Rabu, 29 Februari 2012

Season Previews, Part Fourteen: Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds

2011 Record: 79-83
Pythag Record: 83-79
Games out of First: 17.0

2011 Recap:

You may be surprised to know that the Reds were pretty ill-stricken in 2011.  Their drop in performance from 2010 wasn't simply them coming back down to Earth from one great campaign.  The team, undoubtedly, had great expectations for the season.  They had plenty of young talent, the reigning NL MVP, and were competing against a noticeably weak division.  Well, things did not go anywhere near as expected, and on top of that, the team finished four games below their pythag record, which is rather remarkable.  The Reds relied on their offense to do the bulk of the work last year, but since everything is relative, we aren't allowed to think their finishing 2nd in runs in the NL meant they had the 2nd best offense.  They were 5th in the NL in OPS at .734 and finished with a 98 OPS+.  They finished 11th in MLB in wRC+ (also a 98), which is just 2 points above the league median.  Their offense was just good, not anything great.  However, the Reds were a great base running team and a great fielding team if you check out this board on fangraphs: http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=0&type=6&season=2011&month=0&season1=2011&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&players=0
With good offense, great base running, and strong fielding, the Reds certainly had a good starting eight.  Where they failed miserably was in their pitching performance.  Four starters threw 100+ innings of 4.43 ERA (or higher) ball, and the only really strong end-results performance was Johnny Cueto (who, let's be real, was one of the luckiest guys in all of baseball in 2011- I'll expand on that later).

Top Five Position Players by WAR:

1. Joey Votto: 6.5
2. Brandon Phillips: 4.1
3. Drew Stubbs: 2.9
4. Ramon Hernandez: 2.0
5. Ryan Hanigan: 1.8

Top Five Pitchers by WAR:

1. Johnny Cueto: 2.8
2. Mike Leake: 1.5
3. Homer Bailey: 1.5
4. Travis Wood: 1.1
5. Dontrelle Willis: 0.8

Off Season Overview:

Walt Jocketty took Doug Melvin's model from the 2011 off season and did it much better, in my opinion.   He made it clear that he was going for it all with two major acquisitions: Mat Latos and Sean Marshall.  The pitching staff was a huge problem in 2011, and it appears that Jocketty was hellbent on not letting that happen again.  Sure, the farm system took a little bit of a hit, but the prospects moved were blocked.  With Joey Votto and Devin Mesoraco on the 40-man roster, the Reds weren't going to get a whole lot out of Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal unless they used them to acquire front line talent.  So, in a trade with San Diego, both were shipped off, along with Brad Boxberger and Edinson Volquez for Mat Latos.  On top of that, the Reds went out and massively improved their bullpen.  In a trade with the Cubs, the Reds shipped out Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt, and Ronald Torreyes in order to obtain Sean Marshall (who is a candidate for being the best reliever in the game right now).  However, the Reds weren't done, as they also signed reliever Ryan Madson to a one-year deal to be their closer.  These moves bolster the pitching staff and make what could be the deadliest duo at the back end of the bullpen in all of the Major Leagues.

Notable Additions:

SP Mat Latos
RP Sean Marshall
RP Ryan Madson

Notable Subtractions:

1B Yonder Alonso
C Yasmani Grandal
RP Brad Boxberger
SP Edinson Volquez
SP Travis Wood
RP Francisco Cordero
OF Jonny Comes

Projected Lineup:

1. Drew Stubbs, CF
2. Brandon Phillips, 2B
3. Joey Votto, 1B
4. Jay Bruce, RF
5. Devin Mesoraco, C
6. Scott Rolen, 3B
7. Ryan Ludwick, LF
8. Paul Janish, SS
9. Pitcher

This lineup truly features it all.  Tons of power and speed at the top of the lineup, great on-base skills in the 3 and 4 spots, and then more power at the back end.  This lineup is the lineup I expect to lead the National League in runs in 2012.  I expect Votto to put up end-results more in line with his peripherals and independent performances, I think Jay Bruce is a fantastic candidate to take the leap from good to great, and I think Mesoraco is ready enough for the big leagues to consistently produce at the MLB level.  To go along with offensive prowess, this lineup can also field the ball well and will run the bases very well.  It's hard to find a more overall valuable starting 8 than what the 2012 Reds could produce.

Projected Starting Rotation:

1. Johnny Cueto
2. Mat Latos
3. Mike Leake
4. Homer Bailey
5. Sam LeCure/Aroldis Chapman

This rotation is...well...curious.  Dusty Baker has a terrible reputation for misusing starting rotations, so it's hard to develop accurate predictions for his starters.  I dislike Cueto being the #1 over Latos, but it's a pretty insignificant difference during the regular season.  Cueto had a 1.59 difference between his xFIP and his ERA last year (in the wrong direction, mind you), so I think his performance will drop off a good bit (once again, explained more later).  I think Latos and Leake have a ton of potential, and they could very well be two of the best pitchers in the NL Central next year.  However, the Reds' success could rely a lot on what the 4 and 5 spots are able to produce, given that each consists of a major wild card.  I think everyone would agree that Homer Bailey's past potential won't be met consistently and that the experiment with Aroldis Chapman could either be phenomenal or disastrous.  With those two spots, predicting success relies on how likely you think it is that someone can have a breakout or fluke year.

Roster Strengths:

Offense, defense, baserunning...it's all there.  The bullpen will be strong, and the top of the rotation should be strong.  It's impossible to pin any one thing as a true strength, since this Reds roster will be so good at it all.

Roster Weaknesses:

Depth.  The one glaring weakness on this Reds roster is that if one guy goes down, they could be completely screwed.  All it takes is for Joey Votto to break a hand on a bad pitch or Latos to feel something funny in his elbow for the Reds' season to be virtually done.  They don't have the guys to come in an fill those gaps, and it would be hard for them to trade for guys at the deadline after what they did to their farm system this off season.  They need to pull what the Brewers had last year and avoid major injuries to their star players.

2012 Outlook:

I love this team.  I think the roster is structured almost flawlessly for a team competing on Cincinnati's budget.  Offense, defense, and fielding will all be strengths with the starting eight they feature.  The bullpen has improved massively with Madson and Marshall, and their rotation features much more top-line talent than before.  The team doesn't have very much pitching depth, and their back end of the rotation is composed of complete wild cards, so their pitching success could vary greatly depending on how those guys perform.  At the end of the day, I think this is the best roster in the NL Central.  I think they'll score the most, run the bases the best, and field the best.  I think they'll have the best back end of the bullpen, and I think their rotation will be good enough to help them win an elite number of games.  As I mentioned before, the biggest key is going to be avoiding injuries.

