Tuesday, April 29, 2008

AL East Season 2 Preview

Our AL previews start in the East, where we potentially have the makings of a budding rivalry. Last season the Louisville Legends beat the New York New York 9 out of 10 times on their way to 105 wins and a division title. That wasn't enough to earn a bye, however, and they earned a first-round date with New York, who pulled the upset in 5 games to end the Legends' season. So does Louisville bounce back from their crushing playoff loss to repeat as division titles? Will New York use their surprise playoff run as a springboard to bigger things or take a step back? Can Huntington, in the playoff race until the last week of the season, get over the hump to make the postseason this time around? Can Kansas City (formerly Baltimore) build their franchise up? As usual, we'll start with the defending division champs.

Louisville Legends (105-57 last season)

Major Additions: None
Major Losses: SP Max Jacquez (FA- Monterrey)

Offense (last season: 2nd in AL): A potent lineup that put up over 1000 runs last season and could threaten, if not break, that mark again. The heart of the lineup is made up of veteran 2B Bernard Young (.308-48-138) and young C Ernest Montgomery (.305-37-130). C/1B Cy Hughes drove in 105, C/DH Arnold Hunter drove in 104, SS Kareem Raines drove in 102, and 3B Stewart Reese drove in 92. These guys tend to strike out quite a bit but also hit for high averages, so they have production up and down the lineup. They could be a little more dangerous if they had a true leadoff hitter who could be a high OBP guy and steal some bases, but that's nitpicking a little. This is a deep lineup as currently constituted.

Pitching (last season: 2nd in AL): At first glance, one might question letting a SP go to a league rival in Monterrey, but Jacquez underachieved last season and Louisville should make good use of the two draft picks coming their way. As for what remains in Kentucky, Lance Stevens won 20 games, 22-year-old Albert Herzog (17-7, 3.39) could very well step into the #2 role, Tom Beltran (14-2, 3.09) makes a great #3 and Danny Little (15-9, 3.74) was very solid. Eli Estrada
went 14-4 between starting and relieving and could end up being the #5 starter. The depth of the starting staff made letting Jacquez go a fairly easy decision. As for the bullpen, Justin Lawrence saved 43 out of 50, albeit with an ERA of almost 5. Mac Sung had a nice year setting Lawrence up and both Benito Chavez and Steve McDonald are viable options out of the bullpen.

Outlook: Great offense, depth at starting pitching and a halfway decent bullpen? Hard to see them not repeating as division title winners.

New York New York (90-72 last season)

Major Additions: SP Perry Herman, SP Cesar Fernandez (trade- Trenton)
Major Losses: C/DH King Winn (trade-Trenton), SS Ivan Jones (FA-Houston), SP Miguel Benitez (trade- Chicago)

Offense (last season: 4th in AL): They scored a bunch of runs last season on their way to the playoffs last season but this isn't the same offense. Rookie C Keith Buckley looks to be a big-time prospect, but it will be awfully hard to replace Winn's 68 home runs and 168 RBIs in the lineup.
Likewise, they are counting on either Patrick Durham, who struggled last season, or rookie SS B.C. Thompson to replace Jones, who takes his 82 RBIs to the Lone Star State. This is not to say they will be punchless: big-time hitter Bernie Soriano (.305-49-128) remains, as does RF Pete Duvall (.290-44-107). As for the rest of the lineup, 20-year-old LF Vladimir Rodriguez hit .326-28-77 in 111 games and looks to be a potential future star. The fate of this lineup could be in the hands of rookies; Buckley, Thompson, and 1B Omar Johnson should see a significant number of at-bats. Those three will need to contribute (as will CF Scott Diaz- New York can't afford for him to hit .248 again) to provide depth for the lineup even remotely close to what the likes of Louisville, Monterrey, and Las Vegas trot out.

Pitching (last season: 8th in AL): They felt they need a change in the starters and made some moves in that regard. The upside of the King Winn trade was it netted them 2 ML ready starting pitchers in lefties Perry Herman and Cesar Fernandez. Fernandez may have been 7-13, but had an ERA far below what several of their returning starters had last season, although it remains to be seen how the switch in leagues affects Fernandez's ERA. Herman has quite a bit of potential, but he is 22 and just simply needs to get a consistent role and put it together. It might not be this season, but eventually he'll be a solid starter. As for the returning starters, Duffy Parnell (17-13, 4.48) was the most consistent. 23-year-old Joey Hubbard won 16 games but had an ERA of almost 5.50. With the loss of Benitez (17-9, 4.65), no returning starter other than Parnell had an ERA under 5. The bullpen wasn't much better; Jose Martin had an awful season, blowing 4 of 17 save opportunities but finishing with an ERA over 9. Wesley Cora (23 of 25, 4.17) was effective and probably gets first crack at the role this season. Their setup corps have too many guys who couldn't cut it as starters.

Outlook: They won't score as many runs as last season, although it may not be as dramatic as the losses of Winn and Jones might suggest; I say the rookies will be at least serviceable and Diaz bounces back. The pitching staff is a mess and I think might prevent them from returning to the playoffs. This is a young team, and they could surprise if their young pitchers can get things figured out quickly.

Huntington Beach Combers (85-77 last season)

Major additions: Jimmy Arnold (FA- Toronto)
Major losses: RF Orel McFarlane (trade- Chicago)

Offense (last season: 5th in AL): This is an offense that can compete with the powerhouse teams of the AL. They have the speed with IF/OF Steven Leonard (.272-10-85, 50 SBs) and RF Pedro Cabrera (.280-14-85, SBs) and plenty of power with star IF Bob Koplove (.277-58-145), SS Benito Valdez (.285-39-116), and 1B Anthony Bedard (.308-18-110). If Hideki Martin can hit like he did in a little more than half a season and if Julian Nichols (.304-55-157 in AAA) can hit on the ML level this could be one of the deepest lineups in either league. Their defense might be shaky at times and they do swing and miss quite a bit, however. The upside is their position players are young; of all the players mentioned above Bedard is the only one older than 30.

Pitching (last season: 13th in AL): They gave up runs just as fast as they scored them last season, so if they want to make the leap from good team to contender, this is where they have to improve. Daryl Cashman (13-10, 4.26) has the most talent on this staff, but has to learn to keep the ball in the yard, as he gave up 25 HRs last season. 21-year-old Damion Mays will get a shot at the #2 spot in his first full season; he's got potential but may not do great things this season. Hard-throwing Olmedo James will look to improve on his 10-12 record from last season from the 3rd spot, and Jimmie Arnold received a large contract after pitching only 7 1/3 innings for Toronto last season. Russell Watson was 13-9 but had an ERA of 5.88 and must also pitch better this season for Huntington to contend. Davey Guzman had a solid season, closing 30 of 34 opportunities and Billie Ray Ennis and Santiago Martin had good seasons setting up; the rest of the bullpen is filled with question marks.

Outlook: This team is going to go as their pitching goes. Any team that outscores the likes of Milwaukee and Nashville, as Huntington did last season, can put runs on the board. I don't think their pitching staff has quite enough to put them over the top, so I'll predict a season very similar to last season: right around .500 and in contention, but eventually just falling short. Watch out for this team in the future though; they're still young.

Kansas City Comets (47-115 last season as Baltimore)

Major additions: P Ivan Quinn (trade- Toronto)
Major losses: None

Offense (last season: 12th in AL): They don't have as much as the other teams in this division. They have two main types of position players. One is the pretty good and overpaid hitter, such as CF Javier Tavarez (.262-21-100, $7.8 million) and 1B Al Bautista (.262-14-74, $5.6 million). The other type is the young and unproven player, such as 3B Edwin Love, Rule 5 steal 2B Del Lopez, and RF Wilson Hughes. They'll struggle to score runs.

Pitching (last season: last in AL): The ranking of last doesn't begin to describe how dreadful they were last season, although since they were abandoned for much of the season you have to throw it out to an extent. Top two starters Ringo Walsh and Clarence Forsch are better than their numbers from last season; they're not aces, though. Quinn provides some depth and Jose Johnson takes the 5th spot. Their starting staff is decent, not great. The bullpen got shelled last season. 21-year-old phenom Tony Merced will begin the year as the closer, but the question is can he jump from AA to the majors? Expect some of the setup guys (Ralph Washington and David Casey in particular) to pitch far better than they did last season.

Outlook: They'll be better than last season, but this is a rebuliding project nonetheless. I have them pegged somewhere around 60 wins or so.

Monday, April 28, 2008

NL West Season 2 Preview

Last season the NL West only sent one team to the playoffs but they were the team that won the last playoff game. Can Salem repeat as World Series champions? Can the Arizona Diamondbacks rebound from a disappointing season? Will Boise or Salt Lake City be heard from at all this season? We'll starting with the (cue Michael Buffer) reigning and defending World Series Champions.

