Surprises in Early Offensive Numbers

We are more than halfway through the month of April and most teams have already played double-digit games. This is not a big sample size but there have been some surprises in the beginning of this long season, from the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-1 start to the St. Louis Cardinals scoring the most runs in the game despite the face of the franchise and future hall-of-famer Albert Pujols leaving for the Los Angeles Angels.

And, to our surprise, there have been some major overachievers and some major underachievers, including the aforementioned Albert Pujols who has yet to hit a homerun and is hitting only .268/.318/.366 through his first 44 plate appearances outside of St. Louis red. Here are a few of the statistical surprises so far this season:

The “No Walk” club includes some surprising names as well as some you might expect to see (min 30 PAs) with three Texas Rangers appearing on the list: Continue reading


My 2012 Predictions: AL West

I am continuing my 2012 prediction series by revealing my AL West standings and a few positive and negative predictions for each time. In case you missed it, I have already revealed my AL East Predictions  and AL Central Predictions and we, as a staff, revealed some of our overall MLB predictions. Enjoy. Continue reading

Homerun Derby Picks

First off, I love the idea of the new homerun derby format. For those of you that don’t know, a captain was selected from both the NL and AL and they will each chose three other players from their own league. Representing the NL is Prince Fielder, the 2009 derby champ, and representing the ALis David Ortiz, the reining homerun derby champ. Another great part of the new format is that the contestants do not need to be on the All-Star team. The derby will be taking place on July 11th at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. So just who would I pick if I was each player?


Jose Bautista: Bautista is leading all of baseball in homeruns with 26. He is smashing the ball lately and the very short porch in left field at Chase Field will help Bautista a lot. Bautista’s average true distance on his homeruns this year is 398.4 which is 4 feet further than the MLB average. As I mentioned above, Bautista will really benefit from the left field dimensions. Chase Field is 328 down the line in left, and if you take a look at Bautista’s homerun spray chart, 21 of his homeruns have been hit to left. Not only do I think Bautista needs to be in the derby, but I think he has a very good chance at winning it.

Nelson Cruz: Cruz might be one of the best power hitters in the league. He ranks 8th in the bigs in homerun with 19 and he has done so in about 75 plate appearances less compared to a lot of the batters ahead of him. His average true homerun distance is a ridiculous 415.3 ft which is amongst the best in the league. He also has experience in the contest as he finished second to Prince Fielder in the 2009 derby.

Mark Teixeira: I had a hard time on this one picking between Teixeira and Paul Konerko. Teixeira is second in the majors in homeruns with 25, just one short of Bautista, and he has a very impressive ISO of .294 which is .44 points better than that of Konerko. Teixeira has the option to hit either left handed or right handed and both fences are very short. Taking a look at his spray chart, all of his homeruns are down the line; not a single homerun has gone to center field. His ability to pull the ball well will really help him.


Matt Kemp: Kemp is currently the NL leader in homeruns with 22. He is really hitting the ball well and he has an average homerun distance of 411.4. I also think that Kemp is in great shape for the competition. I think he will be able to stay consistent and not burn out too soon. Kemp also has a very good ISO of .290.

Ryan Howard: Howard might be one of the most experienced in the game in this competition which is why I think he is a great pick. He knows how to pace himself while putting on a great show. He has 17 homeruns with an average true homerun distance of 403.1. While Howard’s power numbers are not up to par with some of the top sluggers this year, Howard is still hitting well and his experience is what really makes him a good pick for the derby

Mike Stanton: This might be my favorite pick of the whole derby. I thinkStanton is one of the best power hitters in the game and he is only 21. He has 16 homeruns this year and one of the best average true homerun distances in the league with 414.2. He is a beast and has big time power. Players talk about him smashing balls in batting practice to the upper decks over and over again and I think he will really put on a show at the derby. If he is on the team, he is my sleeper pick.


Nelson Cruz is a Beast

Nelson Cruz has always been a beast offensively and there is no doubt about that. His 6’2” 240lb frame and excellent bat speed crushes balls out of the park (it also helps playing your home games in the hitter friendly Arlington Park) Looking up front at Cruz’s stats, one might not consider him as an elite power threat. His highest homerun total in a season was 33 back in 2009 and he hit only 22 homeruns in 2010. The problem with Cruz has been health issues! In 2010, he hit the DL three times with hamstring issues, in which he saw only 445 plate appearances.

Despite injuries, Cruz has still hit homeruns at a great rate. In 2009 he averaged a homerun every 15.6 plate appearances. If he kept that pace up and saw 650 plate appearances, he would have hit about 42 homeruns. In 2010, he continued hitting homeruns at an impressive rate, averaging one every 20.2 plate appearances.

Cruz has kicked off the 2011 season in a historic fashion. He has hit a homerun in each of his first 4 games this season. Only two other players have accomplished that: Willie Mays and Mark McGwire. Now that is some pretty good company! If Cruz keeps this up, I think he is very capable of hitting 45-50 homeruns with a near .300 average. Our very own Jonathan Mitchell predicted Cruz to finish third in the AL MVP race.

While the season has just only begun, Cruz’s performance cannot be ignored. The main goal for him is to stay healthy and if he does that, 45-50 homeruns is not out of the question at all. Cruz actually was asked by the Rangers to skip Winter Ball this year and that might not ware him down as much and keep him healthy throughout the season. But one can only hope.  

