Friday, August 26, 2011

The case for Siddall in the Hall

A close look at the most dominant reliever of his time

There's been a lot of speculation on whether or not Christoper Siddall will get enough votes to get into the Hall of Fame this season. And I'll admit, I'm probably a bit biased because Siddall was a Dirtbag for the first seven seasons of this world's existence. But his numbers simply cannot be denied -- he was the most dominant reliever of his era, hands down. It's really not even close.

The biggest knock on Siddall is probably that he doesn't have enough saves to get in. And if you're a reliever without any saves, you don't have much of a chance to get in the Hall of Fame. Generally, I would agree with that stance. A reliever would really have to have been dominant -- historically dominant -- to get consideration without any saves.

Well, Siddall was historically dominant. For a reliever or a starter, Siddall owns The Bigs' pitching record books. He is The Bigs all-time career leader in strikeout/walk ratio (a ridiculous 3.84), WHIP (1.03) and on base percentage allowed (.266). He is number two all-time in ERA (2.61) and slugging percentage allowed (.311) and third all-time in batting average allowed (.212).

So he doesn't have 300 saves. Big deal. He threw almost 1200 innings, which is more than borderline Hall of Fame starting pitchers like Vin Solano, and threw over 100 innings in each of his first nine seasons in The Bigs. So it's not like he didn't play long enough.

People can get caught up in the saves category but it's really a lot like the RBI stat -- based largely on outside factors. Siddall couldn't control how many saves he got much like hitters can't control whether or not there are runners on base when they come to bat. I chose to use Siddall as a setup A so that I could get the most innings pitched out of him. All he could control was how well he pitched when he was in the game and he ended up being better than any pitcher, starter or reliever, EVER. The only pitcher who could even be considered better than him is his ex-teammate Javier Henriquez.

Still think he's not Hall of Fame worthy?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Season 15 Previews: Oakland East Bay Rays

And lastly, we turn to the East Bay Rays. They've never won the NL West and finished in the basement last season. Can they turn it around after two straight last place finishes?

Oakland East Bay Rays

Last season: 65-97 (last in NL West, missed playoffs)
Offense: 15th in NL
Pitching: 15th in NL

Key additions: SS Gustavo Contreras (FA-Vancouver), C Rick Anderson (FA-Boston), C Rodney Rando (trade- New Orleans), P Shane Simms (trade-Cincinnati)

Key losses: SS William Satou (trade-Chicago), P Billy Spencer (FA-Boise), P Harry Lee (FA)

Analysis: If not for New Orleans this would have been the worst offense, so this was the first thing addressed. They upgraded at SS with Contreras and C with the Anderson/Rando combination and they could have a deep lineup when combined with sluggers 2B Virgil Vega, 1B Bob Zambrano, and RF O.T. Wagner. The team is expecting more from 3B Marcus Goldman and talented CF Roscoe Rigby.

Pitching is where this team is likely to struggle again. B.C. Macias is a good start, but he needs help. Dealing for Simms was a good start in rebuilding the staff, but they had to bring back Pedro Hernandez (who was pedestrian last season) and Don McConnell (who was beyond awful last season) just to eat innings. The bullpen is even more unsettled than the rotation.

Outlook: I can see them overtaking Boise and maybe even Salem for second place. They'll need a telescope to see Salt Lake City, however.

Season 15 Previews: Boise Drifters

Last season's San Francisco Sabercats picked up and moved to potato country. Will they fare better in Idaho?

Boise Drifters

Last season: 66-96 (3rd in NL West, missed playoffs)
Offense: 15th in NL
Pitching: 12th in NL

Key additions: SS Amp Palmer (FA-Salt Lake City), P Billy Spencer (FA-Oakland), Dan Young (FA-Chicago), P Don Wang (FA-Helena)
Key losses: P Turner Darr (FA-Cheyenne), C Steven O'Malley (FA-Cheyenne), P Ivan Webster (FA-Huntington)

Analysis: They'll have to be better on offense this season just by the addition of Palmer. They lacked a bat of his caliber last season, as the burden fell on aging veterans RF William Bolling and SS Ryan Hamill to produce. LF Kevin Lawson has a lot of potential, but they'll need more to compete with the Shakers.

The pitching could be more of a question mark as it was last season. Darr and Webster had subpar (in Darr's case, very subpar) seasons, but they provided innings. That leaves Louie Bolivar and Damion Mays as the only two established pitchers (both have career records under .500, by the way). Joseph Woo could get a shot at some point. Leon Dunn was solid as the closer, although he had few chances to close games.

Outlook: The Palmer signing was a bold stroke, but I'm not sure if it leads to anything. They won't be unwatchable, but they'll struggle.

Season 15 Previews: Salem Sacrifices

The Salem Sacrifices find themselves in a rebuilding process. Will they make strides this season? Can they even challenge the mighty Shakers?

Salem Sacrifices

Last season: 72-90 (2nd in NL West, missed playoffs)
Offense: 13th in NL
Pitching: 9th in NL

Key additions: C Yeico Solano (trade-Nashville)
Key losses: P Benji Stewart (FA-Mexico City)

Analysis: The buzz around Salem is about Rookie of the Year 1B Wilton Jang, but he can't win a pennant by himself. Veteran OF Melvin Taylor and Jimmie Lincoln each had a nice year and 3B Anthony Smith showed promise, but they had little help from the top or bottom of the lineup. SS Danny Wilson disappointed and 2B Tito Martin saw a dropoff in his numbers.

This might be the year that Sammy Garrido finally gets some help (hard to believe he's still only 29). The current roster holds little (save for maybe Willie Hernandez), but Salem could call up Miguel Tavarez and/or Vic Carillo at some point this season. They wouldn't put Salem in contention but would help fill in some of the pieces currently missing at the ML level. The closer is TBA

Outlook: They're starting to look like a team that could contend in a few seasons. This season? I don't see it.

Season 15 Previews: Salt Lake City Shakers

Salt Lake City has long been the gold standard in the NL West and arguably in the NL itself. They've won 8 straight NL West titles (with 4 NLCS appearances and a World Series title thrown in that stretch) and appear primed for a 9th. Can they win another World Series title? Does anybody in the division have the horses to finally knock them off?