Salem Sacrifices (92-70 last season)

Major Additions: RP Walter Curtis, SP Tony Gao (trade-Toledo)
Major Losses: LF Travis Ryan (FA- Salt Lake City)

Offense (Last season: T-6 in NL): The offense was a little better than average last season. The production begins in the outfield, with CF Nate Cox (.291-33-121, 115 runs), RF Chip Young (.280-26-115), and LF Jorge Tejera (.395 OBP, 53 steals). They were buoyed by slugging 3B Macbeth Keller ( .258-48-133) and IF Frank Gant (.373 OBP, 55 steals), so they have a nice balance of speed and power in the lineup. Look for rookie 2B Derrek Bedard to find a spot somewhere this season and contribute. They may not be the deepest lineup in the NL but they have more than enough weapons to be a solid offense.

Pitching (Last season: 2nd in NL): Starting pitching is where they shine. The NL Cy Young vote was split but the trophies both belong in Salem. Starters David Dunwoody (20-7, 2.61 ERA) and Dwight Salmon (14-1, 2.04) were the two best starters in the NL last season. Dan Pederson (14-5, 4.14) is a solid #3 starter, which is all you need behind Dunwoody and Salmon. Domingo Nunez (8-12, 4.63) should be #4 and could improve a little. The 5th starting role could be up for grabs, with Gao (7-12, 5.07 with Cincinnati and Pawtucket), Darrell Carter (9-8, 3.41) and Carlos Bennett possibly filling the roles- I'd expect Carter to be given first shot based on last year's performance. As for the bullpen, Curtis (8-2, 3.61 with Pawtucket) bolsters a bullpen that needs some help; Bey Brinkley(16 out of 21 saves, 5.20 ERA) was shaky after coming over from Philadelphia and the rest of the bullpen wasn't much better. This is the one potential weakness of this team.

Outlook: They'd have to be considered the odds-on favorite to repeat as NL West champs, especially if they can somehow find a closer or if Curtis is the answer. Arizona will challenge, but I think they have too much with the two aces.

Arizona Diamondbacks (86-76 last season)

Major Additions: SS Lawrence Flanagan (trade- Houston)
Major Losses: SP Keith Cortes (FA- Toledo)

Offense (last season: T-2 in NL): They scored over 900 runs last season and added Flanagan (.293-38-128 with Houston), who was an MVP candidate for the first half of the season before tailing off. The big question with Flanagan is whether he'll return to that first half production or if the second half is the beginning of the decline of the 34-year-old third baseman. If he returns to form, this is a highly dangerous lineup, as he'll join superstar LF Oswaldo Johnson (.295-59-152), C Willis Petrov (.325-31-121), 1B/C Davey Barrios (.322-36-112 with Durham and Arizona), and 1B Eddie Greer (.275-23-98) as big-time RBI men, although finding a position for all 3 could be tough. CF Justin Hernandez (119 runs, 82 SBs) got on base at a .355 clip- if he improves that even slightly it will make the lineup even scarier. Arizona could use consistent production from RF R.J. Figueroa- GM deaconsoule is betting $7.5 million that he'll be better than he was after being traded from Boise last season.

Pitching (last season: 10th in NL): This is maybe the one team in particular where the ranking doesn't even begin to tell the story. The major story here is a giant question mark in the form of Hippolito Pujols- he was 11-7 with a 3.42 ERA last season in his 23 starts but is coming off of major reconstructive elbow surgery. It's unknown whether he can regain the form that he had before going down last season. Outside of Pujols, Kane Grahe (15-8, 3.69) is the only consistent starter left on this team. B.C. Bennett is another starter coming off of major surgery. As for the bullpen, closer Vic Trevino (39 out of 45 saves, 3.35) was effective, but the rest of the bullpen is shaky.

Outlook: It's hard to describe an 86-win season as a disappoinment, but Arizona was looking to not only make the playoffs but make some noise once they got there. If they get the pitching staff together they can make the playoffs and maybe overtake Salem; I don't think it will. Arizona may have to look outside for a starting pitcher, but they have very few prospects left to deal. For them to win the division, Pujols and Bennett would have to come back strong, Grahe needs a repeat performance, and they need one more starter and at least one bullpen guy to step up. That's an awful lot to ask; I think they're outside looking in again.

Boise Buckskins (73-89 last season)

Major Additions: SP Vic McCormick (FA-Houston)
Major Losses: None

Offense (last season: 11th in NL): Last season the offense revolved around 3B Cap Herrera (.324-36-110) and 3B/1B/RF Jeff Jennings (.282-21-110). If Boise has hopes of competing this season, they'll need some help. At the top of the list of people who need to bounce back are LF Yank Lohse, who actually posted decent numbers (.257-22-88, 51 SBs), but isn't being paid $7.5 million to hit for decent numbers. RF Rob Hengten needs to show more than his .241 average to justify his $4 million, and the Buckskins need to figure out if Torey Mota is the answer at SS and what they have in 1B Jumbo Gates.

Pitching (Last season: 12th in NL): The rotation still reminds of the movie "Major League" and wants me to cue the song "Wild Thing". #1 starter Kelly Downs (10-8, 3.70) would have easily won around 15 games on a playoff-type team and Vic McCormick (11-8, 3.29 with Memphis and Houston) comes over to probably be the #2 starter, but other than that they don't have a starter than can consistently find the plate. Heath Caufield (7-14, 5.66), Kerry Barber (7-11, 6.24), and Glendon Governdale (8-12, 5.87) just don't have enough control to be even decent ML starters- Governdale made 29 starts and walked more batters than he struck out. The bullpen may be stronger than their rotation, as Boise thinks they have something in young closer Andres Rivera (and they may be right) and Chris Jennings, Rob Gilmore, and Davy Judd all had very good seasons as setup guys.

Outlook: I can see some potential here- Herrera and Gates are 23 and Downs is relatively young at 28- but they don't have enough starting pitching to compete, even if the hitters like Lohse and Hentgen get straightened out. They stand in stark contrast to a team in their own division in Salem. I see a smiliar fate for them this season; maybe enough to threaten .500 but probably won't break it- definitely not a playoff team.

Salt Lake City Shakers (Last season: 48-114 as the Los Angeles Dodgers)

Major Additions: LF Travis Ryan (FA- Salem)
Major Losses: None

Offense (Last Season: 10th in NL): The offense was not to blame for the 48-win season. Any discussion of this team begins with CF Lynn Abernathy (.288-32-109); he was a viable Rookie of the Year candidate last season and is still only 27. 2B Marc Olson (.286-40-104) and C Ruben Hernandez ( .294-32-107) joined Abernathy to form a good middle of the order. 3B Vin Foulke drove in 99 and SS Edwards Pierre added 81 RBIs while scoring 99 times. Add LF Travis Ryan from Salem and this is a fairly deep lineup.

Pitching (Last season: last in NL): Last season's mound work was (unfortunately) unforgettable for this franchise. Chicago was the only team within a run and a half of the Dodgers. Vince Costello went 9-13 with an ERA of 4.85- he could have had better numbers on a good team. Daniel Norris and Duke Nielsen had decent efforts; Mark Grimsley was just awful. Neither Horatio Lecuona (7-11, 5.27 with Durham and Montreal) nor Clinton Skrmetta (6-9, 7.20 ERA with Huntington) are going to add the depth that they need. The bullpen was worse; two key relievers (Alfonso Quixote and Ted Weston) finished the year with ERAs over 14. The closer role is wide open, as Bo Hatfield was traded last season.

Outlook: They'll be better just because the turmoil with the ownership change and the rumors about changing cities has finally stopped. They'll compete on a game-to-game basis, but they can't challenge .500, never mind think about the playoffs, with this pitching staff.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

NL South Season 2 Preview

If there was a division that was more competitive than the NL North last season, it may have been the NL south, where a record of 82-80 would get you last place. The division yielded two playoff teams in Houston and New Orleans. How will it shake out this season? We'll start with the defending division champs and work from there.

Houston Riverdogs (92-70 last season as the Houston Oilers)

Major Additions: SS Ivan Jones (FA- New York)
Major Losses: SS Lawrence Flanagan (trade- Arizona), P Vic McCormick (FA-Boise)

Offense (Last season: T-6 in NL): The offense was pretty solid last season, although essentially exchanging Flanagan for Jones probably doesn't work out in their favor this season. Jones had a nice season for New York at .256-32-91, but Flanagan hit .293-38-128, scoring 132 times. With Flanagan gone SS/3B Leo Miller (.291-36-106) and CF Brian Satou (.266-45-125)become the unquestioned offensive leaders for the Dogs. LF Freddie Throneberry had a solid season, hitting .300 and driving in over 90 runs in support. 2B Omar Cruz is a speedster who has to get on base more, 3B Eddie Blank needs to strike out less than 133 times and OF Timothy Davis needs to contribute this season; if these things happen they could compensate for the loss of Flanagan.

