Time to Get Dirty

Well, hello there. I’m the newest member of the writing staff here at MLBDirt.com. And judging from the pictures of my cohorts, I’m the old guy of the group. Oh well. At least it’s a distinction. Jonathan graciously asked me to hop on board as a member of the team here. And while I have my own site and also write for yet another site, I’m a glutton for baseball and it helps that I really like the guys that work here and respect their work. I’m not really a stranger here as I did a guest post once. I also like this site’s title. It really is a play on words. The main meaning, I would guess, is that you get inside “dirt” on baseball news and insight. But since we were kids and playing or watching ball, dirt has always been a part of the action.

You can’t be a baseball player and not get dirty. You can play football and be the kicker and have a spotless uniform. But if you play baseball and you don’t have dirt on you, then you’re sitting on the bench. And judging from the…umm…sanitation of the average big league dugout, it would be pretty hard to stay clean there too. Dirt is simply a part of this sport I love.

Can you imagine being in charge of getting big league uniforms clean? That dirt on the baseball diamond usually has a large amount of clay involved and that stuff just doesn’t come out. We never really hear about a teams clubhouse manager except when they work for the Mets and get arrested for selling memorabilia. Those poor Mets can’t get any positive press, can they? If you want to get the inside scoop of how clubhouse guys do their job, this link is excellent.  A big part of what these folks do is about dirt.

After watching the game for more than forty years, dirt has become an analogy of sorts. Players that are considered “scrappy” are guys with a lot of dirt on their uniforms. They run hard, slide a lot, dive a lot on defense and accumulate a lot of dirt. “Scrappy” has become somewhat of a (ahem) dirty word in baseball writing circles. Ryan Theriot, now the shortstop of the Cardinals has long been considered scrappy. But analysts correctly point out that his being scrappy doesn’t necessarily make him a valuable player.

Theriot is a perfect example. He’s the kind of player managers love and analysts hate. Which is right? I would suspect the analysts. The scrappy player is usually the kind of player that out plays his ability. The fact that these players actually made the majors in the first place is a credit to their fire and their ability to lay it all out there despite their limited resources. But anytime a manager falls in love with one of these guys, be wary because it doesn’t mean the player is any good.

Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox is an example of a scrappy player that is valuable. You can tell he’s fought for everything he has obtained as a player. But despite his size, he produces and that dirt you see on the uniform not only shows his scrappy play but how much he helps his team.

The thing with scrappy players though is that sometimes they don’t last too long. Fred Lynn and Aaron Rowand come to mind. They are guys that dive for everything and run into walls to make a play. But that kind of recklessness comes at a physical price and the shelf life of a scrappy guy as a productive player can become limited. We’ll have to watch that with Pedroia as he already missed a large chunk of last year due to a foot injury. Kevin Youkilis, Pedroia’s teammate is another one of those dirt-on-the-uniform guys. And Youkilis has had health issues lately too.

But the old dirt on the uniform as a method of showing professional abandon is really a misnomer. Any time a player gets on base and has to slide into second to try to break up a double play, he’s going to get dirty. Any guy trying to steal a base is going to get dirty. Dirt is simply a part of playing baseball.

There is one other use of the word, “Dirt,” when it comes to baseball. Some players are known as dirty players. These are guys not adverse to spiking you to get ahead or throwing a fastball at your Adam’s Apple. Ty Cobb was known as a dirty player. Leo Durocher was another. Pete Rose famously destroyed a catcher’s career by body slamming in in the All Star Game! Don Drysdale and Roger Clemens were considered dirty pitchers. Those pitchers would not hesitate to throw a pitch at you and when they did, guess what? You’re right. You hit the dirt.

So yes, I love the title of this site. And I think I will enjoy being a part of it. As I continue to get dirty during the course of the season and beyond, I hope you enjoy my contributions. I know I’ll enjoy bringing them to you.