Salt Lake City Shakers

Last season: 96-66 (1st in NL West, 1st in NL, lost in NLCS to Washington)
Offense: 1st in NL
Pitching: 6th in NL

Key additions: None
Key losses: OF Jordan Newfield (FA-Nashville), SS Amp Palmer (FA-Boise), LF Benito Fuentes (FA-Mexico City

Analysis: They'll miss Newfield, Palmer, and Fuentes, but they're still dangerous. 1B Phil Creek, SS Carlos Batista, and RF Vic James all return- they're high on base guys as well as sluggers. CF George Lowe had an off season, but he and 2B Cy Brand will provide the speed in the lineup. The only question is whether they'll be as deep as they have in the past. They really like what Stuffy Eyre did in spot duty last season.

Their pitching staff always seems to find a way to get it done, albeit unconventially. Felipe Calles and Rob Cepeda are not uber-talented, but they know how to get enough outs. Joe Forrest won 24 games, all in relief. The team likes closer Lonny Soto, even if he did blow 9 saves last season.

Outlook: It remains to be seen how losing all those hitters will affect them, but even if it affects them greatly, I don't see who else in the division can rise up to take them out.

Season 15 Previews: New Orleans Voodoo

Hard to believe this once-proud franchise lost 112 games last season. Hopefully last season's dumpster fire of a campaign is rock bottom (because any further would be below the wins minimum). Should New Orleans just hope to avoid elimination, or is there some hope for... anything?

New Orleans Voodoo

Last season: 50-112 (last in NL South, missed playoffs [obviously])
Offense: Last in NL
Pitching: Last in NL

Key additions: SS Doc Bowen, (FA-Syracuse)
Key losses: C Rodney Rando (trade-Oakland), 1B Brian Christiansen (FA), P Orber Marin (FA)

Analysis: Well, they can't be any worse, but I'm not sure they'll be much better, either. They backed the Brinks truck up at the Bowen residence to grab one of the best free-agents available, but he can't do it alone. Last season's leader in homers and RBI, the aforementioned Christiansen, had an OBP under .300 and was not re-signed. LF Clayton Long had a solid rookie season, but RF Erick Daniels underachieved and New Orleans legend Ray Cepicky just doesn't have it anymore (he's also a free-agent). The team felt comfortable dealing Rando due to highly touted prospect C Livan Guillen ready to step into the starting lineup.

I don't see where the innings are going to come from. Their best two starters, Eric Edwards and Mateo Guerrero, would be in the back of most rotations. Is Rich Gibson or Jackie Page part of the solution? No one knows. They have two dynamite arms in the pen in closer Miguel Estalella and rookie Tripp Gosling, but if they don't inherit games that are close, they won't be of much use.

Outlook: I really hope they're not flirting with the win minimum this season. But I don't think New Orleans fans can expect respectability.

Season 15 Previews: San Juan Dead Bunnies

Although they finished third and missed the playoffs, San Juan posted its best record in 10 seasons. So where does this team go from here? Do they pass Louisville and/or Huntington or will they stay back of the pack?

San Juan Dead Bunnies

Last season: 86-76 (3rd in NL South, missed playoffs)
Offense: 3rd in NL
Pitching: 11th in NL

Key additions: P Miguel Reyes (FA-Minnesota), P Albert Lopez (FA-Fargo),
Key losses: None

Analysis: Like Louisville, this team will hit. Silver Slugger C Russ Glanville had a monster season, and 2B Jason Walker, CF Bob Meyer, and 3B Vic Oliveras all hit at least 26 homers. SS Charles Hultzen also has a lot of upside. They had five guys in double digits in steals, so they have some speed as well.

As often is the case, pitching is the question mark in San Juan. Vladimir Bibby was solid last season and Andrew Smith showed quite a bit of improvement over his rookie season, but Vin Espinosa pitched to a 5 ERA and I'm not sure Reyes or Lopez is the answer (although San Juna fans will probably be thrilled to not have to watch a combined 38 starts out of Donne Osik and Hipolito Pujols). Jorge Aguilar was surprisingly good in his first season as a closer.

Outlook: If they could somehow add a quality starter or two, I'd pick them to take this division (although I could say that about Louisville as well). As of right now, I like them but I'm not sure they're as good as Huntington.


Season 15 Previews: Louisville Woodies

Last season the Woodies finished only two games back of the Riverdogs. Can they take the next step and beat them out for the division title this season?

Louisville Woodies

Last season: 87-75 (2nd in NL South, missed playoffs)
Offense: 4th in NL
Pitching: 10th in NL

Key additions: 2B Bart O'Hallaran (trade-Anaheim)
Key losses: None

Analysis: Anyone who watched Louisville play last season realized that power is not this team's problem. They nearly slugged their way to a division title last season, as 3 players (OF Bob Stewart, SS Mariano Terrero, and 1B Clayton Olson) each hit more than 40 homers and drove in more than 100 runs- 3 more guys hit at least 25. They outhomered every other NL team and outhomered all but one AL team. On the flipside they stole the fewest bases (CF Rich Porter had 19 of the teams 26 steals), so some diversity might help, but look for more Home Run Derby in Louisville.

The pitching staff is solid if unspectacular. Dan Bernard and Miguel Castilla are a solid top of the rotation and 22-year-old Julian Cerda looked fairly good in his rookie year. The bullpen is led by talented arms in Rey Jung and Craig Pratt

Outlook: They'll be in the playoff mix, and they could slug their way to a division title if Huntington falters. They're not outstanding, but I don't see Huntington as outstanding, either.

Season 15 Previews: Huntington Riverdogs

After only their 2nd season without a playoff appearance in Season 13, the Riverdogs came back in seaso 14 to claim their 9th division title. Can they make it an even 10 this season?

Houston Riverdogs

Last season: 89-73 (1st in NL South, 4th seed in NL, lost in 2nd round to Salt Lake City)
Offense: 11th in NL
Pitching: 7th in NL

Key additions: P Kid Johnstone (FA-Scranton)
Key losses: None

Analysis: This team will look very similar to last season's division winners. 3B Che Bong, LF Yorvit Terrero, and C Angel Marquez all had very good all-around seasons. RF Andres Paniagua led the team in HRs and RBI. 1B Quentin Fletcher and 2B Marc Phillips are both talented but need to chip in more.