Pitching (Last season : T-3 in NL): This was a strong point last season, particularly after the acquisition of Matty Eusebio. He only went 15-7 in 28 starts for Houston, but had an ERA of 2.88 and a WHIP under 1. He helped Jerome Oliver slide to the #2 spot, where he went 17-9 with a 3.38 ERA. Kent Hillenbrand is a fairly solid #3 and J.R. Guerrero is serviceable at the #4 spot. The bullpen was also quite good, with Tex Howell closing games and Vince Perez setting him up. There are some question marks in the bullpen beyond those two, however.

Outlook: If the question marks in the lineup work out and their starters can go right to Perez and Howell to close out games, they'll be fine and could very well repeat. If not, the division is wide open, as it was last season; they can't afford to falter.

New Orleans Voodoo (90-72 last season)

Major Additions: 3B Russ Blank, P Bob Delaney (trade- Philadelphia)
Major Losses: SP Stephen Mercedes (FA- Cleveland)

Offense (Last season: 8th in NL): The Voodoo made the playoffs but have made some moves to upgrade their middle of the road offense from last season. The Blank trade should help solidify the lineup behind All-Star 1B Lyle Barber (.326-45-140). Ray Cepicky ripped up Double A to the tune of 56 HR and 195 RBIs; he'll get his chance this season at the ML level. CF Don Jefferson scored 124 runs while hitting .316 and 2B Marcus Reboulet had a great year (.331-21-115). With the additions of Blank and Cepicky, the only weak spot in the lineup may be defenisive SS Vasco Mesa.

Pitching (Last season: 9th in NL): The rotation starts with Jose Merced, who won 19 games and probably needs to have a similar performance if the Voodoo are going to return to the playoffs. Carlos Matos is a decent 2nd option (12-7 last season). It will be interesting to see how Jayson Hennesey, a free-agent pickup from the (formerly)Pawtucket organization, will turn out in the middle of the rotation. This is a staff that could use some depth, however. King Burns won 11 games and saved 21 out of the pen last season. Tom Hernandez, the AAA closer last season, could get a shot at the ML role this season . Delaney could be asked to play a large role this season.

Outlook: I want to pick them, but there are too many holes in the pitching staff. If you pressed me, I'd probably pick them because I have a feeling that they will make a trade for a starting pitcher at some point during the season.

Memphis Short Grass (83-79 last season)

Major Additions: RP Chris Doster (FA- San Juan)
Major Losses: None

Offense (Last season: 15th in NL): Amazing that the teams with the two worse offenses (Memphis and Fargo) last season both finished over .500. The Short Grass are banking on 3B Karim Ortiz and LF Bum Duvall can supply power in their first full seasons. Rusty Rose is a 2B who hit over .300 in the bigs after starting the season in AAA; rumor has it he may be dealt to get some pitching help. Outside of the young guys, the roster is filled with guys like SS Carlton Beck, SS Al Rodriguez, and RF Walter McBride, guys whose production doesn't come anywhere near what their salaries would suggest they should be.

Pitching (Last season: 3rd in NL): Last season they finished only behind Fargo (led by Henriquez and Pierce) and Salem (Dunwoody and Salmon). They have their own future star in Jason Sprague, who went 9-3 with a 2.90 ERA after being called up. He'll have to step into the role of ace, as Claude Jacquez (13-9, 4.03) is already out for the season with an elbow injury. Pete Carr pitched well after coming over from Philadelphia last season. Charlie Miller should be a solid middle of the rotation guy in his first full season and Zach James may get a shot at the last starter role. In the bullpen, Dude Huskey had a great year, saving 44 of 51 tries, and Doster came over from division rival San Juan; it will be interesting to see which one closes. Jackie Simpson was good in the main setup role.

Outlook: Despite winning 83 games, they are still building for the future to an extent. They will have quite a few rookies starting this season. I think unless they make a move, the lack of offense and the loss of Jacquez keeps them a step behind Houston and New Orleans for now, although they are definitely a team to watch in the next few seasons. They have good young starting pitching, which is always a good way to build a team.

San Juan Dead Bunnies (82-80 last season)

Major Additions: RP Willie Nunez (FA- Cincinnati)
Major Losses: RP Chris Doster (FA- Memphis)

Offense (Last season: Best in NL): Offense should not be an issue for these guys. They have a big-time star in RF Calvin Chang (.319-49-148) and he will be helped by CF Jerome Grahe (.291-25-100) and 3B Julio Castro (.270-40-110). 2B Sammy Mack (.293 avg, 64 SBs) will be relied on to get on base in front of Chang, Grahe, and Castro. A full year of 1B Jaret Teut will add to the depth of this lineup, as he may beat out incumbent Curt Randolph, who drove in 82 runs himself last season. C Jolbert Calderon (.323-15-69) is a good hitter toward the bottom of the lineup.

Pitching (Last season: 14th in NL): The Dead Bunnies were not last only because the Dodgers and Cubs were absolutely putrid last season. Joey Adcock looked like a big-time prospect in AAA only to get called up and go 0-5 with an ERA over 7 in the majors. Buzz Linden won 12 games and Jordan Jerzembeck won 10 but each had an ERA over 5- these two are being paid too much money to be average/below average starters. Benny Alacorn also had an ERA over 5 but does have some potential to grow. Toby Sisler comes over from Toronto (Montreal) to round out the rotation. As for the bullpen, Nunez comes over to solidify the closer's role. Wally Lawton and Frank Martin both had a good year setting up Doster last season.

Outlook: They don't have enough starting pitching to contend, no matter how many runs they score. If they fall out of the race, they should try to trade some of their veterans bats for some young pitchers (easier said than done, I know) and rebuild around Chang and their minor league prospects.

NL North Season 2 Preview

The NL North provided us with a lot of drama last season, providing us with 2 playoff teams in Montreal and Cincinnati. Fargo made a surprise run at the end and were in playoff contention until the last weekend of the season. Can they get all three teams in this season? Will the Chicago Cubs make any noise this year?

Toronto Toros (97-65 as the Montreal Maroons last season)

Major Additions: None
Major Losses: SS/CF Eli Jacquez (FA- Toledo), 2B Peter Suzuki (trade- Toledo)

Offense(last season: T-4 in NL) : The Toronto offense begins at the top with what was a great 1-2 combination in LF Rico Valdez (.416 OBP, 102 SB last year) and 1B Thomas Keisler (.297-9-80, 62 SB). Keeping those two off the basepaths will be the key for any opposing pitcher. The rest of the offense isn't quite as deep as it was before Jacquez left, but Toronto still returns 3B Vicente Romero, (.321-57-155) who put up MVP type numbers fairly quietly and RF Emil James (.273-41-111) to drive them in. C Willis Taylor chipped in with 78 RBIs last year, but there are some question marks in the lineup. Rookie 2B Oswaldo Armas showed Toronto management enough to deal Suzuki to Toledo, but hasn't proven anything over a full season. SS Dewey Greenwood was out for much of the season with a herniated disk- if he stays healthy I think he'll be solid. CF Orlando Diaz struggled defensively in CF in both AAA and the majors and his bat could be a question as well.

Pitching(last season: 5th in NL): The starting rotation doesn't have a big-time star, but has several solid ML quality starters. The plan last season was to let the starters go deep in games even if they gave up a few runs and outscore everyone. Harry Lee led the staff last year at 17-7 with a 3.44 ERA. Alex Valdez won 14 games with an ERA under 4. Shooter Mahoney won 20 games with an ERA of 4.43. Pat Clifton and Andres Cedeno both pitched over 200 innings with ERAs between 4 and 4.50. In the bullpen, Jackson Hayes saved 39 out of 41 but will miss the first 3 weeks or so of the regular season- Daryl McKinley steps into the role for now. When Hayes comes back, the back of the pen is solid with McKinley and Tony Howell setting up Hayes.
Outlook: They return most of the team that won 97 games, so it's going to be hard to pick against them. Their core is young enough, but will they score as many runs as they did last year? I don't think so, but they'll definitely be in the mix for the division title.

Cincinnati Dragons (90-72 last year)

Major Additions: None
Major Losses: RP Willie Nunez (FA-San Juan)

Offense(last season: 13th in NL): They could very well struggle again. The bright spots are 2B Reid Colbert (.291-33-109), SS Paul Lamb (.301-21-82), C David Pineda (.305-15-96)-and CF Jack Wilkerson (.310-37-85). The Dragons need much more production from the likes of Richard Little, Harry Diaz, and Don Meng to get this offense back up to at least the league average.

