup, they lost Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford, but signed former Red Sox Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.  I don't know how effective Damon and Ramirez will be (their signings may have been more about putting fans in the seats than wins in the win column) but they could end up offering good pop in the middle of an order that already included Evan Longoria and BJ Upton.  Expect them to be competitive, but to fall short of the playoffs.

The Yankees did add some pieces this offseason, but will remain mostly the same as they were in 2010 (which produced 95 wins).  Their most significant loss is starting pitcher Andy Pettitte, who would have been a reliable number three starter.  After ace CC Sabathia and budding young starter Phil Hughes, the Yankess have an inconsistent AJ Burnett and young unproven starters Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre.  Unless there are some surprises, their rotation cannot match that of the Sox and the Rays.  Their lineup, however, is still one of the best in baseball, as it includes Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner, Jorge Posada, etc.  You get the point: they can mash.  Even with a shaky rotation, expect the Yanks to take second in the division and win the wild card (especially if Pettitte comes back to pitch later in the season).

There really isn't any need to talk about the Orioles and the Blue Jays, because, let's face it, they just won't be that competitive.  The AL East will again be a three-team race between Boston, New York and Tampa.  The Sox revamped lineup and bullpen should be enough to take the division title.

1. Red Sox
2. Yankees
3. Rays
4. Blue Jays
5. Orioles

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Orioles Raise Ticket Prices: Huh?

According to, the Baltimore Orioles have decided to raise ticket prices for this upcoming season.  With an average increase of $3 per ticket, the increases for 2011 will range between $1 an $8 per seat.  Tickets purchased before game day will cost between $9 and $60.  This is the first increase for all tickets to Orioles games since 2007.  Why, might you ask, could this even be an issue?  Well, 2010 just happened to be the Orioles 13th consecutive losing season.  Yup, you are reading that correctly.  The Orioles haven't managed to win at least 81 games since 1997, when they registered a spectacular 98-64 record and won the AL East.  Their attendance that year?  3,711,132.  Their attendance in 2010? 1,733,019.  That's a decrease of just about 2,000,000 (check out the Orioles' past records and attendance numbers here).

Obviously, raising ticket prices is part of baseball.  It's a business and teams don't want to risk losing possible revenue.  However, when you're a team that has been absolutely horrible for more than a decade (the Orioles posted a 66-96 record in 2010 and finished 30 games out of first place) and attendance has gone from a franchise-peak average attendance in 1997 (45,816) to the 24th best attendance in the majors (21,662), you shouldn't necessarily be raising ticket prices.  Especially when the Orioles won't be putting a winning product on the field again this year (most likely: if it happens it will be a miracle).  Management needs to worry about putting people back in the seats at Camden Yards and should find other avenues to increase revenue.

Of course, the Orioles ticket prices are still nowhere close to being the highest in the big leagues.  If they were the most expensive, even fewer people would attend games. offers what they call baseball info graphics and the following one shows each team's ticket prices from the 2009 season.  Click on the image to see it full size.

Pavano Stays in Minnesota

The top free agent pitcher left on the market, Carl Pavano, has decided not to go anywhere.  Today, he agreed to a two year, $16.5 million dollar contract with the Minnesota Twins.  He will earn $8 million in 2011 and $8.5 million in 2012.  It seems like Pavano and the Twins have been close to this deal for weeks, as most people believed that he would end up staying.  Last season, Pavano went 17-11 for the Twins, registering a  3.75 ERA in 221 innings pitched.  He tied Cliff Lee for the most complete games in the American League with seven.

By keeping Pavano and the recently resigned Jim Thome, the Twins keep intact most of the team that won ran away with the AL Central last.  In 2011, however, the Tigers and the White Sox should improve on their 2010 records.  The Tigers added slugger Victor Martinez and their rotation should be more consistent than it was last season, as Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello began to pitch better by the end of last season (and yeah, they have Justin Verlander too).  The White Sox added Adam Dunn to an already potent lineup that includes Paul Konerko, Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham.  They also have a great rotation with Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy (hopefully healthy) and Edwin Jackson (hopefully effective).