Potential Breakout Player:

Jay Bruce: we are not talking about breaking onto the scene, here.  We are talking about breaking out and becoming one of the game's biggest stars.  He has a ton of power, gets on base well, and the ball explodes off of his bat.  He fields well, he runs the bases well, and there are very few flaws in everything he does.  He posted a 5.4 fWAR in 2010, and I think he can easily improve on that this year.  He'll be 25 this year, and this will be his 5th year in the majors with 100 or more games played if he stays healthy, and I think he's ready to take the leap.  I think he hits 35 homers, drives in 110 guys, and posts an OPS+ in the range of 132-137.

Potential Bust:

Johnny Cueto: With Cueto, I don't think the question is "will he fall?"  I think the question with Cueto is" how far will he far?"  Cueto has one major flaw as a pitcher: he doesn't strike anyone out.  His K rate of 6 is rather bad, and his walk rate of 2.71 is barely below the league average rate.  This makes for a marginal K/BB rating, and didn't help his fielding-independent metrics at all over the last 4 years.  Cueto's 2010 and 2011 performances were so close to identical that it doesn't make a lot of sense to predict anything besides what happened in his peripherals during those years.  He's more likely to be a high 3's ERA pitcher than a low 2's, and that's just the reality of the situation.

Prospects Who Could Contribute in 2012:

Zack Cozart, SS (AAA Louisville in 2011): Cozart is a rather old prospect, and will be 26 years old at the start of the 2012 season.  He got in 11 games in 2011, and it's likely that he and Janish will compete for the starting shortstop job out of spring training.  If he doesn't win the job, I think Cozart will be on the bench in the majors this year making spot starts all across the infield.


Projected Record: 95-67
Projected Finish: 1st Place
Projected MVP: Joey Votto (7.4 WAR)

Final Thoughts:

This team is not just a contender for the NL Central title.  After winning in 2010, I think the team and the organization have bigger goals than that.  I think the argument could be made that the Reds are the 2nd best team in the National League, and it would not surprise me at all if they finished with home field advantage in the NL, given how tough the NL East is.  Bold predictions?  Possibly, but I feel confident in them.  I think this team will easily be the most improved from 2011 to 2012, and I think they are legitimate World Series contenders.  Of course, injuries can always aid in making predictions look completely worthless, but this Reds team has all the talent necessary to win a World Series if they can stay healthy.  Watch this team early in the season, and you're likely to see what I am talking about.

Season Previews, Part Twelve: New York Mets

This comes from our pal Monsterdance over at the message boards:
New York Mets

2011 Record: 77-85
Pythag Record: 79-83
Games Out of First: 25.0

2011 Recap...

Not much was expected of the New York Mets in 2011. Not much is what we got from them. One of the biggest reasons for this was the team's health. Nobody played more than 126 games for the Mets in 2011. Jose Reyes actually put together one of the best seasons I've seen as a baseball fan, becoming the first Met to win the National League Batting Title (.337), but hamstring injuries limited him to the aforementioned team-leading 126 games.

The rest of the team were either rattled even more by injury, simply did not produce, or both. Some examples: Jason Bay started the season on the shelf with a rib strain. While he did return on April 21st and managed to play in 123 games, he was of little help, hitting just 12 homeruns and posting a 0.6 WAR in 509 plate appearances. Ike Davis, the Mets' young, up-and-coming power threat was excellent for a little over a month, pounding out 7 homeruns and a 1.3 WAR in just 149 plate appearances before a collision with David Wright saw him sustain an ankle injury that took him out for the rest of the season after only 36 games. Speaking of Wright, he had his own list of injuries, playing in only 102 games, collecting just 14 homeruns and posting a disappointing .254 batting average and a .345 OBP.

Top five position players by WAR:

Jose Reyes (5.8)
Carlos Beltran (3.4)
Daniel Murphy (1.9)
Ruben Tejada (1.6)
David Wright (1.4)

Top five pitchers by WAR:

R.A. Dickey (4.9)
Chris Capuano (1.7)
Dillon Gee (1.6)
Mike Pelfrey (1.4)
Jon Niese and K-Rod tied (1.3)

Offseason Overview:

As much of a downer as the 2011 Recap was, the Mets' offseason has actually pleasantly surprised me. No, they didn't make any big splashes, and yes, they did lose their superstar shortstop to free agency, but in the midst of ownership's legal turmoil they made multiple small moves that I believe have improved the team in an important way: they completely overhauled and reloaded their bullpen. In December, they signed both Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch to small, low-cost deals and acquired Ramon Ramirez as a secondary piece in a swap of center fielders with the Giants. The Mets didn't go hard after any starting pitchers because they are expecting Johan Santana back at some point, which should hugely benefit the rotation. I understand that Mets fans were probably hoping for a stronger offseason, but legal issues and searching for ownership partners because of those legal issues has put the future of the Mets up in the air.

Notable Additions:

OF Andres Torres
BP Frank Francisco
BP Jon Rauch
BP Ramon Ramirez
SS Ronny Cedeno

Notable Subtractions:

SS Jose Reyes
OF Angel Pagan
OF Willie Harris
OF Jason Pridie
SP Chris Capuano
BP Jason Isringhausen
BP Ryota Igarashi

Projected Lineup:

1. Andres Torres, CF (S)
2. Daniel Murphy, 2B (L)
3. David Wright, 3B (R)
4. Ike Davis, 1B (L)
5. Jason Bay, LF (R)
6. Lucas Duda, RF (L)
7. Josh Thole, C (L)
8. Ruben Tejeda, SS (R)
9. Pitcher

No Met hit more than 15 homeruns in 2011. That was a combination of the health issues I mentioned earlier and the fact that Citi Field is a very large ballpark with a very deep outfield. 2012 is a clean slate and everyone should be healthy, and furthermore, the Mets brass decided this winter to dramatically cut down Citi Field's outfield dimensions by adding new walls and seats in front of the existing walls. The lineup should benefit greatly from this, so hopefully Wright and Ike will be able to play full seasons and Bay will fix whatever's been wrong with him since he set up shop in the Big Apple.

Projected Rotation:

1. Johan Santana
2. Mike Pelfrey
3. R.A. Dickey
4. Jon Niese
5. Dillon Gee

There are talks of Johan missing some time at the beginning of the season, but hopefully it won't be too bad. I can't stress enough how important it is for the Mets to have Santana back at some point. He hasn't pitched for the Mets since September of 2010. His return would take a huge workload off of the rest of the pitching staff and improve both team and fan morale.

Significant Relievers/Reserve Players:

CL Frank Francisco
BP Jon Rauch
BP Ramon Ramirez
BP Bobby Parnell
BP Pedro Beato
INF Justin Turner
SS Ronny Cedeno
OF Scott Hairston

Roster Strengths:

Hmm... 'Mets' and 'Roster Strengths' aren't really peanut butter and jelly right now. Mike Pelfrey pitched fairly well in 2010 but took a huge step backwards in 2011. If he can turn things around then the rotation will fare much better. I'm interested to see what Wright and Ike can do with Citi Field's new dimensions.