Pitching (last season: 8th in NL): They still have a lights-out 1-2 combination of Bernard Robinson (20-10, 3.43) and Manny Christians (12-10, 3.02) in the rotation, which gives them a chance. Victor Aybar won 14 games last season, but I'm not sold on Howard Munoz and/or Donaldo Sierra at the back of the rotation. 18-year-old Turner Darr should have been at the lower minor levels developing but instead was getting shelled at the AAA and major leagues last year. Willy Mo Owens is a nice closer but need one or more of the setup guys (Melvin Won, Jamey Dwyer, Christian Price) to step up.

Outlook: Hard to think that a team with a payroll of almost $125 million could miss the playoffs, but I could see it happening. They could sneak in as the 6 seed but I don't see it. Of course, I've been very wrong about this team before.

Fargo Dirtbags (87-75 last season)

Key Additions: SP Max Knowles(trade- Vancouver), SS Scot Hutton (trade-Colorado Springs), C Marvin Broadhurst (FA-Atlanta)
Key Losses: None

Offense (last season: last in NL): Even with the addition of Hutton they are going to struggle, although maybe not as much as they did last year. Their key hitters all come with an "if" attached. For instance, Hutton (.295-28-124) would be great if he didn't strike out 157 times. CF Stan Peterson and 2B Quentin Harper would be good leadoff or #2 hitters if he got on base more. SS Kurt Christianson will be a good middle of the order guy if he retrieves his bat from Baltimore- he left it there after being traded (.350-16-58 in 138 games in Baltimore, .196-0-4 in 14 games in Fargo). They have guys who can run, but they don't drive in runs and strike out too much.

Pitching (last season: best in NL): This is why Fargo fans are excited- the future is now. Stud SPs Javier Henriquez and Sammy Pierce, rated #1 and #2 in the top 100 prospects last year respectively, both pitched well in their half seasons of ML ball. The only thing better than having two ace starters is having two young ace starters and Henriquez (22) and Pierce (24) fir the bill. Willy Williams is another young starter who, while not of the caliber of the first two, should fill into the middle of the rotation nicely. Tyler Wilson would have won more than 13 games on a team with any offense. Knowles will be a veteran presence at the back of the rotation and will give innings, although he went 6-10 in Vancouver last year. In the bullpen, Bert Price is a good closer and the tandem of Chris Siddall and Kevin Li were lights out in setting Price up last year. The staff could actually be better than last season.

Outlook: If they score any runs whatsoever, they can make the playoffs. I'm not sure if I see them catching Toronto, but they'll be in the hunt for the wild card spots. This is a team I could definitely see making a trade later in the season for another bat.

Chicago Cubs (50-112 last season)

Major additions: SP Stephen Tucker (trade- Las Vegas), SP Miguel Benitez (trade- New York), SP York Watson (trade- Monterrey)
Major Losses: None

Offense: (last season: 12th in NL): The bulk of Chicago's big hitters from last season were traded in an effort to build the franchise from the bottom up. Catcher Grady Smart (.255-20-100) and RF Flip Chapman (.279-65-143) return, but outside of those two it's going to be up to the young players out of the Chicago farm system. 2B Sean Simpson headlines the kiddie corps, but the question is can he handle ML pitching at age 20. He should develop into a very good ML player eventually, at any rate. LF Trever Russell and CF William Farr are two other players who began the year at A ball and finished in Chicago. It's obvious that Chicago wants to take some steps forward this year but are they stunting the growth of these potentially big-time prospects to try and win a little more now?

Pitching (last season: 15th in NL) One word here: overhaul. Stephen Tucker(18-5, 2.89 ERA for Las Vegas) is a bonafide #1 starter, Watson (14-8, 4.15) becomes the #2 pitcher, and Benitez (17-9, 4.65 ERA with NY) slides into the 3 or 4 spot. Rob Rehfield won 15 games for a terrible team last year and is a solid #3 or 4 option. Jorge Guzman and Brandon Harvey inject some youth into the staff, although Guzman struggled after being called up and I'm not sold on Harvey at all. The fate of the bullpen is going to rest on three 23-year-old pitchers: closer Ted Reese and setup guys Graham Rivera and Luis Piedra. Rivera and Piedra both had troubles last year when called up to the big leagues but both have talent.

Outlook: They'll win more than 52 games this year. I like the Tucker deal but I think Watson and Benitez might have benefited from having good teams behind him- I'm not sure they'll combine for 31 wins again. I see their win total climbing to anywhere from about 65-75 this season easily. Best case scenario is their young hitters surprise a little, in which case they could threaten .500. Problem is, last season no team made the NL playoffs with less than 90 wins and I just can't fathom them making that big a leap.

Newbie Help

The White Elephants & Typical Types of HBD Players

This is to help newbies to navigate and understand some of the types of players we see in HBD. Some of them are what you might call White Elephants; while others are gems in disguise. One of the biggest keys to success in HBD is how to evaluate talent. What makes for a great pitcher (Starter or Bullpen) etc etc. The thing is, ONE rating can cause a player that looks GREAT to be totally useless or close there to. In some case it's a matter of changing their role within the team. The titles are my names for them.

First: Viagra Needed (Pitcher)- Low Durability
These guys can have fantastic pitching ratings: Stamina, Control, Splits, Pitch Quality etc etc etc. They’ve got one MAJOR flaw that sometimes gets missed – LOW DURABILITY. Basically, durability determines how fast a pitcher gets backs to 100%. Well these boys take FOREVER!!!! They’ve got a Durability Rating under 10!!!!???? Sure their Stamina may say they could throw 80-90 pitches in an appearance BUT don’t expect them ready to go again any time soon. It can take them up to 15 or more games to get back to 100% (the lower the durability the longer it takes). Now this can be some what helped by lowering pitch count. Even if you use them with a Set Up like pitch count…. it could take him 5 games or more to be at 100% again. My advice… steer clear of these guys, they need help getting up.

Second: Premature Boys (Pitcher) – Low Stamina
Like the Low Durability guys, these guys can have absolutely fantastic ratings! The type owners will drool over!!! BUT again it’s one rating that pulls this group down – very low stamina (equal to or lower than 10). Basically put, these pitchers can AT MOST face 2 batters; then time to get them out of there!!! Now, you’d think; well why not the LH or RH Specialist. Well, not a bad thought; but the thing is for some reason, HBD does seem to use them correctly!! Though I know WIS has tried to fix this but to this date no success. Now these guys can be somewhat useful but their performance seems very up & down. One season unhittable, the next… fruit stand is open. So if you do decide to use one, don’t be surprised with the inconsistency.

Third: M*A*S*H GUYS (Pitcher or Positional) – Low Health
The health rating of a player can be something a new owner to HBD over looks. That is until they get hit with a rash of injuries. Now admittedly, a high health rating doesn’t mean a guy can’t be injured seriously or if he has a low health rating he WILL get injured. Low Health guys (under 55) come with a higher risk of injury. So, it’s important to notice it and be aware. It’s not to say you shouldn’t go get these guys, heck I’ve had 90+ guys go down for the season while a guy with a health rating of 45 play 155 games??!! Just know the risk and decide is it worth it. Hard to turn away a guy with great ratings just because of his health but…… remember he gets paid that salary whether on the roster or on the DL!!!

Fourth: Pseudo-Catcher (Positional) Low PC
This is a type of player you’ll see a fair bit of in HBD. They show up in the IFA or Draft etc as Catchers with great to fantastic hitting ratings, BUT their PC is low (below 50). Yes, this is still better than other positions will have, but it’s very marginal for the Catching position in HBD. So what do you do with them… simple DH or 1B!!!!!! I’ve seen a lot batting champs (highest BA) come from this group. So take catcher’s glove from them and give them a bat. The only draw backs for this type are some typical “catcher” weaknesses – low durability (under 75) and marginal health. Still, so what if he can only play in 120 games or so, he can HIT!!!

Fifth: Barry Bonds (Positional) Low defensive rated OF
These are the mostly RFers (but can be LF) with low defensive ratings. Glove in the 40s, marginal arm strength etc.; BUT they’ve got great ratings for hitting. Now if you’ve got the room, they’d make a perfect 1b. Cause their range & arm are better than most 1b. But you may have 1b and DH (if in the AL) bombers already. So you’re stuck putting them in the outfield. Admittedly they’ll hurt your OF defense but if their hitting skills are good enough; they can more than make up for the defensive weaknesses. This is a good reason while Ground Ball pitchers do better in HBD… there are lot of Barry Bonds in HBD.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

NL East Season 2 Preview

A couple of surprises highlighted this division, as Trenton managed to win 100 games and Norfolk missed the playoffs, despite playing well enough to win 88 games. Will it be another Trenton division title, or will the Destroyers upend the Traffic this year? Could the Philadelphia Blue Jays or Atlanta Bandits make some noise this year?