For those of you cheering for teams that have to go up against the Rangers lineup, well I apologize because that offense is going to produce A LOT of runs and Nelson Cruz will be in the heart of that lineup. And to those of you that picked up Cruz for your fantasy baseball team, you will be very happy with the results.


Random Predictions – AL

Who doesn’t love predictions? I know I do. I love mocking people for their outrageous claims but even more, I love making outrageous claims… and ending up right about them. Will my predictions be right? Only time will tell, but they do factor into my drafting and reaching of fantasy players. Some predictions will be bolder than others, especially my prediction in tomorrow’s post that says… well, you’ll have to wait for that one.

Here is my list of players that I predict bold outcomes for:

Baltimore Orioles – Matt Wieters will hit better than .280/.350/.450 with 20 homers. Adam Jones will go 25/10 or better. Mark Reynolds will hit below .200 again. Brian Matusz will pitch 210+ innings of sub-3.50 ERA, with 175+ strikeouts.

Boston Red Sox – Adrian Gonzalez will set career highs in Home Runs, RBI, runs, AVG/OBP/SLG, and win the MVP. Carl Crawford will be even better offensive season than he had in 2010. Daniel Bard will save 15 or more games. Daisuke Matsuzaka will not be starting games for the Red Sox in by August.

Chicago White Sox – Big league pitchers will stop throwing strikes to Alexei Ramirez and he will still swing and post an OBP that barely cracks .300. Adam Dunn will set a career high in home runs. Jake Peavy will make 25 or more starts and post an ERA below 3.75 with a K/9 over 8.0.

Cleveland Indians – Carlos Santana will be the best offensive catcher in the majors, hitting .290/.390/.470 or better with more than 20 homers. Shin-Soo Choo will be a top 5 MVP candidate. No other position player will be worth 3.0 fWAR or more and Orlando Cabrera will be off the team by the end of July.

Detroit Tigers – Ramon Santiago will be more valuable than Jhonny PeraltaAustin Jackson will take a minor step back before breaking out in 2012 and will be outperformed offensively by Casper WellsRyan Raburn will do like everyone else is predicting and break out this year. Detroit pitchers will be infuriated with the defense on the right-side of the field.

Los Angeles Angels – Vernon Wells will revert back to his 2009 form when he hit .260/.311/.400. Peter Bourjos is currently owned in 3.3% of ESPN leagues and will be owned in over 70% of fantasy leagues by mid-year, finishing with 40+ steals and 10+ homers. Dan Haren will be the best pitcher on the team.

Kansas City Royals – Melky Cabrera will again contend for the worst player in the Majors award. Alex Gordon will hit 25+ homers and post an OBP above .350. No starting pitcher will be worth 2.5 fWAR or higher. Tim Collins will have 75+ strikeouts out of the pen with a sub-3 ERA.

Minnesota Twins – Nick Blackburn will again post a +5 ERA but still start 25+ games. Alexi Casilla will struggle to post a positive fWAR. Delmon Young will break the 3.0 fWAR barrier, improving on last year’s performance. Jim Thome will again hit 25 homers and we will wonder why, again, he did not get 400+ plate appearances.

New York Yankees – Derek Jeter will have a bounce back season and hit at least .295/.365/.435 with 15 homers. Freddy Garcia will post a +5 ERA and not make it to 25 starts. Andruw Jones will hit 20+ homers and be worth 2.5 fWAR or higher. Jorge Posada will hit 15 or less homers and be worth 2.0 fWAR or less.

Seattle Mariners – I’m tired of seeing everyone predict Ichiro to bottom out this year. Ichiro will reach 200 hits, hit ovr .320 with 10+ homers and 40+ stolen bases. Miguel Olivo will fail to reach double-digit homers for the first time since 2005. Michael Pineda will be the 2nd most valuable starting pitcher. Brandon League will save 20+ games.

Tampa Bay Rays – Ben Zobrist will bounce backSean Rodriguez will gain shortstop eligibility and be a top 10 shortstop with at least 15 homers and 15 steals. Manny Ramirez hits .300/.400/.500 with 20+ homers. Dan Johnson will struggle to reach 400 PAs and the Rays will wish they signed Russell Branyan (his bold prediction tomorrow). Jeremy Hellickson will win 15 games with a sub-3.50 ERA and a K/BB of 4.0 or better. No pitcher will have 20 saves. It will be a true committee. For more of my Rays predictions click here.

Texas Rangers – Mike Napoli will retain catcher eligibility for next year and hit 30+ homers this year. Nelson Cruz will finish 3rd in MVP voting and hit at least .300/.370/.570 with 35+ homers with 25+ stolen bases and 10+ UZR. Elvis Andrus will hit 1 homer and fall outside the top-10 among fantasy shortstops. Derek Holland will win 12+ games and strike out 150+ with an ERA sub-4.00.

Toronto Blue Jays – The Jays 4th and 5th rotation spots will combine for an ERA over 5.00. Travis Snider will hit 25+ homers and post a +3.0 fWAR. Brett Cecil will be the best pitcher on the team. Aaron Hill will hit 30 homers.

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


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

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