MLB’s Most Overrated and Underrated Players

Wainwright

Discussing the most over and underrated players in baseball is an annual exercise that creates a lot of spirited debate and reaction. There’s no scientific formula to determine or verify who falls where; just opinion, eye-tests and carefully manipulated stats to prove points. That being said, the best reason to do it is because it’s fun.

Here are some players I believe are among the most over and underrated in the game today. Continue reading

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Could This Be a Career Year For Adam Wainwright?

Wainwright

St. Louis Cardinals’ starting pitcher Adam Wainwright almost won the Cy Young Award in 2010 when he posted a 2.42 ERA and 2.86 FIP over 230.1 innings pitched. This was his follow-up to a very similar season in 2009 and marked the second straight season Wainwright topped 230 innings pitched. Then, in February of 2011, Wainwright had Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2011 season. Continue reading

2011 NL Central Preview

2011 NL Central Preview

1. Cincinnati Reds

The Good: The Reds have a solid combo of strong bats and strong starting pitching. Bronson Arroyo, Edison Volquez, Travis Wood, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake form a formidible rotation. While the offense is spearheaded by triple crown candidate/MVP Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen, Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce. Two things the Reds offense has is power with some speed.

The Bad: The back end of the bullpen is a cause for concern. Francisco Cordero has logged a lot of innings the past few years and looked like he was tired the 2nd half of last year. The Dusty Baker effect once again if you ask me. I am not buying all the hype surrounding Aroldis Chapman. Chapman can throw 115MPH for all I am concerned but, his control, mechanics and lack of developed secondary pitches raise some flags. Realize, the Reds are now expected to win and will be targeted by other teams, that changes the perspective for the young Reds a lot. Another crucial question: Can Scott Rolen stay healthy and productive for 2 straight years?

What to Look For: The continued development Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce, Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman, Edison Volquez, Travis Wood and Mike Leake will determine how far the Reds will progress this season. The Reds are following the right path in terms of a successful long term plan.

Projection: The Reds definitely seem to be trying to follow the Phillies blueprint: A solid starting rotation, good defense and plenty of power bats with some speed. The Reds weren’t a fluke last year and this year they should prove that.

92-70 (1st Place)

Milwaukee Brewers

The Good: The Brewers made massive upgrades to a pitching rotation that sorely needed it. 2009 1-2 starters Yovanni Gallardo and Randy Wolf get bumped down to 3 and 4 to make room for new ace Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. These were two very high impact moves by the Brew Crew and I am sure Marcum and Greinke will benefit from pitching in the NL and having strong offensive support. While being dominated by right handers, the Brewers can score runs. The offensive attack of Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, Casey McGehee and Rickie Weeks is very impressive.

The Bad: The Brewers defense can be down right dreadful and that will cost them some games. John Axford, Zach Braddock, 41 year old Takashi Saito and Kameron Loe will have to shore up a bullpen that had plenty of leaks last season. Another critical question: Can Carlos Gomez be an everyday CF?

What to Look For: If the right deal comes along would the Brewers deal Prince Fielder and move Mat Gamel to 1B? That should be interesting to see. Also, the development of John Axford and Zach Braddock to the late inning roles is something the Brewers need to take shape if they want to be serious contenders.

Projection: If the Reds falter the Brewers are most likely taking the division. The Brewers are taking their shot this year realizing it most likely is their last with big slugging 1B Prince Fielder. Should be an exciting summer in Milwaukee.

89-73 (2nd place)

Chicago Cubs

The Good: The Cubs offense should be able to produce runs with the likes of Aramis Ramirez, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Pena, Marlon Byrd, Geovany Soto and Tyler Colvin. The Cubs front 3 starting pitchers of Carlos Zambrano, Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster give their fans plenty of reason to think they can contend and Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner are not bad options out of the 4 and 5 spots.

The Bad: The Cubs have been awful at situational hitting the past few years and adding more strikeouts with Carlos Pena will not help. Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez looked old and worn out last year which is not a good sign. Middle relief was a disaster for the Cubs last year and outside of Carlos Marmol the closer, there are too many question marks for the Cubs.