Trenton Traffic (100-62 last season)

Major Additions: C King Winn (NY)
Major Losses: P Cookie Rijo (Durham)

Offense (last season: T-2 in NL): The Traffic had little trouble scoring runs last year, as they return 5 starters who drove in at least 90 runs. LF Ken Davis was a big part of what made the Traffic go last year, leading the NL in doubles and driving in 92 while scoring 134 times. This year, in addition to sluggers 3B Paxton Coleridge (.241- 49-111) and RF Brian Dunham (.275-54-132) driving in Davis and CF Carlton MacDougal (.301-24-99, 28 SBs), the Traffic will have the MVP runner-up in the AL from last year in King Winn (.307-68-168 for New York) and will get a full year from rookie 1B/3B Enrique Park (.300-19-58 in 247 ABs). This lineup looks even more potent than last year's squad.

Pitching (last season: 7th in NL): This is where the question marks were last year, and in part remain. Last season the Traffic got great performances from a lot of veteran pitchers, which has to make one wonder if they can duplicate that. It's hard to picture Tony Satou going 14-2 with a 2.81 ERA again, for example, but the question is how big is the dropoff? If they pitch anywhere near the level that they did last year, they could cruise to a division title. If they don't, they could be out of the playoffs. Trenton fans are looking forward to seeing rookie Johnnie Reagan pitch every five days. As for the bullpen, they return Fireman of the Year Justin Beverlin and have a full year of Jim Bell to help. Offseason acquisitions Harry Harper and Oswaldo Alou will be counted on to get to Beverlin.

Outlook: Should be in the hunt again, I think their pitchers might have just enough to fend off Norfolk. They won the division by 12 games last year- I think it should be closer this time around.

Norfolk Destroyers (88-74 last season)

Major Additions: None
Major Losses: None

Offense(last season: 9th in NL): Probably not as deep as the Traffic, but still has to be considered a good lineup. RF Justin Gordon and CF Carlos Cervantes both drove in and scored 100 runs last year. 1B is usually thought of as a power position, but Melvin Nakano had a good year as a leadoff hitter for the Destroyers. C Ray Canseco also drove in 100 to provide more depth. 2B Ignacio Diaz hit .218-10-41 in 107 games- he's capable of more and needs to provide it for the Destroyers to stay in the race.

Pitching(last season: 6th in NL): Starting pitching is the one area where the Destroyers are better on paper than the Traffic. Babe Broadhurst didn't get Cy Young consideration last year but was solid, going 15-8 with a 3.37 ERA- expect similar numbers this year. Rod Walters (14-12, 3.66) Javier Sosa (14-6, 4.16) and Malcolm Lawrence (8-6, 3.83 with Norfolk after being traded from Memphis) provide the staff with depth. In the bullpen, Jae Brea went 29 out of 37 in save opportunities, but the Destroyers may go with 25-year-old Ariel Lee instead. Getting to Brea or Lee could be an issue. We could see Jonathan MacDougal at some point this year.

Outlook: The Destroyers decided to stand pat and let their young players develop. They were in the playoff hunt last year but couldn't quite catch the Traffic. Even if they are better, they may have to win the division to get in, as the wild-card race should be just as jumbled as it was last year, if not more so. A division title is not out of reach here.

Philadelphia Blue Jays (74-88 last season)

Major Additions: None
Major Losses: P Roland Casey, P Jacob Herrera

Offense (last season: T-4 in NL): Philadelphia has a few nice pieces to their lineup but do not have enough firepower to compete with the Traffic and Destroyers. Their offense revolves around 3B David Rushford (.293-44-109), who began the year at AAA and ended it as their best ML offensive player. The other key hitters are RF Irv MacCallum (.264-38-110), 2B Ronald Spurgeon (.297-22-95), and 1B/LF Emmanuel Rodriguez (.293-23-97). But there are some major deficiencies. Toby Phillips doesn't hit enough to be a true leadoff hitter and doesn't drive in enough runs to bat lower in the order. They got little last year from their returning catchers and centerfielders, and could very well start a rookie shortstop in Nick Ramirez who will have to prove he can hit.

Pitching (last season: 13th in NL): They have a young staff that is going to have to make huge leaps this year. Starters Terence Gryboski, Edgar Chavez, Matty Grimsley, Lance Rogers, and Sandy Cunanne are all 27 or younger and all struggled either at the ML or AAA level last year. I don't see them getting big league hitters out on a consistent basis. In the bullpen, Torey Carrasco did a very solid job for the Jays last year, saving 37 of 45 attempts and at 25 should be the closer for a while. Rico Mangual did a nice job going back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen; management may need to make a decision as to whether he can start or not.

Outlook: They lost 88 games last season and it could get worse. They lost the only two consistent pitchers they had (although having the sandwich pick could benefit the franchise more than re-signing Casey would have) and don't have the offense to win slugfests. They are hoping to have a surprise season this year like fellow Delaware River denizens Trenton did last year, but I don't see it (of course, I didn't see Trenton coming last year, either).

Atlanta Bandits (62-100 last season)

Major Additions: SS Eric Baker (Ottawa)
Major Losses: LF Harry Silva (Ottawa)

Offense(last season: 14th in NL): The term "pop-gun" comes to mind- there's just no power. That's not to say that there aren't pieces to work with- CF Matt Rivera (.272-16-71) is good at or near the top of the lineup, 2B Johnny Holt (.318- 12-64) is a similarly good hitter and rookie SS Eric Baker should be worth watching, but there's no big-time extra base hit threat. Rookie LF Davey Pena hit 39 HRs last year and drove in 102 runs, but that was at AAA and even if he can translate that production to the next level there's no support in the lineup for him. This lineup will stand in stark contrast to the likes of the Traffic and Destroyers in their own division.

Pitching(last season: 11th in NL): They'll struggle here as well as they look to the future. Alex Sanchez, after pitching lights-out baseball in AA and AAA, will begin his ML career as possibly the lone bright spot on this staff. Sanchez, 24 and current AAA starter Fred Carter, 23, will anchor the staff for the foreseeable future. Look for Carter to make his debut possibly later in the year. Larry Springer went 10-16 (not terrible for a 100-loss team), but had an ERA over 6 and the league hit .307 against him. Trevor Watson closed 26 out of 32 chances with an ERA almost 5. Rule 5 pickup Andres Garces could be an important piece to the bullpen.

Outlook: Could very well be a lot like season 1. Pena, Baker, Sanchez, and Carter are the beginning of a nice future but the Bandits are going to need more than that to compete with the big boys of this division.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Arbitration Report

Today was a good day to be a player agent, as many key arbitration-eligible players won their cases. All players' salaries (for this season) are in millions and are rounded to the nearest hundred thousand (unless indicated with a *, then it's the actual total).


Hal Brinkley 3B Cleveland 1.6

Carlos Cervantes CF Norfolk 1.8

Ken Davis LF Trenton 1.6

Carlos Duran 1B Anaheim 1.8

R.J. Figueroa CF Arizona 7.5

Kane Grahe SP Arizona 1.6

Justin Hernandez CF Arizona 1.6

Cy Hughes C Louisville 4.8

Arnold Hunter C Louisville 1.6

Daniel MacFarlane RF Huntington 1.4

Daryl McKinley RP Toronto 3.7

Lance Stevens SP Louisville 1.6

Lynn Stewart LF New Orleans 2.9

Jorge Tejera LF Salem 3.3


Willis Petrov C Arizona 997,000 *

Bert Price RP Fargo 1.5

Marcus Reboulet 2B New Orleans 3.9

Rico Valdez LF Toronto 6.85

Friday, April 18, 2008

Relocations and Name Changes for Season 2

Several teams have packed up and moved to new places for Season 2.

In the National League, the Montreal Maroons have moved west but stayed north of the border; they will be known as the Toronto Toros. Ownership of the team that had the second best record in the first sesaon has not changed, and a smooth transition is expected. Another playoff team from last year, the Houston Oilers, is under new management and will be known as the Riverdogs, although they are staying in Houston. The Dodgers are leaving the City of Angels for the flats of Utah to become the Salt Lake City Shakers (wonder how the Mormons feel?). Baseball fans in Utah will be treated to 81 games of Lynn Abernathy.

The American League also saw three teams change cities. In the east, the Baltimore ownership led by ggd1022 left Baltimore for Kansas City and changed nicknames from the Iron Birds to the Comets. They're hoping to improve on their win total of 47 last year. Another rebuilding team is the Toledo Mud Hens, formerly known as the Pawtucket Patriots(63-99 last year). Texas has moved to Wichita while maintaining its ownership. They will be known as the War Kittens (should be a catfight when they play Ottawa).

Press releases from Houston and Toledo have already come out expressing excitement about the upcoming season. The league has also issued a statement welcoming the new ownership groups to the league and the relocating franchises to their new cities.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Year in Review Quiz

In the style of Page 2 over at ESPN.com. Pencils ready.