Their veteran rotation will be anchored by Kenneth Graves and Fred Carter. The Riverdogs have high hopes for rookie starter Fred Norman. Their bullpen is solid and deep, led by closer Larry Driskill, and the Johnstone signing makes it deeper.

Outlook: Again, a team that doesn't look like a big-time contender on paper, but I don't see anyone in the division who looks like an odds-on favorite to beat them. And if they can get into the playoffs, who knows?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Season 15 Previews: Vancouver Grizzlies

Last season the Grizzlies pulled off the nearly impossible-they finished in last place despite having a winning record. So although they missed the playoffs and were looking up at every one else in the division, there's still reason for hope. Can they leapfrog the other tenants in the division and compete for a division title?

Vancouver Grizzlies

Last season: 82-80 (4th in NL North, missed playoffs)
Offense: 10th in NL
Pitching: 5th in NL

Key additions: None
Key losses: SS Gustavo Contreras (FA-Oakland), LF Fernando Ibanez (FA)

Analysis: This is going to be an interesting season for the Grizzlies. Slugger LF Heath Christiansen and speedster RF Ricky Carpenter need help. Will talented CF Geraldo Santayana step up, or will it come from the minor leaguers that the Grizzlies have stockpiled? They have three or four AAA players who could end up playing a significant role this season.

As for the pitching staff, they're a little more settled. They'll return Willie Pineda and Luis Tejera, who won 30 games between the two of them. And while Ozzie Acker maybe isn't as good as his 26-6 Cy Young season in Season 13, he's definitely not as bad as last year's 9-19 debacle. Heath Rollins was solid as the closer last season.

Outlook: It's hard to say. If they call up some of their AAA guys and those guys can make an immediate impact, I'd give them a puncher's chance at the playoffs. But if they can't or if the Vancouver brass decides that calling these guys up would hamper their long-term growth, then I don't see where the offense comes from.

Season 15 Previews: Syracuse Sandmen

Last season Syracuse finished just 4 back of the division and 2 back of a wild card spot. Can they make the jump this season?

Syracuse Sandmen

Last season: 89-73 (3rd in NL North, missed playoffs)
Offense: 9th in NL
Pitching: 2nd in NL

Key additions: P Enrique Gutierrez (FA-Louisville)
Key losses: SS Doc Bowen (FA-New Orleans), P Ivan Castilla (FA-Cheyenne), CF Trever Pierre (FA-Boston)

Analysis: The offense has young talent and some question marks. The trio of 2B Barry Sanders, 3B Travis Stein, and 1B Antoine Hoover are good up-and-coming players. But the losses of Bowen and Pierre could impact the offense, they need more from IF Pete Butler, and the Dennis Tamura experiment did not work out for Syracuse last season- he heard some booing from the crowd at the end. It'll be interesting to see if he can bounce back- if not, his $50 million remaining over the last 3 years of his contract is likely to be a sore spot with the team and the fans.

Their top three in the rotation are good veterans in Alberto Vidal, Albert Herzog, and Christy Castillo. The other two positions are fairly wide open. They've got Chick Price and Coco Hines to anchor a solid bullpen.

Outlook: I don't see a repeat of season 13's World Series title, but they should be in the playoff mix.

Season 15 Previews: Minnesota North Stars

Minnesota gave Fargo a good run for the division title last season, then pulled the slight upset in the playoffs before falling to the eventual champion Blue Coats. Can they repeat or improve that performance?

Minnesota North Stars

Last season: 91-71 (2nd in NL North, 6th in NL, lost in 2nd round to Washington)
Offense: 7th in NL
Pitching: 8th in NL

Key additions: None
Key losses: P Miguel Reyes (FA-San Juan), P Nate McNamara (FA-Chicago), P Donaldo Lopez (FA-Nashville)

Analysis: Hard to figure how this team is going to go. Veteran 2B Rico Guevara has now had two career years, albeit 7 years apart and SS James Dixon's home run total has gone down each of the last three seasons. As hard as it is to do for a guy making almost $8 million a season, RF Zach Leary quietly put up great numbers. But the offense may hinge on three guys possibly transitioning from part-time to full-time duty: IF Shea Olmansky, OF Andrea Butler, and 1B John Okajima. Expect some AAA call-ups as well.

The pitching staff saw 5 guys win 10 games and no one win more than 15. Veteran Rob Cather was the 15 game winner and he'll be back, but North Stars fans are far more excited about young potential ace Braden Carroll. The loss of Reyes eliminates some depth, but he was far from an ace. They'll rely on guys like Yorrick Cannon, Carlos Franco, and Mark Rogers for the depth. As for the bullpen, they'll also miss the depth of McNamara and Lopez, but Gary Weems and Boomer Nelson are both reliable and should be able to pick up the slack.

Outlook: They're definitely better than they were two seasons ago when they finished last in the division, but I'm not sure I can pick them to go back to the playoffs.

Season 15 Previews: Fargo Dirtbags

We move to the North, where Fargo is the reigning division champion. Can they repeat and maybe go further?

Fargo Dirtbags

Last season: 93-69 (1st in NL North, 3rd in NL, lost in 1st round to Minnesota)
Offense: 6th in NL
Pitching: 4th in NL

Key additions: LF Luis Martinez (FA-Ottawa)
Key losses: OF Jamey Hunter (FA)

Analysis: The offense should once again be led by young sluggers C Rodrigo Melendez and 1B Cesar Gonzalez. 2B Raul Vallarta and RF Philip McCartin provide the speed and each scored over 100 runs. They're hoping to get some depth in the lineup through aging stars Martinez and Alex Lim- Martinez will likely start and Lim should be a bench player. Their lineup isn't the deepest, but it's got some talent.