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Random Predictions – NL

Continuing on from yesterday’s AL Predictions are my NL predictions. I honestly cannot wait to see the reactions when I tell everyone that…

Atlanta Braves – Nate McLouth is going to revert to 2009 form and go 20/20 with a .350 OBP. Craig Kimbrel will save 20+ games and strike out 100+ as part of the best relief squad in the Majors. Chipper Jones will hit .300 in his final season. Mike Minor will replace Brandon Beachy as the 5th starter by June.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Russell Branyan will set a career high by hitting 35 or more homeruns this season. That’s right! All he needs is playing time and I predict he will gain 3B eligibilty. Joe Saunders will have an ERA north of 5.00. David Hernandez will lead the team in saves with less than 20.

Chicago Cubs – Tyler Colvin will get 500+ plate appearances but will not hit more than 25 homers. There will be more “head case” headlines about Matt Garza than there will be about Carlos Zambrano who will be the better pitcher of the two this year.

Cincinnati Reds – 2010 was more Brandon Phillips norm going forward and he will continue a decline offensively to the tune of .260/.320/.420 at best. The starting rotation will be called overrated by September. Drew Stubbs will be more valuable when factoring ADP than B.J. Upton in fantasy. Jay Bruce will hit 30+ homers but lose defensive value and not be more valuable than he was last year according to fWAR. Aroldis Chapman will finish with less than 5 saves and an ERA above-4.00.

Colorado Rockies – Troy Tulowitzki will win the MVP and be worth close to 8.0 fWAR. Dexter Fowler will break out this year. Jose Lopez still will not hit and be a terrible defender and Ty Wigginton will club 20+ homers. Jason Hammel will finally match his performance with his FIP and post an ERA below-4.00.

Florida Marlins – Mike Stanton will hit 35 homeruns and be very humble about it. Anibal Sanchez will pitch 200+ innings of 3.25 or lower ERA and 175+ strikeouts. Omar Infante will hit closer to his career slash-line of .274/.319/.395 than his last two year’s .316/.359/.408. The 3B position will struggle to combine for a positive fWAR.

Houston Astros – Wilton Lopez will end up with double-digit saves. Brett Wallace will hit .285/.345/.450 and give the Astros hope for the future. The shortstop position will the weakest in the league offensively. Jordan Lyles will be up and be their best pitcher after the trade deadline.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Juan Uribe will set another career high in homers with 25 this season. Jonathan Broxton may lose the closer role but he will still strike out 90+ with an ERA below-3.00. Matt Kemp will be worth +5.0 fWAR or better. Left field will be a revolving door that will never stop and be lucky to produce at a higher level than replacement. A.J. Ellis is the best catcher on the roster but will see the least amount of time.

Milwaukee Brewers – Shaun Marcum will mail a thank you card to the Blue Jays for trading him out of the AL East and will post 200+ innings of 3.25 or lower ERA and 175+ strikeouts. Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan will combine for a wRC of 85 or lower. Jonathan Lucroy and George Kottaras will combine to hit 20 homers.

New York Mets – Carlos Beltran will reach 500 PAs and hit .280/.370/.470 or better. Angel Pagan will again be worth more than 4.0 fWAR. Francisco Rodriguez will not meet his Games Finished clause wheter he finishes the year out with the Mets or not. The Mets will have a fire sale in July and post a better record in the 2nd half and play “spoiler” to postseason contenders.

Philadelphia Phillies – Ryan Howard continues his Cecil Fielder impersonation and hits worse than he did in 2010. Ben Francisco will hit 20 homers and steal 15 bases. Roy Halladay will post even better numbers than last year.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Andrew McCutchen will hit 20 homers and steal 40 bases. Joel Hanrahan will save 30 games and strike out 100+. James McDonald will be the only starting pitcher with more than 2.0 fWAR and he will have higher than 3.0 fWAR.

San Diego Padres – Tim Stauffer will log 175+ innings of sub-3.50 ERA and 125+ strikeouts. Brad Hawpe will lose his starting job by mid-June and struggle to hit above .250 with little-to-no power. Jason Bartlett will hit at least .285/.345/.425 and steal 20+ bases.

San Francisco Giants – Aubrey Huff will get off to a slow start and everyone will scream for Brandon Belt to get playing time. Which he will… in June, and contend for the Rookie of the Year Award by hitting close to .300 with 15+ homers. Jonathan Sanchez will be the best pitcher on the team.