Multiple Choice
1. What did we learn during this year's playoffs?
a) It helps to have 2 Cy Young winners.
b) Having the top seed doesn't mean much.
c) Leaving your best hitter out of the lineup and abandoning your team is a viable strategy.
d) All of the above.

2. Nashville's Gregg Black was most surprised when:
a) His wild card team made the ALCS
b) He won the AL MVP award
c) He didn't hit .400
d) He was told that he's not playing in a slo-pitch softball league.

3. Which of the following headlines are we least likely to see by the end of season 2?
a) Cubs knock off Dodgers, will face Iron Birds in the World Series.
b) Isaiah Thomas wins Coach of the Year Award
c) Bush, other world leaders sign lasting world peace accord.
d) Pigs sprout wings, begin to fly.

4. Which of the following headlines is made up?
a) Chicago's Mitchell Dunham races tree slug, snail, and caterpillar in 40-yard dash, finishes 4th.
b) Trenton's Tony Satou attempts to throw fastball throw plate glass window, window survives.
c) Salem's 22- year-old Cy Young Award winner Dwight Salmon denied entrance to unnamed NL city bar.
d) None of the above.

5. Which of the following is hardest to see without a telescope?
a) Saturn
b) The moon
c) The home run Albert Pujols hit off of Brad Lidge in the 2005 NLCS
d) Baltimore's team ERA.

6. Which of the following garnered the most attention on our chat board?
a) This blog.
b) The thrilling pennant races.
c) A well-played World Series
d) A trade in another league.


7. Me: Cincinnati will win the World Series::
a) Custer: We shouldn't have much trouble here at Little Bighorn.

8. Salem: Arizona::
a) Yankees: Red Sox
b) North Carolina: Duke
c) Alabama: Auburn
d) Ohio State: Michigan
e) All of the above

9. Gregg Black, Denny Moss, King Winn: AL Pitching::
a) Godzilla: Tokyo
b) Monster Truck: Tiny cars
c) Karma: Chicago Cubs (real life)
d) All of the above.

10. Pawtucket's Francisco Javier: strikes out::
a) Sun: rises in east.
b) Rich Harden: put on DL
c) Tiger Woods: wins golf tournaments
d) All of the above.

Essay: The top 4 records in The Bigs were all held by AL teams. Explain if this is a precursor to AL dominance in this league.

Answers: 1. d 2. d as evidenced by the fact that he asked why there were no kegs on first base 3. b , with c a close second 4. c, only because he borrowed Gregg Black's mustache for the night. 5. c 6. d 7. a 8. a, only because the owners send barbs back and forth on par with the NY and Boston owners 9. d and mfoster's getting worried already 10. d and I just as easily could have stuck Carl Pavano and many others in as the answer for b Essay: Any answer including "Pete Rubel's contract" , "not until Baltimore has an ERA in the same area code as respectability" or "not as long as Dunwoody and Salmon are still on the same NL team" is valid.

AL Year End Awards

As I did with the NL, here are the award winners with vote totals and my take on it.


1. Gregg Black, Nashville (19)
2. Denny Moss, Las Vegas (5)
3. King Winn, New York (4)
4. Andre Eckenstahler, Milwaukee (3)
5. Emmanuel Guzman, Texas (1)

Skinny: Just as much of a no-brainer as it was at the midpoint, I think the only surprise was that 13 people didn't vote for Black. He flirted with .400, settling for a .385 average, while hitting 50 HRs and driving in 161 RBIs. He led the AL in the following: batting average (.385), runs (145), triples (11), walks (138), OBP (.513), and slugging average (.808). As great as Moss (.315-61-152) and Winn (.307-68-168) were this year, it doesn't compare to what will be looked at as a historic year by Black.

Cy Young

1. Steven Michaels, Cleveland (11)
2. Albert Gonzalez, Monterrey (10)
3. Ajax Drabek, Anaheim (5)
4. Lance Stevens, Louisville (4)
5. Phillip Allensworth, Monterrey (2)

Skinny: Almost as close as the NL race, the award goes to Michaels due in large part to winning 2/3 of the Triple Crown (ERA, K's). Gonzalez won more games (22), but the other key numbers were all in Michael's favor- along with ERA and Ks, he had a better OBA, WHIP, and walked fewer guys. Drabek's numbers were probably the most similar, if a touch behind- the other 3 had higher win totals due to the quality of their teams, but the individual pitching numbers didn't match Michaels. A close race goes to a deserving winner.

Rookie of the Year

1. Denny Moss, Las Vegas (19)
2. Andre Eckenstahler, Milwaukee (5)
3. Ernest Montgomery, Louisville (3)
4. Albert Herzog, Louisville (3)
5. Alex Lim, Colorado Springs (2)

Skinny: Two MVP finalists in this category? Moss would have been involved in a close race for MVP with King Winn in my opinion if not for Black, so it really shouldn't be a surprise for him to get this piece of hardware. His power numbers are listed above, and he stole 32 bases as well. It's tough to hit .340 with 47 HRs and 133 RBIs in your rookie year and not even come close to winning this award, but that's what happened to Eckenstahler this year. Don't cry for him, though; I think he'll make quite a bit of money at this game by the time he's through.

Fireman of the Year: Gerald Thompson, Las Vegas.

Skinny: A good closer wins, but again I'm going to have to disagree. My pick is Quinton Hughes of Milwaukee. A statistical breakdown:

Thompson Hughes
Saves: 39 39
Blown: 3 1
Innings: 41.1 87
BB/9 1.95 1.45
K/9 7.99 10.03
ERA: 3.48 1.45
OBP: .284 .249

The numbers clearly favor Hughes.

NL Year End Awards

Here are the NL end of the year awards with my take on each. Numbers in parentheses are the votes.


1. Oswaldo Johnson , Arizona (12)
2. Calvin Chang, San Juan (10)
3. Lyle Barber, New Orleans (5)
4. Leo Miller, Houston (3)
5. Lynn Abernathy, LA (2)

Skinny: I thought Johnson or Chang would have been solid choices- although I think success of a team should play a role in a player's MVP chances, I'm not a subscriber to the theory of that a player's team has to make the playoffs to win. Johnson wins based largely on his power numbers- he hit 59 homers and drove in 152 runs. He also stole 36 bases to show he's an all-around player. Chang made a good bid as well, hitting .319-49-148. Barber hit well for the Voodoo (.326-45-140). Abernathy had a fine year, but I'm not sure he belonged in the top 5, although two voters clearly disagree with me.

Cy Young

1. David Dunwoody, Salem (12)
1. Dwight Salmon (12)
3. Bert Price, Fargo (5)
4. Jerome Oliver, Houston (2)
5. Harry Lee, Montreal (1)

Skinny: The voters just couldn't decide, so both win! Dunwoody tied for the league lead with wins with 20 and was second in ERA with a 2.61. He led the league with an impressive 5 shutouts and 257 strikeouts. In fact, the only reason he didn't win the pitching Triple Crown was his teammate. Salmon started the year in AAA and was lights out after coming up, posting an unbelievable 14-1 record with a 2.04 ERA to take the ERA title. He had a WHIP of 0.95 (2nd in NL)and an OBP of .199 (T-1 in NL). Price, with his 13 wins and 31 saves and Oliver, at 17-9 with a 3.38 ERA, had great years but were still far behind in numbers as well as votes. By the way, I voted for Salmon.

Rookie of the Year

1. Justin Beverlin, Trenton (14)
2. Lynn Abernathy, LA (7)
2. Justin Gordon, Norfolk (7)
4. Melvin Nakano, Norfolk (3)
5. Rod Walters, Norfolk (1)

Skinny: First of all, let me state that if Salmon had been an option I don't know if anyone else would have received any votes. That being said, this wasn't as close as it probably should have been. Beverlin had a great season, saving 43 games and spearheading a bullpen that was a big reason why Trenton won their division. His numbers spiked just a little toward the end of the season. But Abernathy also had a great year, hitting .288-32-109 for an awful team. He could cut down on his strikeouts (116) and is hit-or-miss in the outfield (25 + plays, 16 errors). Gordon hit 46 HRs and drove in 118 for a somewhat disappointing Norfolk team, but with a 22-year-old Gordon and Nakano and Walters in the fold, they should be back in contention very soon. I thought Beverlin, Abernathy, and Gordon were all pretty close, with Beverlin being a deserving winner.

Fireman of the Year : Justin Beverlin, Trenton

Skinny: Don't get me wrong: I'm quite proud of Beverlin. I wasn't sure how he'd fare as a closer and he turned out to have a wonderful year. However, I think you have to put Beverlin second behind Memphis's Dude Huskey purely on the numbers.

Huskey Beverlin
Saves: 44 43
Blown Saves: 7 6
ERA: 3.40 3.49
OBA: .218 .259
WHIP: 0.92 1.29

Beverlin was quite good, but I thought Huskey was just a little better.