Roster Weaknesses:

Extreme lack of positional depth. The Mets have nothing after their starters, and a couple of their starters should probably be backups. Guys like Josh Thole, Lucas Duda, Scott Hairston, and *Ronny Cedeno* will be asked to step up this season and I'm just not seeing it.

2012 Outlook:

This team needs Wright. From '05 to '08, Wright was a superstar. Some speculate that something changed in him in either '08 or '09. Some say that he doesn't have the same head on his shoulders. Some say that he hasn't really been 100% healthy even when he's playing...some have even opined that someone within the Mets organization messed up his swing at some point. Whatever it is, Wright needs to have a good season in 2012 or I firmly believe that the Mets will shop him at the deadline and fully rebuild. If he sticks around, then the youth around him will grow and some of the Mets' prospects could come up and make an impact. The Mets are sharing a division with the Phillies, the Braves, the greatly improved Nationals and the greatly improved Marlins, so I don't expect them to compete, but I expect to see a lot of growth this season.

Potential Breakout Player:

Dillon Gee: He showed a lot of promise last season, especially early on. He'll turn 26 a month into the season, so he's not too young. I'm not a fan of Wins for pitchers, but he notched eight wins in a row at one point last season, and I would say that this is fairly impressive for a guy pitching in his first full season for a team that was four games under .500. His overall numbers left a lot to be desired, and I don't expect him to become a superstar or anything like that, but I think he'll produce positive results.

Potential Bust:

Andres Torres: He just turned 34 last month and has only produced one good season. He's a good weapon to have on the basepaths (26/7 SB/CS in 2010 and 19/6 in 2011), but a .318 career OBP in 1,423 plate appearances is bad. He'll be by far the Mets' oldest starting position player and is going from one cavernous ballpark to another cavernous ballpark and will face better divisional competition.

Prospects who could contribute in 2012:

Matt Harvey (22): The 7th overall pick by the Mets in the 2010 draft, Harvey posted a 3.32 ERA in 26 minor league starts at A+ and AA ball in 2011, notching 135.2 innings pitched, 156 K's and a 1.268 WHIP. And he's already wowing people at Spring Training this year.

Jeurys Familia (22): This guy posted a 2.90 ERA and a 1.202 WHIP in 23 starts last season down in A+ and AA ball. I expect him to be called up at some point this year.

Reese Havens (25): It seems like this guy has been a top Mets prospect for a long time now. I've likened him to a Kelly Johnson Lite when he finally gets the call. I can see him topping out at about 20 homeruns and a .350 OBP when he gets to play a full season. Injury to either of the Mets' middle infielders this season should result in a call-up.


Projected Record: 78-84
Projected Finish: 5th place
Projected MVP: David Wright (4.4 WAR)

Final Thoughts:

It's all about the health of their stars. David Wright, Ike Davis and Jason Bay need to play, and Santana needs to come back while the Mets still have something to play for. If all of that happens, and a couple of the younger guys step up (think Murphy, Gee), I don't see the Mets competing, but they can be a very fun team this year. They're a team with a good mix of popular stars and young up-and-comers. They'll basically be playing in a new park, and they'll also travel down to Miami a few times, so I'm interested to see how they play both of those stadiums.

Season Previews, Part 13: Chicago White Sox

2011 Record: 79-83
Pythagorean Record: 75-87
Games out of first: 16

2011 Recap

It is telling about the state of the AL Central when the White Sox, an unmitigated disaster, finished third, and a game out of second. The rebuilding Royals, horror-show Twins, and year-removed-from relocation discussion Indians make the Central the worst division outside of the NL West.

The 2011 White Sox didn't give fans many reasons to come to the park, despite a $128 MM payroll, highest in team history. Paul Konerko found his way back to the fountain of youth, hitting 30 homers and drawing MVP votes at age 35. Outside of him, however, the only notables were Mark Buehrle, who threw 200 innings for the 43rd time in his career, and Sergio Santos, a converted shortstop who saved 30 games.

Largely, the 2011 South Siders were just a very bland team. They hit below average, and pitched average, with 6 pitchers making 19 starts, and all 6 being withing 17% of league average run prevention. The team is all in its prime, or older, with no really exciting young players, with the exception of Gordon Beckham, who has a career .704 OPS. Look out. I could talk, here, about the colossal failures of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios, or the injuries that limited Carlos Quentin to 118 games, but the long and short of it is that the White Sox were simply not a very good team.

Top Performers by WAR

1. Paul Konerko (3.6)
Gavin Floyd (3.6)
3. Philip Humber (3.5)
4. Mark Buehrle (3.4)
5. Alexei Ramirez (3.3)

Offseason Overview

On one hand, it is a little disheartening to see the lack of moves that Sox GM Kenny Williams made this offseason, but he is pretty handcuffed with a bunch of veteran players -- even if they are his own mistakes. There isn't much he can do but wait this out, and that's exactly what he is doing. When the face of the franchise (I guess) Buehrle signed with Miami in the offseason, Williams responded by re-signing Brian Bruney; it was that kind of offseason. The two biggest moves were sending Santos to Toronto for Nestor Molina, a 23-year-old with a career 5.89 K/BB in the minors, and shipping Quentin to San Diego for a pair of prospects I detailed here. These moves confused me a little bit, as they showed that Chicago was looking at a rebuilding phase, though Williams and team owner Jerry Reinsdorf staunchly refused to admit to this, and a real rebuilding, with real assets, was never launched.

Notable Additions

Like, Delwyn Young and Dan Johnson?

Notable Losses

SP Mark Buehrle
SP Edwin Jackson
CP Sergio Santos
RP Jason Frasor
OF Carlos Quentin

Projected Lineup

OF Alejandro de Aza
SS Alexei Ramirez
1B Paul Konerko
DH Adam Dunn
3B Brent Morel
C AJ Pierzynski
OF Dayan Viciedo
OF Alex Rios
2B Gordon Beckham

This is a horribly boring lineup, frankly. From Morel to Beckham, there isn't a real threat in the lineup, and if Dunn can't rebound from one of the worst batting seasons in recent memory, this season will be over before it even began. It should be interesting to watch de Aza. A 28-year old minor league veteran that had always hit, but never really got a chance in the majors, de Aza found 170 PAs with Chicago in 2011 and absolutely raked.

Defensively, look out. With the possible exceptions of Vidiedo and de Aza, there isn't an average defender on the team. They will miss Vizquel. By the numbers, Beckham had a decent season, but he was a bad third baseman in 2009, a bad second baseman in 2010, and now is a plus defender? I'm skeptical. I would like to see Tyler Flowers get some at bats, because I hate Pierzynski, and his days as a productive player are long gone.