St. Louis Cardinals – Colby Rasmus will hit 30+ homers and steal 15+ bases. Lance Berkman will bounce back to hit .275/.375/.475 with 20+ homers. Kyle McClellan will log 175+ innings of sub-4.00 ERA with 125+ strikeouts. Jason Motte will save 10+ games and record 70+ strikeouts.

Washington Nationals – Michael Morse will hit more homers than Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. Livan Hernandez will post an ERA north of 5.00 and allow 225+ hits in less than 200 innings. Matt Stairs will hit a homerun for the Nats, his 12th different team.

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

Get Set For Some Miraculous Recoveries Just In Time For Free Agency

MLBdirt recently featured a guest post by William J. Tasker, the first of our many guest articles. Presenting our second guest post, we have an article by blogger Rich Daniels. Rich is a very passionate baseball fan and played college baseball for Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland. He went on to work as the Public Address Announcer for the Hagerstown Suns of the South Atlantic League. You can find more of his work on his blog Hit Away. Without further ado, here is Rich’s first article for MLB Dirt.

Ever notice players who are out of the lineup a great deal season after season then seem to put together one of the best years of their careers right before they become a free agent? These contract-year miraculous recoveries happen every season and are often noticed but seldom spoken about to any degree. There are always players like Gary Matthews, Jr. who cash in a career year for a five-year, $50m contract and 2011 will have its share. Here are a few names to keep an eye on as Opening Day approaches.

Suspect #1: Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs. The Dominican native has played only two full seasons out of the last six and one of those, 2006, was his last elite year of production (38 HR, 119 RBI, .291 BA, .913 OPS). Since signing his last contract, a five-year, $75m ditty, Ramirez has played a full season exactly once. Don’t be surprised to see him in the lineup in 2011 despite the little dents and dings he has sat in deference to in past seasons. The reasons? Next season will be the last on his contract and it carries a $16m club option. Ramirez will turn 33 near mid-season so look for 2011 to be a concerted push to get probably his last monster contract.

Suspect #2: Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies. With all the attention on the Phillies’ rotation few have taken time to examine the case of the team’s de-facto captain. Rollins signed a five-year, $40m deal after the 2005 season and proceeded to have the two best years of his career. Then his performance began a progressive slide over the next three seasons (BA, OPS and SB all declined from 08’-10’). At 32 Rollins has maybe a year or two left in his prime and one last chance at multi-year, big money deal. With Raul Ibanez and Brad Lidge coming to the ends of their contracts, Rollins will be aimed firmly at the opening budget area the Phillies have coming.

Suspect #3: Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers. Another shortstop on the verge of leaving his prime behind and with all the motivation any player would need to produce. At 33 Furcal has battled hamstring and back ailments since the 07’ season highlighted by appearing in only 38 games in 08’. He is in the last year of the three-year, $30m contract he signed following the 08’ season and has one more chance at the big money. The Dodgers hold a $12m club option on him for the 12’ season, but with the incredibly shaky financial status of the team due to the McCourt divorce saga and the pending development of prospect Dee Gordon, the Dodger shortstop will be looking for the greenest pastures possible somewhere else.

Suspect #4: Jose Valverde, CL, Tigers. When he’s good, they say that he’s a bit quirky. When he’s off, he’s just plain weird. The constant distraction of Valverde’s personality has been outweighed by his ability in the past but that’s not likely to come into play this year. The fact is that he hasn’t recorded 40 saves in a season since 08’. The soon to be 33 closer has battled numerous physical issues and topped 70 appearances and 70 IP only once making one wonder about his conditioning and commitment. But look for all that to change in 11’, however, since Valverde has a $9m 2012 club option to pitch for, what would be the highest single season salary of his career. But be assured that “Mound Manny” is well aware that another 40 save, sub 3.00 ERA season will get him big bucks next year.

Others to watch for: Xavier Nady, 1B, Diamondbacks; Jason Marquis, SP, Nationals; Scott Kazmir, SP, Angels; Erik Bedard, SP, Mariners; J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox; Luis Castillo, 2B, Mets.

Bonus Prediction! Big contract flame-out of 2011: Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers.

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