Playoff Wrapup

The 2nd round came and went- I was exactly right on the AL and very wrong on my NL predictions. First of all, Nashville upset top seeded Milwaukee in 5 games and Monterrey swept the surprising New York team in 3. In the NL Salem took out top seeded Trenton in 5 competitive games to face Houston, who swept Montreal.

In the ALCS Monterrey defeated Nashville in 6 games; 3 out of the 6 were decided by 1 run. Houston just didn't have much left, and Salem took out the Oilers in 4 straight. So the first ever World Series in the Bigs was a matchup of:

Game 1 was a matchup of co-Cy Young winner Dwight Salmon (Salem) vs. Cy Young candidate Phillip Allensworth (Monterrey). Salmon continues to pitch beyond his experience, going all 9 innings, giving up 2 runs and striking out 11. Allensworth was almost as good for his 5 1/3, giving up 2 on a 6th inning Chip Young home run, making a 1-0 Monterrey lead a 2-1 deficit. Salem tacked on 3 in the 9th against Patrick Sullivan and Vern Baez to make the lead too much for Salem. The Sacrifices took game 1 5-2 in Monterrey.
Game 2 pitted the other Co-Young winner David Dunwoody for Salem against 22-game winner Albert Gonzalez for the Sultans. Knowing the couldn't afford to fall behind 2-0 in the series, the Sultans jumped on Dunwoody early. A two-out double by Cody Lincoln in the 1st made it 1-0 Monterrey, and RBI hits by Sammy Castro, Glenn Leach, and Dewayne Castillo in the 2nd, making it 4-0, which was more than enough for Gonzalez. The Monterrey starter gave up only a solo home run to Chip Young in the 7th in his 8 innings of work. The scoring was finished by Lincoln, who hit a 2-run shot in the 5th and a mammoth solo homer in the 7th as the Sultans win 7-1 to tie the series at 1.
Game 3 at Salem didn't necessarily have a stellar pitching matchup, but it had a lot of intrigue. Salem went with knuckleballing veteran Darrell Carter in a pivotal home game to go against Monterrey's R.J. Toca, who was making his first start in almost 3 months. This game had the potential to be a slugfest and lived up to it. A solo shot by Moose Coleman in the 1st off Carter was answered by a 2-run shot off Toca by Macbeth Keller. Toca helped his own cause with a single in the 2nd, but then gave up another homer, this time a solo job to Travis Ryan in the bottom of the inning. It was 5-3 after 4 innings. Carter was strong through 7 but fell apart in the 8th, yielding a Cody Lincoln RBI double and then Haywood MacDonald's 2nd home run of the game, a 2 run jack to give Monterrey a 6-5 lead. They tacked on another run on a fielder's choice to make it 7-5. But Nate Cox hit a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 8th to tie the game. The drama came in the 11th, and it did not come without a little controversy. Lincoln singled Castillo home in the top of the inning, and it looked like Monterrey would prevail. But up stepped Cox with the bases loaded and two out against Parker Mashore. Cox singled up the middle, scoring Cooper Roa easily. Frank Keller slid in under the tag for the wininng run; Monterrey fans still argue that Bum Casey had the plate blocked. Regardless, Salem wins a 9-8 thriller for a 2-1 series lead.
Salem figured they could do without all the drama from game 3, so they decided game 4 quickly. They sent Dan Pederson out against game 1 starter Allensworth, and Salem got to Allensworth, sending him to the showers in the 3rd inning. MacBeth Keller hit 2 homers in the first 3 innings, as the Sacrifices jumped out to a 7-0 lead. The 8th run came on a solo homer by Nate Cox in the 6th. The Sacrifices won game 4 8-3 for a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Game 5 seemed to be a pitching mismatch, with Monterrey sending out 4th starter Dennys Fox against Salmon. Salmon again was his normal self, going 8 innings giving up 2 runs. But Fox went 5 2/3 giving up only 1 run, and the bullpen was spectacular, pitching 3 1/3 innings of shutout ball. The difference was an unearned run in the 7th in a 1-1 game. With two out and one on, an easy groundball to short was booted by Albert Strong. Bum Casey took advantage and singled up the middle for the deciding run in a 2-1 Monterrey victory.
The win in game 5 meant Salem would have to bring the champagne south of the border. It was a repeat of the game two pitching matchup in Dunwoody against Gonzalez. Gonzalez just didn't have it- they key inning was the 2nd when he gave up 4 runs. After striking out Young to start the inning, 4 straight singles led to two runs. A groundout gave Gonzalez the 2nd out, but Salem came up with yet another 2 out hit to drive in a run, as Howard Robinson singled up the middle after a walk to drive in two. Benito Tavarez drew Monterrey to within 2 with a 2-run homer, but it wasn't enough. Gonzalez was pulled in the 7th after giving up 3 more runs, and there was no way Dunwoody would give up 7. He went the route, giving up only 3. And after he induced a lazy ground ball to 2nd by Lincoln for the final out, the celebration began. Dunwoody was mobbed by his teammates on the mound, as Salem won 7-3 to take the World Series.
Congratulations to both teams on a great series and to Salem for prevailing in the 1st ever The Bigs World Series.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Minor League World Series Report


Down 3 games to 1 to the Boise Buckskins, the Colorado Springs Chickens make a surprising come back highlighted by the deflating game 6. Footsie Lewis gives up a single and double in the bottom of the 8th to allow the lone run to score with 2 out. Ivan Castilla gave up 5 walks and a lone hit in his 8 innings of work giving way to Daryle Ramirez for the save in the 9th. The game 7 finale was a slug fest with Colorado coming out on top.


Ottawa Naughty Kitties downs Montreal Maroons in 6. The Maroons held their own in the first three games, but hitting went south (or would that be west in this case) and was never a threat afterwards. Scoring only 2 runs in the final three games sealed their fate.

High A

Norfolk Destroyers beat the Vancouver Fighting Moose in 7. Most of these games were slugfests until the final 2 games when home field advantage took over and the Mooses bull pen let down.

Low A

Durham Entombed Spiders downs the New Orleans Voodoo in 7. It was thought the Voodoo would win this series after winning game 5 with a spectacular 1 - 0 win. That particular game featured 5 scattered hits and 5 walks by Voodoo pitching in 10 innings. Not to be out done in the pitching department, the Voodoo never had a hit till the 9th inning, but crossed the plate in 10th on a walk, double and single. Ninth inning heroics in game 6 by the Voodoo kept their dreams alive. Game 7 saw the Voodoo carry a 1 - 0 lead into the 8th inning where pitching ruled the day again, but the bull pen let the team down as the Destroyer hitters got 3 of their 4 hits to plate 3.


Las Vegas Gamblers drop the Philadelphia Blue Jays in 6. Blue Jays were surprised as the Gamblers evenness in pitching and hitting ruled the series. The Gamblers jumped the Blue Jays with 3 wins to start the series. But an 11 inning affair in game 5, taxed the Blue Jay bull pen and the Gamblers brought all their aces out to pitch game 6 in a do or die fashion.

Note: The Gamblers were the only wild card to advance to a WS .

Thursday, April 3, 2008

1st Round game-by-game summaries

The 1st round was about as good as it gets, with 3 game 5s, two series being decided in extra innings in game 5, and a few upsets. Here's how it all happened.


#6 Cincinnati Dragons vs. #3 Houston Oilers
Houston wins 3-2

Houston won game 1 3-0 as Matty Eusebio outdueled Bernard Robinson and Michael Dixon drove in a pair of runs. They held homefield advantage by winning game 2 as well, this one in a slugfest. Houston was up 6-0 after 2 innings, highlighted by a Leo Miller 3-run homer in the 1st. Cincinnati scored the next 5 and down 8-5 in the 9th, pinch hitter Rich Little hit a 1-out, 3 run homer off Houston closer Tex Howell to tie the game. But Houston prevailed on a 2-out single by Pedro Rijo for a 9-8 win.
After that the series shifted to Cincinnati, and Houston's offense never got off the plane. 5 different Dragons hit home runs and Manny Christians pitched a masterful 2-hit shutout with 11 K's for a 9-0 Cincinnati win to pull within 2-1. Game 4 was a 6-0 shutout, this one by Robinson.
Game 5 was back in Houston, and the Oilers fed off the home crowd. Vic McCormick pitched 6 innings and gave up only 1 run to the Dragons, while LF Norman Sanders had his biggest game of the series, driving in 3. That was more than enough, as the Oilers won game 5 by a score of 5-1.