Projected Rotation

RHP Gavin Floyd
LHP John Danks
RHP Jake Peavy
RHP Philip Humber
LHP Chris Sale

Mark Buehrle was a venerable pitcher who had been both pretty good and very durable for Chicago over the years, but he probably won't be missed all that badly. For all its blandness, the White Sox do have plenty of pitchers to fill up the rotation. Floyd and Danks have track records of being above-average pitchers, and Jake Peavy was a monster at one time. 2007 seems longer and longer ago, but Peavy had very good peripherals in 2011, and while his health is always a question, I think he is still capable of being a very good pitcher.

Sale, after a stellar young career in relief, will be tried in the rotation. The 23-year-old has just two years in pro ball, the 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft, and while stretching out relievers is never a sure thing, Sale has solid command and a great repertoire consisting of a live fastball, a solid change, and a wipeout slider. Sale may, in fact, be the most interesting story of the 2012 club.

Significant relievers/reserve players

C Tyler Flowers
OF Kosuke Fukudome
RP Matt Thorton
RP Jesse Crain

As stated above, Flowers could use some more at bats, as he is pretty clearly the catcher of the future at this point. Fukudome could be useful, a guy who has quietly been a solid player on the North Side for years. Fireballer Matt Thornton is an elite setup man, one of the best around, and is finally getting a look at the closer role, and Jesse Crain really reestablished himself as a top setup guy in 2011.

Roster Strengths

For all the dubiousness and question marks around this club, I like the pitching. I don't think the Cy Young winner will be a White Sox, but it is deep, fairly young, and has some real upside in Peavy and Sale. Behind them, Crain and Thornton head a veteran bullpen that should get the job done in the late innings.

Roster Weaknesses

The ability to score runs. If Adam Dunn turns into 2005 Adam Dunn, the lineup can be average at best, but he probably won't, and they probably can't. There is nobody to fear in that lineup outside of Konerko, which raises this alarm: what if Dunn repeats 2011, and Konerko starts to show his age? Without Konerko, that lineup is completely lame, and even with good pitching, Chicago will be completely helpless in the burgeoning AL Central.

2012 Outlook

It's not good. They aren't bad enough to be really rebuilding, but aren't good enough to push Detroit or the AL East teams for a postseason berth. This is a team that can get outs, but one that is going to record its share of them as well. I don't see them making any noise, and to be honest, I can't see any reason to be interested in this club besides the individual stories of Dunn, de Aza, Peavy, and Sale.

Potential Breakout Player

Chris Sale. I mentioned his stuff earlier, but to be more detailed, he throws a high-mid-90s fastball with a lot of life, and a low-80s slider with big break. What makes me think he can work as a starter, however, is his third pitch, his changeup. He takes about 9-10 mph off of it, and spots it very well. He isn't afraid to use it either, throwing it about 12% of the time in 2011. As a result of this arsenal, he gets a ton of swings and misses, with a career K/9 of 11. He also has pretty good control, and a delivery that isn't too awkward. Again, it's never a sure thing when a reliever converts to the rotation, but if Sale can pull it off, he could create some huge value.

Top-Ten Prospects with potential to contribute

#1. Addison Reed: Another 2010 draft pick that Chicago has ushered to the MLB level as soon as possible, Reed is a former starter with superb command and decent stuff who has a 12.9 K/9 and a 7.75 K/BB in the minors. He pitched a few decent outings with the White Sox in 2011, and could make an impact in 2012.

#2. Nestor Molina: Molina isn't very stuffsy, but has good command, and should be a passable MLB pitcher one day. At 23 years of age, Molina will start the season at Triple-A, but might get the call by summertime.

#3. Simon Castro: one of the pitchers in the Quentin deal, about whom you have undoubtedly read at this point, Castro might make a serviceable middle reliever one day, but there isn't much value to be had here.


Record: 80-82
Finish: 3rd
MVP: Jake Peavy (4.0)

Final Thoughts

If you like 19th-century baseball, you'll love this club. They probably won't score 700 runs, but their run prevention is pretty impressive, its depth the most notable factor. 2012 will be a season for watching players instead of the team, which almost certainly isn't going anywhere. Some of the young pitchers like Sale and Reed will be fun narratives, and it should be interesting to see who can come back (Dunn, Peavy) and who will stave off inevitable decline (Konerko). Basically, if you're not the kind of fan that owns at least one authentic jersey, maybe stay away from US Cellular Field for a while. I hear Chicago is a great town for theatre.

Sabtu, 25 Februari 2012

Season Previews, Part 11: Oakland Athletics

2011 Record: 74-88
Pythagorean Record: 77-85
Games out of first: 22

Top Performers by WAR (rWAR for hitters, fWAR for pitchers):
1. Brandon McCarthy, 4.7
2. Gio Gonzalez, 3.5
3. Trevor Cahill, 2.5
4. Coco Crisp, 2.1
5. Josh Willingham, 1.8

2011 Recap
Many people had the Athletics competing last year and some had them even winning the division. That didn’t quite work out for Mr. Moneyball, which was unfortunate since there was a movie honoring his success that came out right at the end of the season. They had disappointing seasons from 2B Mark Ellis and 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff, who were replaced by Jemile Weeks and Scott Sizemore, respectively. Dareic Barton missed more than half the year due to a shoulder injury (and might miss the start of 2012). Josh Willingham was the only player to have over 15 HR (he had 29) and over a .800 OPS (it was at .810). Willingham, Sizemore and Weeks were the only regulars to provide above average production as they were the only players to have an OPS+ and wRC+ over 100. Coco Crisp was exactly at 100 wRC+ and also stole 49 bases. That pretty much sums up the A’s offense as they only averaged 3.98 runs/game. Only Minnesota and Seattle were worse in the AL.

On the pitching side, Gio Gonzalez (3.12), Brandon McCarthy (3.32) and Guillermo Moscoso (3.38) had nice ERAs. However, Moscoso’s 4.23 FIP suggests that he was quite lucky and he will likely not repeat it this year. This is similar to Trevor Cahill who had a 2.97 ERA in 2010 but regressed to a 4.16 ERA in 2011, although his FIP remained largely unchanged, 4.19 in 2010 and 4.10 in 2011. Injury struck Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson. Braden only made 3 starts before having season-ending shoulder surgery. Anderson only made 13 starts before having Tommy John Surgery. Rich Harden provided his usual half-season of work but with terrible results (5.12 ERA, 1.43 WHIP). Overall, what was supposed to be a strength of the team turned into very mediocre results.