The pitching staff in Fargo, like in Atlanta, is always a quality staff. They have 2-time and reigning Cy Young winner Fausto Almanza (20-4 last season) and the legendary Javier Henriquez anchoring the staff. After the dynamic duo, there are some question marks, as rookie Bryce Washington and veteran Malachi Clifton likely will occupy the #3 and #4 spot. The good news is the starters usually don't have to go past the 6th or 7th inning, as the combination of Garry "Dream Weaver" Wright and Cristian Price is usually lights out at the end. Price was a little too prone to the long ball last year but Wright was tremendous in the "Chris Siddall" role.

Outlook: Not sure if I'm looking at a title contender here, but they'll be in playoff contention. And once you get in the playoffs, you've always got a puncher's chance, especially with 9 Cy Young awards in that playoff rotation.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Season 15 Previews: Norfolk Destroyers

And then came the Destroyers. Norfolk fans have seen one winning season in the last eleven seasons and no playoff appearances in that time. What can the Virginia faithful expect from their young rebuilding team this season:

Norfolk Destroyers

Last season: 68-94 (4th in NL East, missed playoffs)
Offense: 13th in NL
Pitching: 14th in NL

Key additions: P Louie Martin (FA-Ottawa)
Key losses: None

Analysis: This is a young squad that figures to get better with time. LF Keith Singleton put up a monster season but he needs some help. RF Dave Hodges put up solid numbers and 3B Geovany Manzanillo showed some of his potential but no one was able to put up 90 runs. OF Albert Picasso had a decent rookie season but is capable of more. 22-year-old CF Julian Mieses should get a shot to win a job in camp- he's got boom or bust ability.

The pitching staff is a mess. John Wilson is a solid starter but he was the only reliable starter last season for the Destroyers. They brought in the aforementioned Martin to be the #2 or #3 type starter although he could start Opening Day. Delino Hernandez and Edwin Aaron must pitch better for Norfolk to be respectable and both men could be pitching for their careers- Aaron is 34 and could be on the way down and Hernandez is 28 and has yet to figure it out at the ML level- he's now coming off his worst season in the big leagues. Craig Shermann was effective, if unspectacular, as the closer.

Outlook: This is a proud franchise with solid ownership and a loyal fanbase, but I just don't see it. They're clearly the fourth best team in this division.

Season 15 Previews: Chicago Cows

The Cows are in a tough spot, as they're a team on the rise but with two perpetually good teams ahead of them in their own division. Are they stuck in third place or can they take the next step?

Chicago Cows

Last season: 78-84 (3rd in NL East, missed playoffs)
Offense: 2nd in NL
Pitching: 13th in NL

Key additions: SS William Satou (trade from Oakland)
Key losses: P Tito Mercedes (FA-Salt Lake City)

Analysis: Offense isn't the problem at Wrigley. Young sluggers LF Hub Hamilton and 1B Jack Millard both followed up breakthrough seasons in Season 13 with similar big-time years in Season 14. Veteran IF Jacque Puffer chimed in with 25 HRs and 105 RBI, one of 5 guys with at least 20 homers. Hamilton, Puffer, and SS Jesus Espinosa all stole at least 30 bases, showing the diversity of the offense.

The pitching staff was what held this team back, and may do so again this season. Alex Bong and Yuniesky Solano are arguably the two most talented arms on this team and neither has yet put together a solid season (although they are 25 and 23, respectively, so it's not exactly time to give up on either of them). Jeremi Gant was the best starter last season, but he can't do it alone. Juan Cabrera will have to pitch a lot better than he did last season if Chicago wants to finish at .500, never mind sniff the playoffs. They've got some decent arms in the pen but must figure out the roles- unlike Washington, I'm not 100% confident in this squad to get it done. Knuckleballer Hack Gregerson couldn't handle the role last season.

Outlook: This has been a team on the rise in its first two seasons in Chicago, but unless Bong and Solano figure it out, they won't be much better than last season. They'll need some more pieces to be a playoff contender and the big question is whether those pieces are currently on their roster or not.

Season 15 Previews: Atlanta Bandits

We head to Atlanta, who has made the playoffs an astounding 11 straight seasons. Can they make it 12?

Atlanta Bandits

Last season: 91-61 (2nd in NL East, #5 seed in playoffs, lost in 1st round to Huntington)
Offense: 8th in NL
Pitching: 1st in NL

Key additions: None
Key losses: IF Cap Herrera (FA-Ottawa)

Analysis: Again, this is a team that stood relatively pat. Their offense will be based on speed yet again- slugging 1B Tony Javier is the lone big-time home run threat. Their entire outfield (Neifi James, Steve Lofton, Butch Russell), stole at least 30 bases, but can they get on base enough to take advantage of that speed? They've got some talent, but I question how the offense fits together. However, they still win games.

The pitching always seems to be at or near the top of the NL. Kaz Whang and Santiago Perez didn't put up gaudy win totals, but they're both stud pitchers. Like the other top teams, they have rotation depth (Roy Walker and Mike Lowery are both very solid) and a good deep bullpen.

Outlook: I'd love to say this is the season where it doesn't come together, where they just don't have enough offense to make the postseason. However, this team has earned the benefit of the doubt and I'll believe it when I see it. They somehow always find a way to be in the mix.

Season 15 Previews: Washington D.C. Blue Coats

Since I have two weeks off from work, the previews are back! Traditionally, we start in the NL East so that's what we'll do.

Washington D.C. Blue Coats

Last season: 96-66 (1st in NL East, won World Series)
Offense: 5th in NL
Pitching: 3rd in NL

Key additions: None
Key losses: Alex Javier (FA- Scranton)

Analysis: Washington will start the season with pretty much the same squad that took home the title last season. They'll be led once again by breakout star 2B Andrew Clayton, who put up Hall of Fame numbers last season. He'll be supported by RF Matty Pena and last season's mid-season acquisition, INF Jack Hunt. 3B James Dixon is still a productive hitter, but his 59 point drop in average from the year before would have to concern the D.C. fans.

The starting pitching won't change. Former Cy Young winner Carter Leonard is the horse and had a nice bounce-back season, but John Balfour may have been even better. Albert Hendrickson and Adrian Shipley add depth to the rotation. The question around D.C. is around the loss of Javier, but they have enough quality arms in the bullpen to cover the loss- someone will probably step up. Norman Eckenstahler, Enos Swann, and Jorge Cruz could all get shots at the role.

