It’s Tough Being A Met Fan In Yankee Town

Photo By: John Dunn for The New York Times

As another hot stove season begins, Met fans such as myself, will once again look across town at the Bronx Bombers with envy.  It will be another off season where we Met fans watch our team sit on the sidelines while the Yankees sign the free agents they need to compete for another title.  Of course, the Mets are on a self-imposed budget because of the Madoff situation that emptied Fred Wilpon’s wallet.  But Met fans have to wonder how long they will play second fiddle to the Yankees.  The last time our Mets owned New York was 1988.  Since then, it has been almost exclusively the Big Yankee Apple.  And unfortunately, Yankee fans remind us Met fans of this every day of every year.

The difference in management styles between the two organizations was evident last year with the Jose Reyes debacle.  The Yankees choose to keep their cornerstone players in pinstripes.  When Derek Jeter’s contract was nearing an end while in the middle of his career, the Yankees signed him to a long term contract.  When Jose Reyes contract expired after least season, the Mets let him walk without even making an offer.   Of course, Jose Reyes is no Derek Jeter, but you get the point. Continue reading

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Who Should Represent the Twins in the All-Star Game?

I am gearing up for the All-Star game by issuing a plethora of posts dedicated to the Mid-Summer Classic. Why do I do this? Well, it’s not because I put a ton of validity in the game; after all, it is an exhibition game, but because I am a fan and the MLB All-Star week is the best of all the major sports. And I write these posts to give insight on who I believe actually deserves a trip to the All-Star game and not who the biggest fan bases vote in or which ridiculous returned favor a manager throws a player’s way.

The Minnesota Twins have had a rough year, to say the least. Injuries to stars Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jim Thome, Jason Kubel, and newly acquired Tsuyoshi Nishioka coupled with major declines in production by Delmon Young and Francisco Liriano are the main causes of the team’s failures. But there are a few bright spots and the team does get to have at least one player represent them in the All-Star game. So, who should it be? Here are the top three options

Carl Pavano has been very good this year, much better than his stats show at first glance. He has logged a team high 94.1 innings and has a 2.00 BB/9 but a weak 3.63 K/9. His current ERA is 4.20 but his FIP of 3.88 suggests he has been a bit unlucky. He leads all pitchers on the staff with 1.3 fWAR but his rWAR is only 0.4.

Scott Baker has been slightly better but in a few less innings. In 83.2 innings he has a K/9 of 8.39 to go with a low BB/9 of 2.47. His current ERA sits at 3.55 and his FIP is in line with Pavano’s at 3.93 but his xFIP of 3.49 suggest he’s pitching close to what his ERA suggests. His current fWAR sits at 1.1 and his rWAR at 1.6. I would take Baker over Pavano.

But, the final candidate is easily my choice to represent the Twins although he is on the disabled list. Denard Span currently ranks 5th among ALL American League players in rWAR with 3.3 and his fWAR of 2.8 ranks him 8th in the AL among position players. At first glance Span doesn’t look like much of an All-Star. His offensive line sits at .294/.361/.385 for a wOBA of .338 but that equals an OPS+ of 108 and wRC+ of 114. His .361 on-base percentage is bested only by Jacoby Ellsbury among AL center fielders. Most of Span’s value is in his Major League leading +10.7 UZR and 1.9 dWAR which actually ties Brett Gardner‘s last year total which lead the AL.

The choice seems obvious: Denard Span, concussion and all, deserves a spot on the All-Star team and, quite frankly, it has nothing to do with being the sole representative of his team, it is because he deserves to be there among the best players in the game this year because he has been one of the best, not just the best on the Twins.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and you can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert

2011 AL West Preview

1. Texas Rangers

The Good: The Rangers are a young talented team that has emphasized pitching over offense and this group has not hit the ceiling yet. They may have one of the best offenses in the game with MVP Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz (a MVP caliber player), Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and having 3 guys to play all 8 positions and DH with David Murphy, Mike Napoli and Mr. Ranger Michael Young. Adding Adrian Beltre was a smart move because he helps improve a shoddy Rangers defense and will benefit greatly from hitting in Texas with this lineup. The Rangers have talent on the mound as well with CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Darren O’Day and Neftali Feliz.

The Bad: How does this team fare without Cliff Lee? Granted, Lee was average in the regular season with the Rangers but, he will be sorely missed. Asking to have CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis  replicate 2010, something they have never done before that, while also anchoring the rotation is the biggest key to the Rangers season. If this duo falters the Rangers are not winning this division. The bullpen has talent and plenty of nice numbers but, it needs to show more poise as they were occasionally hit up in big spots last season.

What to Look For: The balance of playing time and productivity of the Napoli-Murphy-Young trio will be interesting to watch. If RHP Tanner Scheppers and OF Engel Beltre continue to shine in the minors they could get a call up. Is Brandon Webb OK? Is he still the best sinker ball pitcher in the game? That is something to watch. Also, the learning curves of Tommy Hunter, Matt Harrison and most importantly, Derek Holland will be critical to the Rangers success.