Offseason Overview
The A’s were busy, busy, busy this off-season. Billy Beane went into full-out rebuild mode as the majority of his roster is going to be full of rookies and players with minimal major league experience in 2012. Some key transactions include:

- 12/9 – Traded Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow to Arizona for Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgill and Ryan Cook
- 12/23 Traded Gio Gonzalez and Robert Gilliam to Washington for Brad Peacock, Derek Norris, Tom Milone and A.J. Cole
- 12/28 Traded Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney to Boston for Josh Reddick, Miles Head and Raul Alcantara
- 1/16 Traded Guillermo Moscosco and Josh Outman for Seth Smith
- 1/24 Signed Bartolo Colon
- 1/26 Signed Jonny Gomes
- 2/13 Signed Yoenis Cespedes (4 years/$36 million)
- 2/20 Signed Manny Ramirez

When it’s all said and done, the A’s have a new starting centerfielder, a new rightfielder, a new DH platoon, 4/5 of a new rotation, a loss of a closer and many prospects.

Notable Additions:
LF Seth Smith
RF Josh Reddick
CF Yoenis Cespedes
SP Brad Peacock
SP Jarrod Parker
SP Tom Milone
SP Bartolo Colon
OF/DH Jonny Gomes
DH Manny Ramirez

Notable Subtractions:
LF Josh Willingham
RF David DeJesus
DH Hideki Matsui
SP Trevor Cahill
SP Gio Gonzalez
SP Rich Harden
SP Guillermo Moscoso
CL Andrew Bailey

Projected Starting Lineup:
2B Jemile Weeks
LF Coco Crisp
RF Josh Reddick
DH Seth Smith/Jonny Gomes
CF Yoenis Cespedes
C Kurt Suzuki
3B Scott Sizemore
1B Brandon Allen
SS Cliff Pennington

Lots of turnover as only Coco Crisp, Kurt Suzuki and Cliff Pennington remain from the opening day 2011 lineup. Daric Barton is due to miss the start of the 2012 season or else he would likely be starting on opening day again in 2012. Manny Ramirez might also be starting if it wasn’t for his 50-game suspension. Many people believe that Yoenis Cespedes might need some time in AAA before seeing major league pitching, although he has insisted that he’s ready. The A’s are the kind of team that could start him at the major league level right away as they aren’t planning on competing. If he struggles, though, a trip to the minors could come.

Projected Rotation:
RHP Brandon McCarthy
RHP Bartolo Colon
RHP Jarrod Parker
RHP Brad Peacock
LHP Tom Milone

Again, lots of turnover as Brandon McCarthy is the only holdover from 2011. Dallas Braden is due back in mid-April and Brett Anderson is still recovering from Tommy John Surgery and is expected back sometime in August. This allows all three rookies, Parker, Peacock and Milone to be in the rotation to start the season.

Key Bench/Bullpen:
OF Collin Cowgill
1B Daric Barton
INF Adam Rosales
INF Eric Sogard
RP Grant Balfour
RP Fautino De Los Santos
RP Joey Devine
RP Brian Fuentes

The key here is that after the trade of Andrew Bailey there is no obvious replacement. The A’s have four viable candidates in Balfour, De Los Santos, Devine and Fuentes – and all could get save opportunities during the season.

Roster Strength
Depth and flexibility. Billy Bean is making sure he has enough depth at almost every possible position with the question marks surrounding the rookies and injury-related players. Brandon Allen is going to start the year as the first baseman, but there’s also Daric Barton, prospect Chris Carter and minor leaguer Kila Ka’aihue available to play that position. Sogard can play all the other infield positions and Sizemore came up as a second baseman, so can easily slide over there if the need arises. If Cespedes has to spend some time in the minors, Coco Crisp is a viable option to play CF. Cowgill can play all the OF positions and even though they are slated to DH, both Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes are capable of playing the corner OF positions (Smith was slated to play LF before the acquisition of Cespedes). Then there’s Manny Ramirez sitting on the back burner, ready to contribute after he serves his suspension.

With Braden and Anderson out, the A’s have 3 rookies who are as close to major league ready as they come in Parker, Peacock and Milone. Bartolo Colon was acquired to also give rotation depth.

Roster Weakness
Inexperience. Not only with all the rookies mentioned above, but with Smith and Cespedes as well. While Smith is a veteran, this will be his first tour of duty in the American League. Cespedes has played 8 years in the Cuban National Series and has played in several international leagues too including the 2009 World Baseball Classic and the Dominican Winter League prior to his signing. However, he’s faced very minimal major league quality pitching. Other starting position players, Josh Reddick (403 PA), Scott Sizemore (592 PA) and Jemile Weeks (437 PA) have very limited ML experience. The trio of rookies in the starting rotation, Parker, Peacock and Milone, have combined a little over 43 ML innings. This inexperience is going to show as these players will have their ups and downs (and some cases literally as they bounce between AAA and MLB).

2012 Outlook
The Athletics are going to put a talented ball club on the field in 2012. The question remains, though, how much of this talent is going to show in the boxscore as these players are adjusting. There are going to be moments where everything clicks for them and then there are going to be some growing pains. These growing pains are going to prevent the Athletics from competing this year. However, there’s a good foundation in place that can make the Athletics relevant again in 3-5 years.

ZiPS projects Seth Smith as the Athletics best hitter at 97 OPS+. That’s right, not one player on the A’s roster is projected to be above average according to ZiPS (to be fair, they didn’t give a projection to Yoenis Cespedes). The pitching side is kinder as they have Brett Anderson (3.78 ERA, 107 ERA+), Brandon MCarthy (3.81 ERA, 107 ERA+), Dallas Braden (3.88 ERA, 105 ERA+) and Tom Milone (4.02 ERA, 101 ERA+) as being above average. For the relievers, Joey Devine and Grant Balfour come out on top, almost with duplicating results. Devine has been projected with a 3.57 ERA and 114 ERA+, Balfour with a 3.60 ERA and 113 ERA+. This should give an idea of who should get the most save opportunities.

Potential Breakout Player

Scott Sizemore. Sizemore may not be the most talented hitter on the Athletics active roster, but he’s the most ready to have a breakout year. Twice Scott Sizemore was handed a starting spot with the Detroit Tigers and both times he flopped. He was unable to carry his minor league numbers (.308/.389/.500/.889, 17 HR, 21 SB in 2009 and .298/.378/.472/.850, 9 HR in 2010) to the majors. Then he got a new team and a new position and finally was able to have success at the ML level, hitting .249/.345/.433/.778, 11 HR, .343 wOBA, 118 wRC+ in 93 games with the A’s in 2011. At 27 years old, he is primed to build off of that success with a full year in 2012. ZiPS projects Sizemore to hit .247/.326/.383/.709, 12 HR, 9 SB in 2012. Given that Sizemore has always had a decent OBP, the .326 mark seems too low.