Outlook: Can't exactly say they're an odds-on favorite to repeat, as there are a few small question marks and the NL appears to be deep this season, but when the Vegas lines come out they'll be at or near the top.

Oakland's Offseason Moves

Oakland GM gumbercules has obviously shown that 65 wins and another last place finish in the NL West will not be acceptable this season. There have been some major moves made in the offseason to better the team.

The light-hitting SS William Satou and C Bump Edwards are no longer with the squad- they've been replaced by free-agent pickup Gustavo Contreras and the catching tandem of Rick Anderson and Rodney Rando, respectively. Although the defense might not be quite as good, these moves definitely lengthen the lineup.

The pitching staff was a mess, so it's been partially rebuilt. The starting staff will consist of young star B.C. Macias and veteran stalwarts Pedro Hernandez, Don McConnell (who is getting one more chance after a dreadful Season 14) and Adrian Hendrickson (again, awful last season). Shane Simms, 12-10 last season in Cincinnati, joins the team in a trade.

"We expect to be better than last season", said the new GM. "Would we like to contend for the division title? Sure. Is that realistic? I have no idea. But that is the goal. Salt Lake City has been the gold standard in the division and maybe even the league for years. But I have every intention of putting together the team that breaks their consecutive division title streak, whenever that may be."

Free Agency Wrap-up

There were a few major signings to close the free-agency period.

Former Syracuse SS Doc Bowen signed a 5-year, $63 million contract with New Orleans. Bowen's agent said he wanted to be the highest paid SS in the league but he wasn't even the highest paid shortstop in this free-agent class, as Amp Palmer got $65 million. However, at his New Orleans press conference, Bowen said all the right things, adding "I'm satisfied with this contract and looking forward to big things with the Voodoo". When reminded that he was joining a 50-win team, he said, "Well, there's nowhere to go but up".

Nashville picked up former Salt Lake City Shaker infielder Jordan Newfield for 4 years and about $38 million. The 10-year veteran will provide another potent bat to help try and lead Nashville past the Charleston Chew this season.

The Scranton Janitors picked up the best pitcher on the market, and he'll cost them a pretty penny. Close Alex Javier will make $73 million over the next 5 seasons, including a whopping $24.5 million this season. Does Javier put Scranton over the top in the AL this season? This will be just one of the many questions that won't be answered until the World Series is over.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Take 5- Pitchers

OK, since we've already taken a look at the eligible hitters, let's head to the other category:

Who are the top 5 pitchers eligible for the Hall of Fame?

1. Christopher Siddall

Case for: Best career ERA and WHIP of all currently eligible pitchers, was a dominant middle reliever, pitched over 100 innings with a WHIP of less than 1.00 five times (including a 0.84 WHIP in 138 innings in season 1).

Case against: No major hardware, only two All-Star appearances, finished with less than 120 combined wins and saves.

Outlook: Hard to say. It's a shame his career happened so early in the existence of the world because if he had started later on and had, say, 10 to 12 years of this type of performance he would become the ultimate test case of "Can a middle reliever get voted into the HOF"? As with the next two guys to follow, time is not on their side- they've been retired for a few years and haven't been voted in yet and the next few seasons will see the retirements of guys like Dunwoody, Robinson, and eventually even Henriquez, making it harder to get in.

2. Matty Eusebio

Case for: 122-63 record, career ERA under 3, won at least 15 games 6 times, finished with a WHIP under 1.00 three times, 4-time All Star, pitched a no-hitter.

Case against: No Cy Young awards (in his defense, he might have a few if Henriquez had pitched in the AL), never won 20, does not appear in the top 5 all-time in any major pitching category for either a season or a career.

Outlook: Questionable at best.

3. Vin Solano

Case for: Career winning percentage of .768, career ERA of 2.95, 2 Cy Young awards to go with 4 All-Star appearances and a World Series ring.

Case against: Didn't win 100 games in his career, only started 5 years in the Bigs with two of those being dominant (his Cy Young seasons).

Outlook: See Eusebio.

4. Pablo Rijo

Case for: 443 career saves, 6 All-Star appearances, saved 40 or more games five times.

Case against: Very inconsistent as a closer- had 3 seasons with an ERA over 5, no Fireman of the Year awards, career ERA over 4.

Outlook: Chances are slim to none, and Slim is walking out the door. I don't see it happening.

5. Babe Broadhurst

Case for: 3-time All Star, twice won 18 games, career 3.32 ERA (yeah, I'll admit it's a pretty weak case).

Case against: Only 115 career wins, never won 20, lasted only 8 years as a starter.

Outlook: See Rijo. He's basically Carlton Fleming with a little more longevity and maybe slightly less dominance. Neither guy is getting in (and rightfully so).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lim re-joins Dirtbags

Future HOFer to play backup role

Fargo is quickly becoming the place where future Hall of Famers go to retire. After signing 36-year-old Luis Martinez to a three-year deal and extending Javier Henriquez through his age 38 season, the Dirtbags have now signed another future Hall of Famer; Alex Lim.

Lim agreed to a 2-year $3.4 million deal to serve as the Dirtbags' fourth outfielder. The 37-year-old outfielder batted .291/.376/.412 last season in a full-time role with San Francisco. Lim previously patrolled left field in Fargo for five and a half seasons, helping the Dirtbags win their only World Series championship.

Boise lands Palmer

6-time All-Star jumps to division rival

The Boise franchise has failed to make the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons. Now, they hope that a little money will go a long way towards fixing that. Actually, it's a lot of money.

The Drifters have announced the signing of 6-time All-Star shortstop Amp Palmer to a 5-year $65 million deal. The deal includes a $4 million bonus and a team option for the final year. The 32-year-old Palmer, who spent the past three seasons with Salt Lake City, had a .292/.349/.553 batting line last season with 39 homeruns, 134 RBI, 109 runs scored and 25 stolen bases.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Take 5- The Long Awaited Return

It's been a while, but Take 5 makes a return to the blog. The signing of future Hall-of-Famer Javier Henriquez to a 3 year extention with Fargo turns our attention to the current crop of players available for HOF voting. The pitching candidates are not all that strong, so we'll concentrate on the other side of the ball and ask the question:

Who are the top 5 eligible candidates for the Hall-of-Fame in the Position Players category?