The AL Central race should be a lot closer this season.  The key to the Twins winning again is not keeping Thome or Pavano, but having Justin Morneau healthy for an entire season.  Last season, he had concussion problems during the second half of the season.  The Twins played well enough to capture the second best record in the American League.  Don't bet on that happening again if Morneau is out for a lengthy amount of time.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Santo to Pujols: Random Baseball Happenings

Ron Santo will be joining Ernie Bank outside of Wrigley Field.

At this point during the offseason, there really isn't a lot of big news around baseball.  We're at the time of the year where most of the big free agent signings have already happened and spring training has yet to start, so suffice it to say that it's been kinda slow in the past few days (besides the Yankees spending wayyyyy too much for a setup man).  Here's a quick update on some baseball happenings, before you go use your entire weekend to watch the NFL playoffs.

The Cubs will honor the recently deceased Ron Santo with a statue outside of Wrigley Field.  He joins Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and Harry Caray (elite company) as the only people to have statues erected by the Cubs organization.  Santo is considered one of the best players not to be elected to the Hall of Fame.  Over his 15 year career at third base he hit .277 with 342 home runs and 1,331 RBIs.  He was a nine time all-star and won five Gold Gloves.  Starting in 1990, he was a Cubs radio broadcaster known for actively rooting for the Cubs in the booth.

The biggest contract that fans should be thinking about for the rest of the offseason is the possible extension Albert Pujols will sign with the Cardinals.  Pujols has said that he doesn't want distractions during the season, so he will either sign a contract extension before the season starts or wait until after the season, when he becomes a free agent.  Yesterday, FanGraphs published an article focusing on Pujols' possible contract.  The graph below is from FanGraphs and it shows just how good Pujols (the green line) is.  Measuring against Adrian Gonzalez (orange) and Mark Teixeira (purple), who have both received huge contracts recently (Gonzalez hasn't officially signed an extension with the Sox, but it's rumored to be around $150 million), the graph shows each player's WAR (wins above replacement) in their first to tenth best seasons.  Uhm, Pujols is in another stratosphere.  He is going to get way more than either Gonzalez or Tex received.  FanGraphs estimates that Pujols should get a contract valued near what Alex Rodriguez has signed for in the past. Yeah that's right, $250 million.  The crazy thing is that based on market value, Pujols actually deserves that much cash. That's insane.

The A's are apparently trying to hard to land free agent reliever Brian Fuentes, a lefty who finished last season with a 2.81 ERA in 48 innings last season.  The Blue Jays are also contenders for his services.  He is now the top free agent reliever left on the market.  Here's the team that should have signed Fuentes: Boston.  Instead, GM Theo Epstein resigned declining Hideki Okajima.  Who would you rather have as the lefty in your bullpen: Fuentes or Okajima?  No question, it's Fuentes.

And just for the hell of it, here are my NFL picks for this weekend:
Ravens over Steelers
Packers over Falcons
Seahawks over Bears
Patriots over Jets

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thome Signs with Twins

After rumors that the Texas Rangers were majorly involved with the aging slugger, Jim Thome decided to stay in Minnesota for another season.  The one year deal includes $3 million guaranteed plus incentives based on plate appearances.  Last season, Thome added a good deal of thump to the Twins lineup.  In 276 at-bats for the Twins, Thome posted a slash line of .283/.412/.627 (avg./obp./slg.), hit 25 home runs and drove in 59 runs.  He hit right-handed pitchers especially well, posting a 1.047 OPS (on-base plus slugging).

Thome's new deal is good for both sides.  His salary from last season is doubled (before incentives) and the Twins keep an effective power hitter in DH slot.  The Twins, as always, seem primed for another possible AL Central title, but both the White Sox and the Tigers should be better then they were last season, when the Twins ended up running away with the division title at the end of the season.  Thome stays in a deep lineup that includes Denard Span, Delmon Young, Alexi Casilla, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, rising young star Danny Valencia and, of course, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.  If Morneau rebounds from his concussion problems at the end of last season, the middle of the Twins lineup (Young, Mauer, Morneau, Thome) is one of the very best in baseball.