Jemile Weeks could potentially build off of his half-season with the A’s as well. He hit .303/.340/.421/.761, 22 SB in 97 games. However, it’s going to be hard to duplicate that .350 BABIP, so a little regression is likely. ZiPS is projecting .267/.318/.374/.692, 4 HR, 21 SB for 2011.

Potential Bust
Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes is a talented athlete as depicted from his Youtube video. He’s quite a hitter too as he hit .333/.424/.667/1.091 with 33 HR in 90 games in his most recent season in the Cuban National Series. He tied Jose Dariel Abreu to lead the league in HR, breaking the 32 HR record set by Alfredo Despaigne. However, many scouts believe the Cuban league is about equivalent to AA. It’s hard for a player to jump right into MLB from AA and continue hitting. There is going to be an adjustment period, one that may require a trip to AAA. There’s little doubt that Cespedes will be able hit at the MLB. The question is when will he hit at the MLB level? That may not happen consistently in 2012.

Bonus Bust: Seth Smith. Smith has never played in the AL. He also had the benefit of playing in a hitter’s park. That is going to change for him in 2012. Smith has turned into a decent hitter; over the last three years he’s hit .275/.346/.487 with a 113 wRC+. However, he’s only hit .248/.326/.410 with an 87 wRC+ on the road over that same time span. Just like Cespedes, there’s going to be an adjustment period as Smith learns how to hit in the AL and the Coliseum is going to expose his weaker hitting away from hitter-friendly Coors Field. As mentioned earlier, Smith is projected to be the Athletics’ top hitter with a line of .245/.322/.408 with 12 HR and a 97 OPS+ in 2011.

Potential Prospects that can Contribute in 2012
Newly acquired starting pitchers Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock and Tom Milone are all expected to log many innings at the major league level this year:

Jarrod Parker – Spent the entire year in AA last year, expect for 1 start at the ML level, going 5 2/3 IP, giving up 0 runs, 4 hits, 1 BB and 1 K. In AA he made 26 starts, 3.79 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 1.28 WHIP, 7.71 K/9, 3.79 BB/9. He didn’t pitch at all in 2010, recovering from Tommy John surgery. Luckily he had no setbacks in 2011. His best pitch is his sinker and he also has a plus slider (not used often after his surgery), an improved changeup and an occasional curveball. Baseball America ranks him at #26 in it’s top 100 prospects and his ceiling is top of the rotation starter.

Brad Peacock – Spending time in AA and AAA last year, Peacock had a 2.39 ERA, 2.63 FIP, 0.99 WHIP, 10.86 K/9, 2.88 BB/9 in 25 games (23 starts). In his limited 12 innings in the majors, he put up a great 0.75 ERA. He has 3 above average pitches, a low-90s fastball, a 12-6 curveball and a changeup. He is expected to be a #2 or #3 starter. Baseball America currently ranks Peacock at #36 in it’s top 100 prospects.

Tom Milone – In AAA last year, he had a 3.22 ERA, 2.24 FIP, 1.03 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 0.97 BB/9 in 24 starts. He then made 5 starts for the Nationals, 3.81 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 5.19 K/9, 1.38 BB/9. He has a below average fastball, however his changeup is outstanding and given his BB rate, his command is exceptional. His breaking ball still needs development. Unlike Peacock and Parker, he isn’t rated among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects.

First baseman Chris Carter – Cater has shown tremendous power in the minor leagues, hitting .278/.371/.544/.915 with 21 HR in 2011 and .258/.365/.529/.894 with 31 HR in 2010. However, that hasn’t been able to translate in the majors yet. Scouts are claiming that he’s purely focused on hitting home runs, which could result in a low batting average. Some scouts believe his skill set will not be able to translate to the big leagues.

Catcher Derek Norris – It’s probably going to take a trade of Kurt Suzuki but there’s a great possibility that Norris could become the everyday catcher by the end of the season. Norris spent the entire year at AA last year, hitting .210/.367/.446/.813 with 20 HR and 13 stolen bases. Norris is described as an offensive first catcher, which is worrisome given his .210 AVG. He swings and misses a lot, which will prevent him from having a high batting average. His high OBP is a plus and when he does make contact, he makes some damage as evidence of his SLG. Defensively, he still needs some work, but it has improved.

Projected Record: 70-92
Projected Finish: 3rd Place
Projected MVP: Brandon McCarthy (around 3.5-4.0 WAR)

Final Thoughts
Dionne Warwick wants to know the way to San Jose and so do the Athletics. The Athletics have tried to get a new stadium for years now and one possibility is to relocate to San Jose. The problem – the Giants are claiming that territory as their own. A’s owner Lew Wolff is still awaiting approval by MLB to relocate there. If the A’s are able to get a new stadium built in San Jose, they can potentially generate more revenue than they are now which could lead to a bigger payroll. A bigger payroll would mean that the A’s could bring in complementary players to go along with their current youth of players and start competing once again (and potentially prevent another possible firesale).

The Athletics have a lot of prospects that will help this year, but they have even more talent in the minors that’s expected to contribute in the following 1-2 years. SP A.J. Cole is currently ranked #57 by Baseball America (ETA: 2014), SP Sonny Gray, ranked #65 (ETA: 2013) and OF Michael Choice, ranked #80 (ETA: 2013). It should be fun being an A’s fan over the next few years, even if it doesn’t yield immediate results, especially if they are able to relocate to San Jose.

Rabu, 22 Februari 2012

Season Previews, Part Ten: Colorado Rockies

2011 Record: 73-89
Pythagorean Record: 77-85
Games out of first: 21

2011 Recap

2011 was the story of an otherwise good team with some serious holes. There were some great performances by some former MVP contenders like Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Todd Helton, along with a solid supporting cast of Chris Iannetta, Seth Smith, and Dexter Fowler. Even pinch hitter Jason Giambi raked. However, these performances were offset by some real holes in the lineup created by players like Mark Ellis and Ty Wigginton. Additionally, the team had trouble keeping its stars on the field, as only three players cleared 130 games. All told, what should have been a real strength in the offense sputtered, scoring 735 runs with a 90 OPS+.

Strangely, while the offense floundered, the pitching tried to pick up the slack. Jhoulys Chacin emerged as a cornerstone arm in the rotation, putting up a 3.62 ERA in 31 starts at just 23 years of age. Veteran arms like Jason Hammel and Aaron Cook held the line in the rotation, while the bullpen was lights-out. The top-five relievers in terms of games pitched all pitched in at least 62 games, and all had an ERA+ of at least 110, with three over 138. Rafael Betancourt in particular partied like it was 2007, with an insane 9.13 K/BB ratio.