1. David Rushford

Resume: The recently retired Rushford probably rushes to the top of this list. His 460 HRs and 1126 RBI rank first among eligible hitters. He has 7 40 HR/100 RBI seasons to his name. The voters did him very little justice in putting him in only one All-Star game.

Outlook: Far from a slam-dunk, but he's got a shot. Supporters will point to those seven dominant years and note that Gregg Black got in for five or six dominant years. Detractors can point to his severe dropoff late in his career and lack of hardware.

2. Ryan Snyder

Resume: Snyder very quietly put together a borderline HOF career. He's got an MVP award (which Rushford can't claim), went to 5 All-Star games, and won a World Series ring. Although he finihed 140 homers behind Rushford, their all-time slugging percentages are almost identical. He finished 6 stolen bases short of going 300/300 for his career.

Outlook: In some respects he may have a better case than Rushford, but he's been retired since Season 11 and hasn't gone in yet, which does not bode well at all for his chances. With only two inductees, it's not like he's stuck in a logjam behind sure-fire HOFers.

3. King Winn

Resume: Another member of the 1000 RBI club, Winn holds the single season RBI record with 182. That total helped him earn his MVP award as a DH, a difficult feat to accomplish. He drove in 100 runs 6 times and hit over 60 homers twice.

Outlook: I'd say not good. He had two or three hall-of-fame years, but his time of dominance was short and he fell off worse than Rushford. Being essentially a DH (he caught from time to time but had a hard time doing it full-time) also makes it harder. I most certainly wouldn't put him in ahead of Rushford or Snyder, and there will be sure-fire HOFers retiring soon, making it harder for him.

4. Andre Eckenstahler

Resume: He's the only currently eligible player with over 5000 at-bats to retire with a .300 average. Andre batted over .300 seven times and hit the 30/100 plateaus three times. He's got 4 All-Stars and 4 Silver Slugger awards on his mantle.

Outlook: Very doubtful. He had only one dominant season (season 1, where he hit .340--47-133 and would have cruised to an MVP award if not for the beer league softball season of Gregg Black) and his power numbers aren't eye-popping.

5. Bernie Soriano

Resume: The Cuban defector came in three homers short of the 400 mark and drove in 1114 runs in his career- Rushford is the only eligible candidate with more. He drove in 100 runs four times and had seasons of 99 and 98 RBI and hit 50 homers twice.

Outlook: No chance and rightfully so. I could have easily put about 5 or 6 other guys in this slot, none of which would be viable candidates for the Hall. As for Soriano, he had a handful of big-time seasons and was wildly inconsistent. No way he should ever be voted in.

Fargo, Henriquez agree on extension

Deal keeps Henriquez in Fargo until season 19

Just a few hours after signing Luis Martinez, the Fargo Dirtbags announced that they have agreed to a contract extension with franchise ace Javier Henriquez. Henriquez, The Bigs all-time wins leader with 230, signed a three-year $28.5 million extension with the third year of the deal being a team option. He will make $17.3 million next season, which includes a $10 million bonus, $6.2 million in season 17 and $5 million in season 18.

The extension will keep Henriquez with Fargo through season 18, meaning the ace pitcher will not be eligible for free agency again until he is 39-years-old.

Martinez returns to his roots

Former MVP signs with Dirtbags

14 seasons ago, The Bigs saw its first blockbuster trade as the Fargo Dirtbags traded Luis Martinez, Del Lopez and James Morton to the Milwaukee Manic Maulers for Javier Henriquez. Since that trade, the players involved have combined to earn 17 All-Star appearances, 7 Silver Sluggers, 2 Gold Gloves, 7 Cy Youngs, 1 MVP and 2 World Series rings. Henriquez and Martinez, the headliners of the deal, became the two best players at their position in their prime. Now, on the downside of their careers, they will be teammates.

Martinez agreed to terms on a three-year $12 million deal with Fargo and will serve as their starting left fielder this season. Ironically enough, the Dirtbags declined the option of Lopez, who had served the team in a part-time role the past two seasons, to make room for Martinez on their roster. Despite playing in five World Series, Martinez has yet to win one. The future Hall of Famer missed his only chance as his Milwaukee Manic Maulers went on to win the World Series in season 4 while Martinez was sidelined for the season with nerve irritation in his forearm.

Martinez will now join forces with the man he was once traded for in the biggest blockbuster in The Bigs' history to try and capture that elusive World Series ring.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Oakland Announces New Regional Network

Oakland owner Rudy Jordan has had a busy offseason. After moving the Boise Bombers to the East Bay, he managed to lure GM gumbercules out of retirement to run the show. Today he announced the formation of the REDS (Rays Entertainment, Development, and Sports) network. "Rather than sign on with a regional sports channel, we wanted to increase our profit margins by creating our own network", said Jordan. "With our own network, we feel we can increase our reach throughout northern California, as we are now the only team in The Bigs in this area". The REDS network will broadcast all East Bay Rays and the majority of the Golden State Warriors basketball games (pre-game and post-game coverage included), as well as original programming. A representative was sent to try to secure the rights to broadcast Raiders games, but looking at Al Davis made him turn into stone. REDS's broadcast team of Randall Brooks and Kelly Downs will debut at the EBRs' first spring training game against Fargo.

Two Former Sluggers Retire

As we start our 15th season, the two Silver Slugger 3rd basemen from Season 5 both announced their retirements today.

David Rushford was one of the most feared sluggers for the first seven years of the league. He made an immediate splash in Philadelphia (later Washington), hitting 44 homers in season 1 despite starting the season in AAA. In his five big league seasons in Philadelphia/Washington he amassed an incredible 251 homers before moving on to Fargo and had two more big-time seasons before slowing down. He finishes his career with a .272 average, 460 homers, and 1126 RBI. Despite only playing 5 seasons with the Washington franchise he still holds the team records for HRs and RBI and has 4 of the top 5 single season home run totals. His HOF candidacy is already being debated.