#5 New Orleans Voodoo vs. #4 Salem Sacrifices
Salem wins 3-0

Salem dispatched the Voodoo in 3 games, shutting down the New Orleans offense. Game 1 was a pitcher's duel, as Salem's great David Dunwoody and New Orleans's unheralded Carlos Matos pitched to a virtual standstill- Dunwoody giving up 1 run in 7 innings, Matos giving up 1 run in 6 innings. Salem won the battle of the bullpens when the Voodoo cracked first, giving up the deciding run on a Max Clifton double in the 8th. Salem took game one 2-1. Game 2 was won by the Sacrifices 6-3 behind Dwight Salmon's quality start and a 3-run Nate Cox shot in the 5th, making a 3-0 game 6-0.
New Orleans got to host game 3, but it didn't help- 4 runs in the 6th and 3 more in the 7th sent Salem to the 2nd round with an 8-1 win. Chip Young's 7th inning homerun was the final nail in the Voodoo coffin.


#6 New York New York vs. #3 Louisville Legends
New York wins 3-2

If Louisville hadn't lost to Baltimore on the last day they wouldn't have even had to play in this series. This was easily the biggest upset of the first round. New York came right out of the gate in game one, taking an immediate advantage with Bernie Soriano's 1st inning 2-run shot. King Winn and Pete Duvall also drove in runs, which was enough for Duffy Parnell. Parnell gave up solo shots to Arnold Hunter and Bernard Young and nothing else for a 4-2 New York win. Louisville came back in game two as 5 pitchers combined to give up only 1 run in a 3-1 Legend win. Cesar Chavez scored 2 of the 3 Louisville runs.
The Legends followed up their game 2 win at home with a 7-6 win in the Big Apple. Chavez drove in 3 and Young hit a triple and a homerun to lead the Legend attack. Both bullpens tried to blow the game, as New York reliever Kenneth Graves gave up 5 runs in 1 2/3 innings to make a 2-1 game 7-1. But down 7-2 in the ninth New York managed to put the tying run on third before Gregory Snow struck out to end the game. Game 4 went to New York behind another complete game by Parnell (again giving up 2 runs) and a key error by Legend 3B Kareem Raines which would have ended the 7th inning 1-2-3; instead, 3 runs scored and New York won 4-2.
Game 5 in Louisville was one that will be remembered for a long time. Both teams had chances that went by the boards, and the game was tied 2-2 after 9. NY starter Miguel Benitez and Louisville starter Danny Little both pitched well enough to win, but the game was decided in the 10th when a bases-loaded 2-run double by King Winn followed by a 2-run single by David Belinda proved to be the difference. Louisville had runners on second and third with no out in the bottom of the inning, but could only manage one run and NY took the game 6-3.

#5 Nashville Sounds vs. #4 Las Vegas Gamblers
Nashville wins 3-2

Another 5-game series decided in extra innings. Game 1 went to the Sounds 4-3, as Ham Bruske was just a little better than Steven Tucker. Tucker only gave up 6 hits in 6 innings, but 3 of them were home runs- this accounted for all 4 Nashville runs. Las Vegas evened the series up in game 2 by going up 6-2 in the fifth and hanging on to win 6-5. Denny Moss and Wally Harvey both drove in 2 runs for the Gamblers.
Game 3 may be the one that Las Vegas looks at with the most regret. They wasted a spectacular start from Buster Charles, who was pitching a 1-hit shutout through 7 innings. But the Gamblers only managed one run, and when Midre Santiago followed a Gregg Black single with a 2-run homerun, the game belonged to Nashville 2-1. Las Vegas again evened up the series with a resounding 7-1 win. A 5-run outburst in the 7th sealed the deal for the Gamblers and 4 pitchers combined to give up 1 run.
Game 5 featured a rematch of Bruske vs. Tucker, and any fan of a pitcher's duel might view this as one of the best games ever played. Tucker gave up only 5 hits in 7 innings and Bruske gave up 3 hits in 9 as the game was scoreless through 10 innings. Nashville finally got to the Gamblers bullpen with a 2 run Kris Clinton single followed immediately by a Daryl Lyons 3-run bomb to provide the offense for a 5-0 win and trip to the second round.

Minor Legue World Series Report


#2 Colorado Springs Chickens vs #3 Boise Buckskins

Colorado has no really outstanding players, however they hit, play defense and pitch very well.

Boise is led offensively by
the speedy Carlton McKinley and power hitting Willie Sierra.

Take on the series: If Colorado pitching can hold the Boise offense they will win otherwise they could hit the showers quickly.

My Guess: Boise in 6, that offense proves be too much.


#1 Ottawa Naughty Kitties vs #3 Montreal Maroons

Ottawa offense is led by Sid Coomer and Albert Martin while Yuniesky Ortiz leads the pitching staff.

Montreal offense is led by Lou Bell while
Jeremi Gant leads a terrific pitching staff.

Take on the series: Montreal pitching either wins it or losses it.

My Guess: Montreal in 7, pitching rules and Montreal has more.

High A

#2 Vancouver Fighting Moose vs #1 Norfolk Destroyers

Vancouver offense is led by
Woody Waltman and a host of good speedy hitters.

Norfolk led by cunning coach
Allen Tracy brings deception to the table.

Take on the series: Not sure the deception will work against the Moose.

My Guess: Norfolk in 7, I like the coach and the idea that everyone plays.

Low A

#2 New Orleans Voodoo vs #1 Durham Entombed Spiders

Chan Suh leads the powerful Spiders offense and a bevy of talented pitching starters.

Tommy Morehead leads the maligned Voodoo offense and very talented bull pen.

Take on the series: Voodoo can win if Suh is held hitless.

My Guess: Spiders in 4, this is what the stats show and when have the stats been wrong?

Rookie League

Las Vegas Gamblers vs #3 Philadelphia Blue Jays

Gamblers offense is led by power hitting
R.J. Guardado and a bevy of others with a very capable pitching staff.

Blue Jays offense is led by
Bob Owens and another very capable pitching staff.

Take on the series: Can the Jays pitching halt the Gambler offense.

My Guess: Gamblers in 6, hitting takes the day..a little prejudice maybe.

*Note: Gamblers are the only wild card team to make a WS series so far.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

2nd round

The first round featured 3 game 5s, two of which went to extra innings. Here are the results:

- Houston defeated Cincinnati in 5 games.
- Salem defeated New Orleans in 3 games.
- New York defeated Louisville in 5 games.
- Nashville defeated Las Vegas in 5 games.

It'll be hard to top the excitement of the first round, but we'll most certainly try. Here are the matchups and what to look for.


#4 Salem Sacrifices vs. #1 Trenton Traffic

-Season series: Trenton 6-4

- Key matchup: Both pitching staffs vs. speedsters. Salem has several guys who can run, Frank Gant in particular. Trenton's pitchers must keep them off the basepaths and force the Sacrifices's big hitters to come up without RBI chances. Trenton's ability to score depends on Ken Davis, Artie Neugebauer, and Carlton MacDougal getting on base before their big boppers. Whoever gets their guys early in the lineup on base more should score more. As good as those guys are, they'll all be facing tough pitching. Incidently, the Traffic offense scored the 2nd most runs in the NL.

-Prediction: I'm not predicting my team's own series. But since I went 1 for 4 in the first round, my office phone was ringing off the hook all day from people asking me to predict that Salem would win. Seems they were all in the 609 area code...

#3 Houston Oilers vs. #2 Montreal Maroons

Season series: Houston 7-3

Key matchup: Houston's offense vs. Montreal's pitching. As ballyhooed as the Maroon offense has been, their team ERA was 4th in the National League. Leo Miller only hit .235 against the Dragons, but had a .381 on-base percentage. He left it up to the rest of the lineup to drive him in and they delivered in Round 1. I'm not sure the same formula would work again.

Prediction: Montreal in 4.


#5 Nashville Sounds vs. #1 Milwaukee Manic Maulers

Season series: Milwaukee 6-4

Key matchup: Milwaukee pitching vs. Tyler Post/Kris Clinton/Bud Klein. Post is the leadoff hitter and Clinton and Klein are RBI guys down in the order. MVP candidates Paxton Forrest and Gregg Black will get their hits, but the Maulers have to keep the other guys off the basepaths, Post in particular. Post only hit .238 against the Gamblers with a .273 on-base percentage. Even with Forrest and Black in the lineup, they can't win if Post keeps up those numbers.

Prediction: Nashville in 5.

#6 New York New York vs. #2 Monterrey Sultans

Season series: Monterrey 8-2

Key matchup: Benitez/Hubbard vs. Monterrey's lineup. I noted in the first round matchups that for NY, Parnell was a known quantity and Benitez and Hubbard would have to step up in order for New York to advance. Hubbard gave up 2 runs in 7 1/3 innings in game 3 and was a hard-luck loser. Benitez won game 5 by pitching 9 innings giving up 3 runs and waited for Louisville's bullpen to implode in the 11th and was solid in game 2 as well despite losing. If these two pitch like they did in the Louisville series, New York has a chance. If not, it will be a short series.

Prediction: Monterrey in 3.