Ultimately, however, average pitching could not keep the Rockies in ballgames, and after a rough road trip that saw them lose four straight and fall to 11 games out in late July, the Rox traded their ace, Ubaldo Jimenez, to Cleveland for one of the most exciting pitching prospects in baseball, Drew Pomeranz, and then some. Pomeranz, then 22, would go on to pitch for the big league club in September, but the message was received: the Rockies were sending up the white flag on 2011, and a retooling effort would be needed to get back in the race in the wonky NL West.

Top Performers by WAR (bWAR for hitters, fWAR for pitchers)

1. Troy Tulowitzki (5.8)
2. Todd Helton (2.8)
3. Carlos Gonzalez (2.6)
Chris Iannetta (2.6)
5. Jhoulys Chacin (2.5)
Ubaldo Jimenez (2.5)

Offseason Overview

The 2011-12 offseason has been busy, if not newsmaking for the Rockies. Smartly, Dan O'Dowd recognised that the team was relatively young, was hurt more by health than by lack of talent, and made adjustments rather than sweeping changes. They added an arm to the rotation mix in talented youngster Tyler Chatwood by trading Iannetta to the Angels, and signed veteran backstop Ramon Hernandez to replace him. The 36-year old former All-Star is solid on both sides of the ball, and it should be most interesting to see what he can do in Coors. Kevin Slowey was acquired for Daniel Turpen , a minor league pitcher last seen being traded for Ramon Ramirez, and Colorado swapped talented youngsters with the Cubs, trading out Ian Stewart for Tyler Colvin, neither of whom have found the success their talent has dictated for them. Steady bat Michael Cuddyer was signed and versatile Marco Scutaro was acquired for virtually nothing.

Perhaps most impressive is that the 2012 club has much of the same level of talent as the 2011 model, but O'Dowd managed to get a hold of some young talent to boot. Chatwood was just the beginning, as closer Huston Street was traded to San Diego, and Wigginton was sent to the Phillies in return for players to be named. Seth Smith, who should wither and die in Oakland, was traded for cost-controlled pitchers Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso.

Notable Additions

C Ramon Hernandez
SP Tyler Chatwood
IF Marco Scutaro
IF Casey Blake
OF Michael Cuddyer
OF Tyler Colvin
SP Jeremy Guthrie

Notable Subtractions

SP Jason Hammel
RP Matt Lindstrom
IF Ian Stewart
C Chris Iannetta
OF Seth Smith

Projected Lineup

CF Dexter Fowler
2B Marco Scutaro
LF Carlos Gonzalez
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Todd Helton
RF Michael Cuddyer
C Ramon Hernandez
3B Casey Blake

This lineup could be very good or very bad. 1-6 are good, patient hitters with, for the most part, either speed or pop. Hernandez, and even Blake, should hold their own. However, it is not a perfect world. There are several players in here well past their prime, and it should be expected that someone in the bottom half of that lineup will completely fall off a cliff. Additionally, it will rely heavily on Gonzalez and Tulowitzki in the middle. If one of them goes down, this lineup could become mediocre or worse in a hurry.

Defensively, the infield will be fine; Tulowitzki and Helton both have and deserve Gold Glove awards, and Scutaro, Blake and Hernandez are all roughly average defenders. Fowler isn't a true center fielder and Cuddyer will be an adventure in the expanses of Coors Field, but Gonzalez is decent in left, and, if it's any consolation, Willie Mays wouldn't be able to catch the kind of fly balls Guthrie will be serving up. Speaking of Guthrie,

Projected Rotation

RHP Jeremy Guthrie
RHP Jhoulys Chacin
RHP Juan Nicasio
RHP Alex White
RHP Guillermo Moscoso

Again, this is an unpredictable rotation. Moscoso and Guthrie are serviceable innings-eaters, but Chacin, Nicasio and White (one of the returns in the Jimenez trade) are all young, 22-24, and none of them miss enough bats to make me think they will be successful at Coors. Expect the first one to fail to be replaced by either Chatwood or Pomeranz.

Significant Relievers/Reserve Players

C Wilin Rosario
PH Jason Giambi
OF Tyler Colvin
RP Rafael Betancourt
RP Rex Brothers
RP Matt Belisle

Wilin Rosario, 23, is likely serving an apprenticeship under the veteran Hernandez in preparation for a takeover in 2013. Giambi just keeps hitting at age 41. Only time will tell if he can do it once again, but for now he's the most feared pinch-hitter in the league. Colvin was a talent that just never blossomed in Chicago. Colorado is as good a place as any to find a swing, but it remains to be seen if the Rox will find him at bats.

Betancourt, Brothers and Belisle will form the back end of the bullpen, holdovers from that crazy relief corps of last season.

Roster Strengths

Youth in the rotation, a solid bullpen, a strong offensive core, and good defense in the infield. There are five starting pitchers looking for spots under 25 years of age (Pomeranz, Chatwood, White, Chacin, Nicasio). Combine them with reliable guys like Guthrie, Outman, Moroscoso, et al, and there should be plenty of solid innings to be had out of the rotation.

Roster Weaknesses

Age everywhere else. While much of the roster has their best years ahead of them, they are old in many spots as well. If Hernandez turns 36 all of a sudden and Rosario can't handle the full-time job, if Scutaro, or Blake, or Cuddyer all start looking their ages (and Cuddyer could really be exposed defensively), or if, heaven forbid, the 38-year-old Helton hits the wall, this relatively young team will be remembered only as a squad laden with veterans that couldn't keep up.

2012 Outlook

I like the 2012 Rockies. I think some exciting pitching is going to emerge, the offense should score at a fine pace, and they should make noise deep into the summer in the lolNL West. This is a young, versatile roster that is supported by a healthy farm system that Keith Law recently ranked 13th in MLB. There are holes; there always are. They will need some breaks, but in the NL West, anything is possible. If you're a casual Rox fan, you might want to keep your finger on the pulse of this team.

Potential Breakout Player

Pomeranz, baby. Pomeranz was the 5th overall pick in one of the most stacked drafts ever, the 2010 class. In 101 MiL innings he put up a 1.78 ERA and a 10.9 K/9 in 2011, before pitching kind of meh in a few MLB starts. The big lefty out of Mississippi can dial it up into the mid-90s with solid command and a monster hook. He'll be 23 in 2012, and will be looking to earn a rotation spot out of spring training. If he can catch on with the MLB club and put in 150 IP, he could miss a bunch of bats (the only way to succeed in Colorado) and create some serious value.

Potential Bust

On a team loaded with veterans and even a future Hall of Famer or two, there are plenty of bust candidates, but I'm going to have a little fun with this one: Jhoulys Chacin. Now, the kid had a solid 2011 campaign, but all signs point to a ton of luck: his fielder-independents range from decent (3.95 xFIP, 4.08 SIERA) to poor (4.60 tERA). His .264 2011 babip should be a real turnoff. He does one good thing, and that is keeping the ball on the ground. He had a 56% GB rate in 2011, with a career rate of 52%, which is crucial for success on not just a team with good infield defense, but a launching pad like Coors.