What to Look For: Will be interesting to see how Cubs skipper Mike Quade is able to keep the usually hotheaded Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza on track. This is a transition year for the Cubs. I strongly believe Carlos Pena is a 1 year rental before the Cubs land Albert Pujols, Justin Morneau or Prince Fielder to play 1B.

Prediction: The Cubs will shine and have their moments but, unless they get some critical big hits, cut down on the strikeouts and get decent middle relief help they are only a decent team not a good team.

84-78 (3rd Place)

St. Louis Cardinals

The Good: The offense should be OK considering it has Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus at its core. Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia should help steady a questionable rotation.

The Bad: Plenty. Adam Wainwright and his Cy Young Award type numbers are gone for the year and more importantly, this could be Albert Pujols last year as a Cardinal. This is a major year of flux for the Cards who could also deal free agent to be Chris Carpenter at the trade deadline if they fall out of contention. Is RF Lance Berkman still an everyday player? What kind of production do the Cardinals get from the middle infield of Ryan Theriot and Skip Schumaker? Can the Cardinals recover from losing Adam Wainwright for an entire season?

What to Look For: If Carpenter, Tony LaRussa and Pujols leave within the next year the Cards could be in a full blown rebuilding phase. Dave Duncan is one of the best pitching coaches ever with all the pitching projects he has taken on and transformed. Duncan will have to use all of his skills this season to help the Crads overcome the loss of Adam Wainwright. Fireballer Carlos Martinez may arrive into the bullpen for the Cardinals this summer.

Projection: It already looks like this could be a rough year for the Cardinals will all the questions left unanswered. Where does this team go past 2011 is the most important question of them all.

79-83 (4th Place)

Houston Astros

The Good: The Astros GM Ed Wade did a heck of a job rebuilding the core of this team midseason in 2009 and finally has the Astros younger and cheaper then they have been in a while. 1B Brett Wallace, RF Hunter Pence and 3B Chris Johnson help give some much needed youth into the Astros everyday lineup. They may not jump out at you but, J.A. Happ, Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez and Bud Norris give Houston a decent starting rotation. Closer Brandon Lyon, Fernando Abad, Wilton Lopez,  and Mark Melancon are pretty decent options out of the bullpen too.

The Bad: The Astros are still a ways off in terms of getting younger better position players and are stuck with some stopgap solution players in their middle infield. Also, the Astros are saddled with the bloated Carlos Lee contract. Losing young catcher Jason Castro for the year to a knee injury is a blow not easily recovered from either.

What to Look For: The Astros can only pray that Carlos Lee has a big first half and can convince someone crazy or desperate enough to take him off the Astros hands even for half price.

Projection: When you have pitching you can win or in the Astros case, be representable. The Astros need to find position players but, are heading in the right direction with their relatively young pitching.

73-89 (5th Place)

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Good: Well, at least the Pirates have some good talent in the field eveyday and should score some runs with CF Andrew McCutchen, 3B Pedro Alvarez, 2B Neil Walker and LF Jose Tabata. James McDonald and Ross Ohlendorf give the Pirates a prayer that they can give up less than 5-10 runs at least 2 days out of the week. Evan Meek, Chris Resop and Joel Hanrahan provide some actual relief for a bullpen that’s pretty rotten.

The Bad: Are you kidding me?!?!? Well, the worst is the ownership who cares nothing about the franchise or the fan base because they maintain the lowest MLB payroll while turning one of the highest profits. Pathetic. As a Pirates player you are encouraged to play your best because the sooner you do the sooner you are traded from the team. Hard to believe the Pirates share the same city as one of the NFL’s all time elite/successful franchises and a very successful NHL franchise as well. The Pirates pitching staff was abysmal last year. When you have the worst team ERA and you are not in the AL or playing half the time in Cincinnatti, Houston or Philadelphia (3 great band boxes) you have major issues. Oh, yeah, and if that was not bad enough, the Pirates have plenty of problems catching and throwing the baseball consistently in the field too.

What to Look For: To see the Pirates roll out a borderline MLB team and not lose a 100 games. MLB should assume ownership of this franchise because the Pirates front office is a disgrace.