Brook Teut is not likely to be taken seriously as a Hall of Fame candidate (and shouldn't be), but he was a good hitter in his day. Teut topped the 30 HR plateau four times and drove in more than 100 runs three times. His .269-34-119 season for Jackson in season 5 earned him a Silver Slugger award at 3B (Rushford was the NL winner that season) and an All-Star appearance. Teut retires with 259 homers and 914 RBI.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Lincoln, Almanza win second Cy Young Awards

Floyd, Hamilton take home MVP hardware

Fargo's Fausto Almanza and Charleston's Ronn Lincoln were both awarded with their second career Cy Young Awards in season 14. Winning the NL Cy Young, Almanza became the first player in the history of The Bigs to win a Cy Young Award in both the American League and the National League. Almanza finished the season with a 20-4 record, a 2.88 ERA and 223 strikeouts in 253 innings pitched. For the Chew, Lincoln went 19-4 with a 2.84 ERA and 218 strikeouts in 206.1 innings pitched.

Charleston swept the major two awards in the AL as LF Floyd Floyd was named the AL MVP for season 14. Floyd posted a .279/.399/.537 batting line with 34 homeruns, 63 stolen bases and 120 runs scored for the Chew. In the NL, Chicago Cows' Hub Hamilton took home the MVP honors. Hamilton hit .295/.366/.547 with 39 homeruns, 141 RBI, 119 runs scored and 33 stolen bases.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Season 14 Awards

With season 14 now complete, it's time to hand out a few awards.

Andrew Clayton, Washington

Exactly why Clayton did not appear on the NL MVP ballot is a mystery, as he not only belonged in the running, but should have won the award outright. After a poor season 13, Clayton re-established himself as one of the league's preeminent sluggers, with 49 home runs and a major-league leading 151 RBIs, .639 slugging percentage, and 1.000 OPS - while recording 20 steals and providing fine defense at second base. While there's no shortage of stars on the World Series-winning Blue Coats, this one clearly shines brighter than the rest.

Runner-Up: Raul Vallarta, Fargo

Fausto Almanza, Fargo

Javier Henriquez has long gotten the biggest accolades on Fargo's top-notch pitching staff, but this season, the Dirtbags' erstwhile #2 starter was their real ace. Almanza was one of just two 20-game winners in the majors, and maintained a 1.09 WHIP and 2.88 ERA - both figures among the league's best - while pitching a staggering 253 innings in 38 starts, including a major league-leading 27 quality starts.

Runner-Up: John Balfour, Washington

deuce112, Charleston

While the winner in this category is usually pretty tough to pick, this season's choice may be the easiest ever. From season 6 to season 11, Charleston's win totals were as follows: 57, 55, 56, 67, 60, 53. Most franchises that find themselves in that kind of funk never break out of it. But in just 4 seasons, deuce112 has guided his team to one of the best records in the AL - and looking at all the young stars they've accumulated, it's a good bet they'll only continue to improve.

Runner-Up: bgkrenz, Minnesota

As we remember the previous few months, it's important not only to remember the good, but to be able to laugh at ourselves for some of the bad. In that spirit, here are the winners of the "prestigious" Iron Glove and Tin Slugger awards for Season 14.

Presented to the worst fielder at each position

P Jimmy Cole, Milwaukee
C Steven O'Malley, San Francisco
1B Vin Logan, Monterrey
2B Gerald Duran, San Francisco
3B Frank Campbell, Boston
SS Enrique Alarcon, New Orleans
LF Clayton Long, New Orleans
CF Sammy Quentin, Seattle
RF Max Lira, Mexico City

Presented to the worst hitter at each position

C Pablo DeSoto, Cincinnati
1B Bret Kingman, Cheyenne
2B Alex Beltran, New York
3B Vern Monroe, Seattle
SS Eduardo Martis, Monterrey
LF Ivan Gil, New York
CF Adrian Jensen, Cheyenne
RF Matthew Holdridge, Charleston
DH Zip Capra, Anaheim

Monday, August 8, 2011

DC takes Series in 5

Blue Coats win rematch of season 12 WS

Jack Hunt left Ottawa after helping them defeat Washington DC in the season 12 World Series. Little did he know, he'd be helping the Blue Coats turn the tables on his former team just two seasons later.

The Washington DC Blue Coats defeated the Ottawa O-jays in five games to win the franchises first World Series title in this year's Series. Hunt scored the go ahead run in the sixth inning to clinch the series for Washington DC.

Hunt was a beast for the Blue Coats, dominating his former teammates by going 10-22 with three homeruns and eight RBI in the five games.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ottawa meets DC in WS

Teams clash in rematch of season 12 World Series

The Washington DC Blue Coats will hope their second trip to the World Series will end better than their first one did. But they'll have to defeat a familiar enemy to reach their goal as the Ottawa O-jays will be their World Series opponent for the second time in three seasons.

The last time these teams met in the World Series, the O-jays took home the championship trophy, winning the series four games to two. The teams will again be lead by aces Andres DeLeon and Carter Leonard but the biggest subplot of this rematch may revolve around the two superstars who are playing for the other side this time around.

Future Hall of Famer Luis Martinez left DC after their season 12 World Series disappointment and signed a three-year deal to join then defending champion Ottawa. Jack Hunt also left his team after that World Series, fleeing Ottawa for big money in New York. But Hunt was traded to Washington midway through this season and will try to help the team he defeated two years ago, take down the team he helped to victory.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Season 14 Draft Review

Now that all the players who are going to sign have put their name on the dotted line, it's time to take a look at this season's draft, with selected commentary on good, bad, and otherwise particularly noteworthy selections.

1. Cincinnati Reds
Hootie Adams, RHP - Age 18 - $4.00M - Rating: - Grade: A

2. Cheyenne Crackers
Adam Coppinger, RHP - Age 18 - $3.91M - Rating: - Grade: A

Comment: It's hard to say which is the better prospect, but either way it's undeniable that Adams and Coppinger are future aces and well deserving of the first two picks of the draft.

3. New Orleans Voodoo
Luis Rincon, SS - Age 19 - $3.82M - Rating: - Grade: A

4. Norfolk Destroyers
Edinson Lugo, C - Age 22 - $3.72M - Rating: - Grade: A+

Comment: Lugo may turn out to be the biggest prize of this year's draft class. Though he lacks the stellar defense of the typical 5-star prospect, he's perhaps the best pure hitter to enter the draft in several seasons and should be a perennial MVP candidate in the near future.