Where he scares me is in his K/BB numbers. As a starter, he is roughly average at striking people out, but he is noticeably below average at not walking guys. Now, anybody that has acceptable K/BB rates and a 55% GB rate is going to hang on as an MLB starter. My warning is this: do not expect Chacin to be the second coming of Ubaldo Jimenez. He's a promising young talent, but I do not think he will ever be a real MLB ace.

Top-Ten Prospects with potential to contribute in 2012

#1 Drew Pomeranz: as discussed earlier, he's kind of good.

#4 Wilin Rosario: a young catcher with a great arm and plus power, Rosario will be the backup 2 behind Ramon Hernandez. Hopefully he can cut down on his passed balls a little bit and let his bat and his arm play as a plus big-league catcher as soon as 2013.

#5 Tim Wheeler: A decent hitter and outfielder, he slashed .287/.365/.535 as a 23-year old in Double-A in 2011. He doesn't project as a star in the big leagues, and is behind Colvin and Eric Young on the depth chart, but Wheeler may see some time in Denver this season.


Record: 86-76
Finish: 2nd
MVP: Troy Tulowitzki (6.5 WAR)

Final Thoughts

This is not a world-beating squad. There is a lot of talent here, but also some real pitfalls. The rotation is largely unproven, and the lineup is getting older. This is a classic 'if' team. Can they stay healthy? Can Guthrie and Moscoso survive Coors Field? Can the other pitchers develop? Can the bullpen can repeat 2011? Can Helton and Giambi go back to the well one more time? If this club has answers to all of these, this may be a division winner. If they can't find any, they might lose 90 games.

This makes the club terribly exciting, to me. What makes it more exciting is the sheer amount of young talent on the team. Its stars are in their mid-20s. Most of its rotation is under 25. Whether you want to watch one of the game's great talents play shortstop, or watch a brilliant young pitcher turn into an ace, or watch a local legend put the finishing touches on a Hall of Fame career, there are many things you can say about the 2012 Rockies; 'boring' isn't one of them.

Selasa, 21 Februari 2012

Season Previews, Part Seven: San Diego Padres

San Diego Padres
2011 Record: 71-91 5th in NL West
Pythagorean Record: 79-83
Games out of first: 23

2011 Recap

The Padres went into 2011 with an eye on rebuilding from the ground up. In the off season prior to 2011, the Padres shipped Adrian Gonzalez up toBoston for RHP Casey Kelly and 1B Anthony Rizzo.  This move was the startof a new journey for the Padres, in a sense.  Ironically, the teamfinished where they were expected to despite actually playing much better thantheir record showed.  The team only had a run differential of -18, whichis something more common of .500 teams than teams that finish 20 games under.  Offensively, they were led by third baseman Chase Headley,who had a career year.  At 27, many expected Headley to improve as he wentinto his prime, and the results were great.  However, injuries limited himto only 113 games, which really made his 2.9 oWAR performance sneak under theradar.  The Padres, despite being 3rd in raw ERA, really did not get anygreat performances out of their starting rotation.  The ERA+ values forthe Padres were as follows: 102, 95, 98, 108, and 92.  The Padres didn'tget any great performances, but they also didn't have any starters bust, whichgave them a consistent rotation.  In fact, with a range so small in thesample given, the Padres were able to expect a certain performance on any givenday, which led to great consistency (which is part of why the pythag record wasso good).

Top WAR preformers:

1. Nick Hundley: 3.4
2. Mat Latos: 3.2
3. Cameron Maybin: 2.9
4. Chris DeNorfia: 2.4
5. Corey Leubke: 2.4

Offseason Recap:

This off season really was a continuation ofwhat happened in the previous year.  With the change that went on up inChicago, San Diego lost both Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod to the Cubs.  Notonly did the Padres lose two of their top executives, but they also moved orlost some of their most talented players.  Firstly, Heath Bell left infree agency for Miami on a 3 year/$27 million contract, which the Padres couldnot afford.  In a couple of more controlled moves, the Padres traded MatLatos to the Reds for Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, and Edinson Volquez. In a separate move, the club traded Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates forAndrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na.  Even though moving Rizzo could hurt, thePadres were really able to revamp their farm system with these moves.  Itmade sense to go through with the youth movement and move a young pitcher likeLatos for some young hitters who should give the Padres the offense they havedesperately been looking for.

Notable Additions:

Yonder Alonso
Yasmani Grandal
Huston Street
Andrew Cashner
Carlos Quentin

Notable Subtractions

Heath Bell
Mat Latos
Anthony Rizzo
Aaron Harang
Wade LeBlanc

Projected Lineup:

CF- Cameron Maybin 
2B- Orlando Hudson
1B- Yonder Alonso
RF- Carlos Quentin
3B- Chase Headley
LF- Will Venable
C- Nick Hundley
SS- Jason Bartlett

Projected Rotation:

Tim Stauffer
Dustin Moseley
Cory Luebke
Clayton Richard
Edinson Volquez

2012 Outlook

It's not ridiculous to like the Padres for 2012. No, they are not likely to be contenders, but they should be able tofield a rather competitive ball club.  Ironically, the weakest part of theteam is going to be the starting pitching staff.  They have a few arms intheir prime, but they lack any true top of the rotation starters.  They'llneed to rely on consistently average starting pitching and good defense withoutgetting any great performances out of any of their starters.  However, Ireally like how their offense is shaping up.  They've got a good mix ofspeed and power, and they also have guys who should keep their strikeout totalsrather low.  Alonso and Quentin provide two bats that can provide somereally big pop in the middle of the order, but their ability to score runs willdepend most on the ability of the one and two hitters to get on base.  

Potential Breakout Player:

Yonder Alonso speaks softly and carries a big stick. This guy can rake, and it would not be a surprise to see this guy take the NL West by storm. He's a great breakout candidate, and he's a darkhorse for the NL Rookie of the Year.

Potential Bust Player:

Chris DeNorfia is very likely not repeating last year. He really wasn't that great, and the chances of him repeating his defensive rating from last year are slim. Don't look for him to do much in 2012.


Record: 80-82
Finish: 4th in NL West
MVP: Carlos Quentin

Final Word:

I am very likely to be higher on the Padres thanmost, but I really think they can perform as an average team.  Nobody inthe NL West really did much of anything to get better, and I really think thePadres improved on a whole (as odd as that sounds with the guys they lost). Their pythag record last year was close to that of a .500 team, and Ithink they can produce a similar pythag to lat year, giving them plenty ofopportunity to win 80 games.