Projection: See the past 18 years. Somehow I think they will only lose 98 games this year. Yet, I cannot substantiate why.

64-98 (6th Place)

Where is the Reds’ Love for 2011?

MLBdirt is proud to present our first of many guest posts by great bloggers from all over the internet. Get to know William J. Tasker, a/k/a The Flagrant Fan, a knowledgeable and passionate baseball fan that can be followed on twitter and found writing daily at his blog. Enjoy!

When was the last time you’ve seen a 91-win team, and a team that won its division by five games, get so little love for the following season as the Reds this year? Baseball Prospectus gives the team 82 wins for 2011. 82! CAIRO’s early projections gave the NL Central champions 85 wins and a third place finish. Betfirms.com projects them for fourth place. Covers.com predicts 85 wins. Are you getting the picture? Just as nobody thought the Reds would ever win the division in 2010, nobody is predicting a repeat. What is going on here?

In fairness to the prognosticators, let’s look at some of the reasoning. Perhaps the easiest way is to look at the projected starting position players and rotation and compare the projected results with the results from last year. To look at every projection system’s charts would be a bit much for all of us, so let’s just stick to Baseball Prospectus for now. You can see the projections here for yourself: Comments will be saved after we go through the players.

Position players:

Brandon Phillips: 2010 WARP: 3.8. Projected 2011 WARP: 1.9 (-1.9)

Edgar Renteria: Orlando Cabrera’s 2010 WARP: 0.6. Renteria’s projected WARP: 0.3 (-0.3)

Joey Votto: 2010 WARP: 7.7. Projected 2011 WARP: 4.4 (-3.3)

Scott Rolen: 2010 WARP: 6.0. Projected 2011 WARP: 2.7 (-3.3)

Jay Bruce: 2010 WARP: 6.7. Projected 2011 WARP: 3.5 (-3.2)

Jonny Gomes: 2010 WARP: 2.1. Projected 2011 WARP: 0.6 (-1.5)

Drew Stubbs: 2010 WARP: 5.3. Projected 2011 WARP: 1.1 (-4.2)

Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan: 2010 WARP: 6.8 (combined). Projected (combined) 2011 WAR: 2.6 (-4.2)

Comments: The first problem with the projection is that it assumes Fred Lewis will start in left. Dusty Baker has said the position belongs to Gomes. Secondly, what are the odds that every single position around the diamond will have less value than the year before? Surely, at least half should be able to repeat their success. Renteria (with backup from Janish) should at least duplicate the relative non-worth of Cabrera. At his age, it is possible for Rolen to fall off some. But Votto, Bruce, Phillips, and Stubbs are all young and developing major league players with huge upsides. It’s hard to imagine them losing a combined 12.7 wins between them from 2010 to 2011.

The Rotation

Edison Volquez: 2010 WARP: 1.1. Projected 2011 WARP: 1.7 (+0.6)

Bronson Arroyo: 2010 WARP: 4.2. Projected 2011 WARP: 1.5 (-2.7)

Johnny Cueto: 2010 WARP: 3.4. Projected 2011 WARP: 1.4 (-2.0)

Homer Bailey: 2010 WARP: 0.8. Projected 2011 WARP: 0.9 (+0.1)

Travis Wood: 2010 WARP: 1.7. Projected 2011 WARP: 1.9 (+0.2)

Mike Leake: 2010 WARP: 1.6. Projected 2011 WARP: -0.1 (-1.7)

Comments: Arroyo has put together four seasons in a row with a WARP of over 2.5. Last year was his best year of the bunch. So why should he fall so precipitously in 2011? Cueto seemed to finally find some consistency last year after never being able to put it all together before. Barring injury, it’s hard to believe he would regress that far. Volquez needs to prove he can stay healthy. He has all kinds of talent, but has yet to put a full and consistent season together. That projection makes sense. Bailey had some good moments in 2010, but he also needs to show he can be consistently good. So again, his projection makes sense. Travis Wood put together all that value last year in just a few starts. To think he couldn’t double those results over a full season seems unthinkable. Leake is an open story and could be anywhere or do anything this year.