Thome is only 11 home runs away from 600 for his career, having already blasted 589.  He is only 20 away from seventh place on the all-time list, which is currently held by Sammy Sosa (609).  Last season it took Thome until July 19th to hit his 11th home run of the season, so I'll guess that it will be closer towards the middle of the season when Thome finally hits number 600.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Five Best Ballparks in Baseball

Ok, so the biggest baseball news of today is Rafael Soriano finally signing a contract with the Yankees.  It's worth three years, $35 million dollars and gives the Yankees an upgrade in the 8th inning, in order to bridge the gap to closer Mariano Rivera.  Unfortunately, Andy Pettitte told Brian Cashman not to count on him to pitch this season, so the Yankees' only problem now is having their shaky rotation actually get through seven good innings, consistently, so that Soriano and Rivera can pitch with a lead.  Anyway, on to the topic of today's post: the five best ballparks in baseball.

1. Wrigley Field- Chicago
Even if I wasn't a huge Cubs fan, Wrigley would be at the top of my list.  It's the second oldest park in the Majors, built in 1914. (Fenway is first, built in 1912).  Here is a list of things that make Wrigley the best, in no particular order: the ivy, the scoreboard, day games, the wind blowing out, the marquee, Wrigleyville, great seats (even in the upper deck), take me out to the ballgame in the middle of the seventh inning (don't try and tell my that another ballpark does it better), and every once in awhile the Cubs might win.  You won't find great amenities at Wrigley, but that isn't why you go to the north side of Chicago.  You go for great sight lines and the chance to enjoy a ballgame on a warm summer afternoon.

2. AT&T Park- San Francisco
The Giants home park has one of the best locations in all of baseball: right in San Francisco and right next to the Bay.  It opened in 2000 and has the retro design that is popular today.  The big glove and Coke bottle in left and McCovey Cove in right are just some of the main attractions at AT&T.

3. PNC Park- Pittsburgh
PNC Park is home to the Pirates and is a huge upgrade over the Pirates old stomping grounds, Three Rivers Stadium.  With a capacity of only 39,000, PNC is intimate and every fan can feel close to the action.  PNC has limited luxury boxes compared to other Major League parks, which allows the upper deck to be closer to field level.  There are great views of Pittsburgh's skyline and of the yellow Roberto Clemente bridge.  As a new park, PNC also has tons of different concession options, if you're not in the mood for a ballpark dog.  And finding a seat is never hard, as the Pirates are basically the equivalent of a AAA team.

4. Target Field- Minneapolis
Opened in 2010, Target Field is the newest field in Major League Baseball.  Fans in Minnesota haven't had outdoor baseball since 1981, and Target Field hasn't disappointed.  Just like PNC Park, Target Field sits around 39,000 and everyone is close to the action.  Target Plaza, just inside the ballpark, allows fans to learn about Twins history and the park offers great views of downtown Minneapolis.

5. Oriole Park at Camden Yards- Baltimore
Opened in 1992, Oriole Park at Camden Yards started the retro ballpark revolution.  Many of the parks built after Camden Yards tried to emulate the park in Baltimore.  Camden Yards sports the classic red brick exterior and the warehouse in right field is one of the most well known objects in baseball.  The park is within walking distance of downtown Baltimore and the harbor.

So there is my list of the top five ballparks in baseball.  I know I'm probably going to get a lot of crap from people about leaving Fenway off of this list.  Yes, Fenway does have some good things, but it's also cramped and has terrible sight lines (unless you're paying a ton of money for the best seats).  If you want to go to an old park, I'd recommend Wrigley over Fenway.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Best Third Baseman of All-Time

When trying to decide who was the best player ever to man the hot corner, you have to think about what player had the perfect combination of offense and defense.  Eddie Mathews was one of the best power hitting third baseman of all-time, crushing 512 home runs during his career, but he was only solid defensively.  Brooks Robinson is considered the finest defensive third baseman of all-time, winning 16 Gold Gloves, but he had a career batting average of .267 and only hit over .300 twice.  If you combine the great hitting prowess of Mathews with the glove work of Robinson, you get Hall of Famer Michael Jack Schmidt, who played 18 seasons for the Phillies and is the best third baseman of all-time.