5. Boston Bambinos
Javier Castillo, RHP - Age 18 - $3.63M - Rating: - Grade: D

Comment: Castillo's a decent prospect, but he's barely first-round material, let alone a top-5 player. Also, as an extreme flyball pitcher, Fenway Park may be the worst possible big-league home for him. Why the Bambinos picked him in this spot is a real head-scratcher.

6. Mexico City Chupacabras
Ralph Dickerson, LHP - Age 22 - $3.54M - Rating: - Grade: B

7. Boise Bombers
Darren Coleman, LHP - Age 18 - Unsigned - Rating: - Grade: D

Comment: Faced with a tight financial situation and an unproductive farm system, Boise badly needed to draft an impact prospect whom they could afford to sign. Instead, they selected a solid-but-unspectacular pitcher with known signability concerns, and now have nothing to show for a top-10 pick.

8. Milwaukee Manic Maulers
William McConnell, SS - Age 19 - $3.35M - Rating: - Grade: A

9. Scranton Janitors
Darryl Percival, LHP - Age 18 - $3.25M - Rating: - Grade: B

10. San Francisco Sabercats
Hod Cradle, RHP - Age 18 - $3.16M - Rating: - Grade: B+

Comment: Cradle may have one the the strangest names in this year's draft class, but he's also the best reliever available by a wide margin. He adds to the impressive pile of elite pitching prospects that San Francisco has accrued over the last few seasons.

11. Chicago Cows
Pete Hitchcock, 3B/SS - Age 18 - $3.07M - Rating: - Grade: A

Comment: It's almost unfair how lucky the Cows got with this pick; it's extremely rare for a prospect of this quality to slip past the top ten - and he happened to fall into the lap of a franchise already teeming with great hitting prospects. In just a few seasons, Chicago's lineup may turn into a modern-day Murderer's Row.

12. New York Knickerbockers
Phillip Bergmann, LHP - Age 19 - $2.97M - Rating: - Grade: B

13. Salem Sacrifices
Dick Smith, LHP - Age 18 - $2.88M - Rating: - Grade: B-

14. Seattle Killer Whales
Anthony Thornton, C/DH - Age 18 - Unsigned - Rating: - Grade: C-

Comment: Thornton is a good hitter for a high schooler, but is a poor defensive catcher and likely has a future as a DH - or would have, if he hadn't picked basketball instead. Seattle may have actually dodged a bullet when he chose not to sign.

15. Minnesota North Stars
Charlie Hardy, 2B - Age 21 - $2.69M - Rating: - Grade: C+

16. San Juan Dead Bunnies
Kevin League, 2B - Age 22 - $2.60M - Rating: - Grade: B+

17. Louisville Woodies
Homer Wohlers, LF/RF - Age 18 - $2.50M - Rating: - Grade: C

18. Salt Lake City Shakers
Cecil Medina, RF - Age 18 - $2.41M - Rating: - Grade: A-

Comment: You can't sustain the kind of success that the Shakers have without drafting well, and this season is no exception. Medina has some weaknesses, to be sure, but he's one of the best hitters in this season's draft class and is an impressive "get" for the 18th overall pick.

19. Louisville Woodies
Collin Sheets, 2B - Age 21 - $2.32M - Rating: - Grade: B+

20. Atlanta Bandits
Bert Moss, SS - Age 18 - $2.22M - Rating: - Grade: B-

21. Charleston Chew
Chuck Smyth, 3B/RF - Age 18 - $3.45M - Rating: - Grade: B+

Comment: Smyth is a mediocre third baseman, at best, but could be an excellent right fielder if Charleston sees fit to move him there - well worth his above-slot signing bonus.

22. Syracuse Sandmen
Max Giminez, 2B - Age 21 - $2.04M - Rating: - Grade: C

23. St. Louis River City Rage
Paulie Smith, C - Age 18 - $1.94M - Rating: - Grade: C+

24. Atlanta Bandits
Niko Stokes, 1B/DH - Age 18 - $1.85M - Rating: - Grade: A

Comment: It's hard to believe that Stokes stayed on the board this long, but here he is, the 24th overall pick. He's a poor fielder, even for a first baseman, but he has terrific potential as a hitter, and is perhaps this draft's second-best high-school position player.

25. Washington Blue Coats
Tripp Rogers, LHP - Age 18 - $2.64M - Rating: - Grade: A

Comment: The first pitcher selected since the 13th overall pick is a good one. Rogers lacks the durability of a typical closer, but his dynamite stuff ensures that he'll be a first-rate reliever someday.

26. Helena Shadow Wolves
Phil Hukata, 1B - Age 18 - Unsigned - Rating: - Grade: A-

Comment: It's hard to blame Helena for taking Hukata, in spite of the associated signability concerns, as he was far and away the best hitter left on the board at this point. Unfortunately he chose football over baseball, but still, this was a good risk to take.

27. Vancouver Grizzlies
Jerrod Scanlan, 2B/LF - Age 18 - $1.57M - Rating: - Grade: B+

28. Anaheim Chiles
Spike Ellsbury, RHP - Age 19 - $1.47M - Rating: - Grade: B

29. Monterrey Sultans of Swat
Graham Banks, 1B - Age 18 - $1.38M - Rating: - Grade: B+

30. Louisville Woodies
Tony Burkhart, RF - Age 20 - $1.29M - Rating: - Grade: B

31. Seattle Killer Whales
Luther Mack, RHP - Age 21 - $1.19M - Rating: - Grade: C+

Comment: This is a tough pick to grade. Mack has truly amazing stuff, but his stamina and durability are so poor that it's hard to imagine what role he can fill when he reaches the majors - he simply can't pitch more than an inning at a time, or on consecutive days. But no matter what, he'll be an interesting player to keep an eye on.

32. New Orleans Voodoo
Grant Fordham, RHP - Age 22 - $1.10M - Rating: - Grade: B-

33. Nashville Hillbillies
Matty Aquino, SS - Age 20 - $1.00M - Rating: - Grade: B