The bullpen is pretty stable and compares with last year’s version. Aroldis Chapman will pitch the full season and should be able to replace the value left behind by the Amazing Arthur Rhodes (the Fan’s favorite personal nickname). The projections predict Francisco Cordero and Nick Masset will be less valuable than last year. Cordero is a pretty known quantity and should be able to come close to last year’s numbers. Masset is just too good to regress that much.

The Reds’ bench seems pretty similar to last year’s version. Miguel Cairo should regress because he’s never done what he did last year. But Paul Janish is competent enough to be the fourth infielder. It’s not a strong bench though Fred Lewis is a solid back up in the outfield. Suffice it to say that the bench is competent but not deep. If any of the regulars would get hurt, it would be hard to replace any of them.

From this observation deck, the lack of love for the Reds is puzzling. The NL Central is wide open. All the teams have improved from a year ago, but no one is dominant, especially with the Cardinals losing Adam Wainwright for the season. There is no reason the Reds can’t repeat though the Fan doesn’t think it will be as easy or the margin will be as great for whoever wins the division. But under few circumstances can this writer see the Reds winning less than 88 games. The projections are based on regression in every single position player on the field and three of this six potential starters. This Fan doesn’t buy it and thinks the Reds should get more love than they are getting.

Are the projections a reflection of the opinion most have about Dusty Baker? Many have not forgiven the man for Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Whether that reputation is deserved or not, you cannot take away the team’s 91 wins last year. And perhaps the perception is based on the way the Reds were buzz sawed by the Phillies in the playoffs. Either way, the projections are unique among division winners except for the similar lack of love being shown the Tampa Bay Rays. But that’s another story for another time.

My 2011 MLB Predicitons

Troy Tulowitzki

I decided to dig a little deeper and lay out my predicitons from our inaugural post with the Win-Loss records and award winners that go up to five deep.

While I do not use fancy projection systems like PECOTA or Marcels, I do run my own numbers to try and garner a win total for a team based on my 2011 projections for that team’s players. By doing that, most teams end up with an extra win or two because I cannot predict injuries that ruin a player’s entire season and I have to trim those extra wins in order to make sure the total wins match the total losses (I usually end up with about 30 more wins than losses with my initial numbers). That is where some of the “human element” comes in to play.

With that, here are my projected standings and awards:

AL East
1. Red Sox (94-68)
2. Rays (90-72) (Wild Card)
3. Yankees (89-73)
4. Blue Jays (82-80)
5. Orioles (77-85)

AL Central
1. White Sox (87-75)
2. Twins (86-76)
3. Tigers (84-78)
4. Indians (70-92)
5. Royals (61-101)

AL West
1. Rangers (90-72)
2. Athletics (86-76)
3. Angels (78-84)
4. Mariners (65-97)

NL East
1. Phillies (94-68)
2. Braves (89-73) (Wild Card)
3. Marlins (79-83)
4. Mets (77-85)
5. Nationals (73-89)

NL Central
1. Cardinals (90-72)
2. Brewers (87-75)
3. Reds (87-75)
4. Cubs (80-82)
5. Astros (66-96)
6. Pirates (63-99)

NL West
1. Rockies (88-74)
2. Giants (86-76)
3. Dodgers (81-81)
4. Padres (81-81)
5. Diamondbacks (70-92)

World Series

Rockies over Red Sox in 7.

World Series MVP

Dexter Fowler

MVP
AL: Adrian Gonzalez, Evan Longoria, Nelson Cruz, Shin-Soo Choo, Miguel Cabrera

NL: Troy Tulowitzki, Chase Utley, Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman

Cy Young
AL: Jon Lester, Felix Hernandez, Brett Anderson, David Price, Dan Haren

NL: Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Mat Latos

Rookie of the Year
AL: Jeremy Hellickson, J.P. Arencibia, Hank Conger, Kyle Drabek, Jesus Montero

NL: Domonic Brown, Freddie Freeman, Aroldis Chapman, Brandon Belt, Kenley Jansen

Comback Player of the Year
AL: Grady Sizemore, Conor Jackson

NL: Carlos Beltran, Pablo Sandoval

-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at his other site Figure Filbert and on twitter at @FigureFilbert

MLB Dirt Predictions

Welcome readers and this is MLB Dirt, your baseball headquarters for news, analysis, and everything baseball. In our inaugural article, we have posted our predictions for the upcoming Major League Baseball season.