In terms of offensive ability, there are few who can match Schmidt.  Yes, he only had a .267 batting average, just like Robinson.  Unlike Robinson, though, Schmidt hit 548 home runs (most for a third baseman) and drove in 1595 runs (tied with George Brett for most by a third baseman), good for 15th and 33rd all-time, respectively.  He led the league in big flies eight times, while leading the league in four times.  Schmidt also owns a career on-base percentage of .380 and a career slugging percentage of .527 (highest for a third baseman, however, if Chipper Jones retired today he would take the title with a .536 OBP).  He won six Silver Sluggers and ranks 22nd all-time in Offensive Wins Above Replacement with a WAR of 94.4.

On defense, Schmidt was just as good.  He won ten Gold Glove awards, which is the most by any National League Second baseman and the second most by a third baseman in either league (as previously mentioned, Robinson won 16).  He ranks 27th all-time in Defensive Wins Above Replacement with a WAR of 13.9.

Schmidt was a 12 time all-star selection and won three MVP awards ('80, '81, '86).  He also won the 1980 World Series MVP, when the Phillies defeated the Royals.  He easily had the best combination of offensive and defensive abilities for a third baseman.  He was elected to Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility, appearing on 96.5% of ballots.

So far my all-time team looks like this:
C- Yogi Berra
1B- Lou Gehrig
2B- Eddie Collins
3B- Mike Schmidt

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Trevor Hoffman Calls it a Career

According to, closer Trevor Hoffman has decided to retire, ending a successful 18 year career.  He spent part of one season with the Marlins in 1993 before being moved mid-year to the Padres, where he played through the 2008 season.  He played the last two years of his career for the Brewers.  He retires as the all-time career saves leader with a total of 601 saves.  He had an average of 39 saves per season and a career ERA of 2.87.  He completed saves in 89 percent of his chances and his career K/9 was 9.4.  Seven times he was selected as an all-star and he even finished second in Cy Young voting (hard for a closer) twice, in 1998 and 2006.

Now, what are Hoffman's prospects for getting elected to the baseball Hall of Fame?  Closers are few and far between in Cooperstown, as they are still a relatively new phenomenon in baseball.  At the current moment, only five pitchers have been elected to the Hall mainly because of their exploits as relievers: Goose Gossage, Hoyt Wilhelm (also a significant career as a starter), Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, and Dennis Eckersley (also a significant career as a starter).  Lee Smith, who ranks third on the all-time saves list behind Hoffman and Mariano Rivera with 478 saves, only received 45.3 percent of the vote on the HOF ballot this year (well short of the 75 percent needed for election).  John Franco, who is in fourth place with 424 saves, received only 4.6 percent of the vote in his first year of eligibility, meaning he won't even be on the ballot next year.  Neither Smith nor Franco was as dominant as Hoffman, and while they are ranked 3rd and 4th on the all time saves list, they fall 123 saves and 177 saves short of Hoffman, respectively.  Expect Hoffman to be elected to Cooperstown, but not on the first ballot.

Of course, Hoffman won't even be number one in saves for long, as a still dominant Mariano Rivera sits only 42 saves back of Hoffman with 559.  A spectacular 2011 could allow Mariano to break the record this upcoming season, but early in 2012 seems a bit more likely.  Rivera, of course, is a surefire Hall of Famer and a probable first ballot selection.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Is Thome a Good Fit in Arlington?

According to MLB Trade Rumors, the Texas Rangers are interested in adding free agent slugger Jim Thome to their roster, which would add even more depth to an already dangerous lineup.  While he turned 40 in August, Thome was still effective for the Twins during the 2010 season.  In 276 at-bats for Minnesota, he batted .283 with a .412 on-base percentage and a .627 slugging percentage.  He hit 25 home runs while driving in 59 runs.  A lefty, the Rangers are probably interested in Thome because of his ability to hit right-handed pitching.  Last season he hit .302 against right-handers and he owns a career average of .294 against them (with a slugging percentage of .617).