Projection: While maybe a tick below last year’s bunch the Rangers are plenty good and could be even better. The pitching has to fall into place, like any team. It would be a wise choice not to bet against this bunch.

89-73 (1st Place)

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Good: The Angels can go toe to toe with anyone with starting pitching. Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro are a pretty safe quartet to keep you in games. Although it had some problems last year the bullpen has promise too considering it added Hisanori Takahashi and Scott Downs to go along with Fernando Rodney and Kevin Jepsen.

The Bad: The Angels were embarrassed in free agency this past winter and had to take on the overly bloated Vernon Wells contract. The Halos have major question marks with C Jeff Mathis and 3B Maicer Izturis. Both guys are usually bench guys with little power and are being forced into everyday roles. While it is good that the Angels are giving kids 1B Mark Trumbo and CF Peter Burjos shots at the big leagues they also need these kids to produce right away which maybe too much to ask. The Halos can only hope and wonder when 1B Kendry Morales can come back and contribute after ankle surgery. Morales is the most vital cog to the Angels offense.

What to Watch For: The Angels need top prospect C Hank Conger to make the break through to the Show sooner rather than later. The same can be said for OF Mike Trout. The outfield trio of Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Bobby Abreu gets another year older with the same measure of offensive expectation to produce. Can they all still do it? Can Erick Aybar replicate his 2009 season or is the player we all saw last year? The bullpen while upgraded, has major issues.

Projection: Age, bullpen problems and consistent offense, not something you are used to hearing with a Mike Scioscia team. The Angels have plenty of questions but, they also have plenty of starting pitching and a good manager. If the Rangers falter don’t be too surprised to see the Angels somehow in the mix to take the AL West flag.

86-76 (2nd Place)

3. Oakland A’s

The Good: The A’s have one of the  best starting rotations in the AL when all healthy. Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez can confound and hold down offenses most nights. The great thing about the staff is there aren’t all the same type of pitcher each one is different and has a different wrinkle throwing offenses off.  Adding OF’s David DeJesus, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui was a major boost to a punchless offense. The A’s also have a very good bullpen as well with Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes, Mike Wuertz, Brad Ziegler and closer Andrew Bailey.

The Bad: The A’s offense got off the hook in 2010 because the Mariners offense was so historically bad. This team needs home runs desperately because it was powerless in 2010. The A’s have to hope the additions of Matsui, Willingham and DeJesus pay off. Also, having OF prospects Chris Carter and Michael Taylor break through to the MLB Level full time would help too.

What to Look For: If the A’s stay healthy and pitch to their potential and possibly get Rich Harden healthy throwing strikes out of the bullpen then look out, this team could win the division their pitching is that good.

Projection: A down year for the AL West means the time is ripe for the A’s to strike. This is a good team that just needs more runs to be scored. Billy Beane did a solid job upgrading this team and while they are picked here at 3rd place I think if Texas loses this division it’s more likely because the A’s win it not the Angels.

85-77 (3rd Place)

The Good: A very limited selection here. The Mariners do have the reigning CY Young Award winner who is soon to be 25 in Felix Hernandez. The Marniers also have a future Hall of Famer in Ichiro Suzuki who is good for a .310 plus batting average, 30 plus steals, 200 hundred plus hits and a Gold Glove in rightfield. The Mariners boast a pretty good defensive team as well.

The Bad: The offense was so bad last year it was epically and historically atrocious. Scary thing is the only thing the Mariners did was add Jack Cust to the everyday lineup which means a lot more of unneeded strikeouts but, some much need walks and homeruns. The Mariners desperately need 2009 years from Franklin Gutierrez and Chone Figgins not the bad 2010 years they had. The bullpen had its problems last year as well. You can add David Aardsma as a guy needed to have a year like he did in 2009 not last year. Jason Vargas and Doug Fister were OK for this rotation in 2010. It would be nice to see Erik Bedard just get on the mound in 2011 doing his Carl Pavano Yankees impression for the Mariners. This staff doesn’t have a real compliment to Felix Hernandez which is a problem.

What to Look For: The Mariners desperately need 1B Justin Smoak and LF Michael Saunders to figure it out and impact the everyday lineup immediately if this team has any expectation to be decent. You better add prospects LHP Mauricio Robles, RHP Michael Pineda and 2B Dustin Ackley to that list as well. That’s a lot of things that have to happen for things to be good this year in Seattle.

Projection: The offense couldn’t be much worse than it was in 2010 could it? Or could it be?  This is an odd year and the book says the Mariners will be 85 plus win team if you follow their past 5 years. I don’t know how they will pull that off this year but, then again no else saw them being good in 2007 and 2009 either. I don’t forsee them being a .500 or better team this year. But, then again I have been wrong many times before.

65-97 (4th Place)