You will find our predictions for each division, the playoffs, and who we think will win this year’s major awards in each league. This is the first step in the development and expansion of the site. Please tell your friends about MLB Dirt and be prepared to get dirty in baseball news.

For more MLB Dirt, make sure you follow us on Twitter @MLBdirt and “like us on Facebook

Without further ado, here are the 2011 Dirt Predictions:

 Division  Mitchell  MLB Reports  Schwartze
 AL East 1. Red Sox
2. Rays*
3. Yankees
4. Blue Jays
5. Orioles
1. Rays
2. Red Sox*
3. Blue Jays
4. Yankees
5. Orioles
1. Red Sox
2. Rays
3. Yankees
4. Orioles
5. Blue Jays
 AL Central 1. White Sox
2. Twins
3. Tigers
4. Indians
5. Royals
1. White Sox
2. Tigers
3. Twins
4. Royals
5. Indians
1. Twins
2. White Sox
3. Tigers
4. Indians
5. Royals
 AL West 1. Rangers
2. Athletics
3. Angels
4. Mariners
1. Rangers
2. Athletics
3. Angels
4. Mariners
1. Rangers
2. Athletics*
3. Mariners
4. Angels
 NL East 1. Phillies
2. Braves*
3. Marlins
4. Mets
5. Nationals
1. Phillies
2. Braves
3. Nationals
4. Marlins
5. Mets
1. Phillies
2. Braves*
3. Mets
4. Marlins
5. Nationals
 NL Central 1. Cardinals
2. Brewers
3. Reds
4. Cubs
5. Astros
6. Pirates
1. Reds
2. Cardinals*
3. Brewers
4. Cubs
5. Astros
6. Pirates
1. Cardinals
2. Brewers
3. Reds
4. Cubs
5. Pirates
6. Astros
 NL West 1. Rockies
2. Giants
3. Dodgers
4. Padres
5. Diamondbacks
1. Dodgers
2. Rockies
3. Giants
4. Padres
5. Diamondbacks
1. Rockies
2. Dodgers
3. Giants
4. Diamondbacks
5. Padres

* Wild Card Winner

Awards:

 Award  Mitchell  MLB Reports  Schwartze
 AL Cy Young 1. Jon Lester
2. Felix Hernandez
1. C.J. Wilson
2. J. Papelbon
1. Jon Lester
2. Felix Hernandez
 AL MVP 1. Adrian Gonzalez
2. Evan Longoria
1. Adam Dunn
2. Miguel Cabrera
1. Evan Longoria
2. Adrian Gonzalez
 AL ROY 1. J. Hellickson
2. J.P. Arencibia
1. J. Hellickson
2. Kyle Drabek
1. J. Hellickson
2. Nick Weglarz
 AL Come Back 1. Grady Sizemore
2. Conor Jackson
1. Brad Penny
2. Alex Gordon
1. Josh Beckett
2. Grady Seizmore
 NL Cy Young 1. Roy Halladay
2. A. Wainwright
1. Roy Halladay
2. Cliff Lee
1. Cliff Lee
2. A. Wainwright
 NL MVP 1. Troy Tulowitzki
2. Chase Utley
1. Albert Pujols
2. Andre Ethier
1. Hanley Ramirez
2. Albert Pujols
 NL ROY 1. Domonic Brown
2. Freddie Freeman
1. Brandon Belt
2. Julio Teheran
1. Aroldis Chapman
2. Mike Minor
 NL Come Back 1. Carlos Beltran
2. Pablo Sandoval
1. Carlos Pena
2. Jesus Flores
1. Javier Vasquez
2. Carlos Beltran

 

World Series

 Picks  Mitchell  MLB Reports  Schwartze
 AL Champ  Red Sox  Rays  Red Sox
 NL Champ  Rockies  Phillies  Phillies
 WS Champ  Rockies  Phillies  Red Sox