So would this be a good deal for the Rangers?  Obviously, Thome would add a great deal of power to the Rangers lineup (589 career home runs worth).  Thome has also hit well at Rangers Ballpark.  In 206 career at-bats there, Thome owns a slash line of  .301/.418/.607 (avg/obp/slg).  That includes 15 home runs and 41 RBI.  Thome would be added to a deep lineup that already includes Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre, and Michael Young.

Michael Young is the reason that the addition of Thome could be a problem for the Rangers.  Because the Rangers added Adrian Beltre, Michael Young was supposed to be moved from his normal position at third base to DH.  However, if the Rangers added to Thome to be the DH, where does that leave Young?  If you put Thome in the lineup against right-handers and insert Young against lefties, that doesn't fully utilize what Young's talent.  While Thome does very well against right-handed pitching, he has a poor .238 career average against lefties.  Young, on the other hand, is a right-handed hitter who hits both left-handed and right-handed pitching well (.307 against LH, .298 against RH).  Last season Young only had 171 at-bats against lefties, compared to 485 at-bats against righties.  If Thome takes a lot of those at-bats against righties away, how will Young's production drop and how will his attitude change?  He was been the face of the Rangers for the past ten years, and his role is set to change dramatically this season.

Thome would be a good and dangerous addition to the Rangers, offering an already deep lineup more power in a ballpark that is built for it.  However, the lineup will be the best if Young and Thome and both in the lineup at the same time, which is almost impossible.  The Rangers would need to make sure that both Young and Thome still receive a good number of at-bats, as they have both proven that they can still be effective.

Also, Thome is only eleven home runs away from 600.  When will he get there and how will the feat be received (especially compared to how fans reacted when Alex Rodriguez reached 600)?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cubs Get Garza: Finally Good News in Wrigleyville

For the first time this offseason I can write about some good news coming from the north side of Chicago.  The Cubs finally acquired starting pitcher Matt Garza from the Rays for Chris Archer, Brandon Guyer, Robinson Chirinos, Hak-Ju Lee and Sam Fuld.  Some people are panning this trade because the Cubs gave up a few of their most talented prospects (Here are the Cubs' top prospects according to Baseball America).  Archer was the Cubs' top prospect, Lee was ranked fourth, and Guyer tenth.  Yeah, its a bummer to lose some good prospects, but you have to give up talent in order to get it.  Also, we shouldn't forget that Lee was never going to see the big leagues as a Cub anyway because of another young shortstop named Starlin Castro (yeah, he's pretty freakin' ridiculous).

I think Garza will thrive pitching in the NL Central intstead of the AL East.  Over the past three seasons in Tampa, Garza has posted a 3.86 ERA in an average of 31 starts per season.  He posted a WHIP of 1.251 and averaged 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings.  Yeah, he can be a little inconsistent and he tends to give up a decent amount of home runs (which doesn't bode well if the wind is blowing out of Wrigley), but we shouldn't forget that, at his best, he has ridiculous stuff.  Last July, Garza threw the first no-hitter in Rays history in a 5-0 win over the Tigers and coming within one walk of a perfect game.  He's only twenty seven and he was one of the better pitchers in the AL East.  With his stuff, he should be a great top-of-the-rotation guy in Chicago.

This move definitely upgrades the Cubs' rotation (the Cubs' other options are Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Tom Gorzelanny, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, and possibly Andrew Cashner) and with a bounce back year from the offense, the Cubs should be competitive in the NL Central.  This definitely doesn't make them favorites, that will be a battle between the defending NL Central Champion Reds, the Cardinals, and the upgraded Brewers.  However, look for the Cubs to be a sleeper next season (again, this only happens if the offense isn't horrendous again).

Lastly, the trade is also great because it gives outfielder Sam Fuld a chance to make the big league club in Tampa.  He could have been a great fourth outfielder for the Cubs, but the circumstances always prevented it as the Cubs' always had a stockpile of outfielders (and not necessarily good ones, example: Xavier Nady).  Now, he has a better shot at making the big club in Tampa Bay and sticking around for an entire season instead of just short call ups to the show.  He plays great defense and has a great knack for getting on base.  Hopefully, he gets the chance he never really got in Chicago.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hall of Fame Vote: What About Bagwell?

First off, congrats to Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven and their election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  It shouldn't have taken this long for either of them to get in.  Blyleven is one of the most underrated pitchers of his generation and Alomar is one of the best five second baseman of all-time.  Blyleven should have been in before his fourteenth, and second to last, year of eligibility.  Alomar should have been a first ballot HOFer.

However, the Baseball Writers Association of America also really messed up.  Jeff Bagwell, one of the best hitters of the 1990s, only received 41.7 percent of the vote, well short of the 75 percent needed for induction into Cooperstown.  Many people must be thinking "Oh, well he played in the 90s.  Look at him, he definitely juiced."  The only problem is that Jeff Bagwell has never been linked to steroids, tested positive for steroids or anything of the sort.  He got screwed out of more votes because of the baseball cultural that steroids has created.  Everyone is paranoid that the best players of the 1990s and 2000s put up great numbers because they were roided up.  We know who some of them were: Bonds, McGwire, Clemens, Giambi, Sheffield, etc.  We also know there were a lot more that we don't know about.  And yeah, if you look at the above picture of Bagwell it's obvious why some writers think he did steroids and subsequently left him off their ballots.

However, if someone hasn't tested positive for performance enhancers, or even been connected to them in any way, then why wouldn't you vote for him.  Bagwell's stats speak for themselves.  He has a career slash line of .297/.408/.540 (avg./obp./slg.).  Just how good is that?  Good enough that Bagwell is one of only 16 MLB players to finish a career with an on-base percentage better than .400 and a slugger percentage better than .500.  How is that not Hall of Fame worthy?  If that isn't enough, Bagwell hit 449 homers, drove in 1529 runs, hit 488 doubles, and stole over 200 bases as a first baseman.

I understand that there is going to be speculation that Bagwell did steroids.  With everything that has happened with the steroid era, everyone is obviously going to be a bit skeptical.  However, you shouldn't screw a guy who has never been linked to anything.  Bagwell won the 1991 Rookie of the Year Award in the NL, won the 1994 MVP, was a four time all-star, won three Silver Sluggers, and won the 1994 Gold Glove Award.  Unfortunately, the era he played in ended up hurting his HOF chances.

Also: check out this article from Sport's Illustrated's Joe Posnanski, The Willie Mays Hall of Fame.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Beltre Close to Signing with Rangers

While most people expected third baseman Adrian Beltre to sign with the Angels, he is apparently close to a deal with the Texas Rangers, according to MLB Trade Rumors and Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes.  As late as about three o'clock this afternoon there was no deal in place between Beltre and the Rangers.  According to Rojas' sources, the deal will be a five-year deal with an option for 2016.

Beltre's great 2010 season helped him gain bargaining power in order to negotiate a five-year deal.  For the Red Sox last season, Beltre hit .321 with 28 home runs, 102 RBI and a league leading 49 doubles.  He was helped by playing 81 games in Fenway Park, where the Green Monster played to Beltre's strengths.  In 219 career at-bats at Rangers Ballpark, Beltre has a .306 average, 9 home runs and 34 RBI.  Those are good numbers and Rangers Ballpark is a notorious hitter's park, but I still don't think that Beltre's production will be as good as it was with Boston in 2010.  Over his 12 full seasons in the majors, Beltre has a .277 batting average and has averaged 23 home runs and 82 RBI.  Good numbers, but not as good as this past season's.  Don't expect to see 2010-esque numbers over the five years of his new contract.

The main question the Rangers will now have to answer is how they will fit Beltre into their lineup.  They already have Michael Young at third, Elvis Andrus at shortstop, and Ian Kinsler at second.  During the Winter Meetings, the Rangers discussed trading Young and that is still possibility.  Seeing as the Rangers have not resigned Vladimir Guerrero, Young could also be moved to the role of DH and Beltre would play third.  Young wouldn't be considered a prototypical DH, but has hit a combined 43 home runs with a .301 batting average over the last two seasons.  I expect the Rangers to utilize that option.  Young can still hit and has been a Ranger for his entire career.  With Beltre, Young, Andrus, Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, and Nelson Cruz, the Rangers may have a more formidable lineup than they did last season when they reached the World Series.