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The Pre-Season Predictions: 2014 Edition

March 30, 2014

I’ve been terrible at these but regardless, I shall continue. I am going to be a lot more concise than I’ve been in the past. So without further adieu, the predictions:

American League West

1. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – It has to work out for these guys eventually. There is too much talent to really continue to perform so far below expectations. This division is very close but I think the Halos squeak through.

2. Texas Rangers – Late season swoon after late season swoon the Rangers promise to be very interesting with the addition of Prince Fielder. The pitching is a mess and a half but this team can score runs and I expect them to do so.

3. Oakland A’s – The loss of Jarrod Parker really dampened my expectations from first to third. Why because if he is a four win pitcher that very well could be the difference. Too little room for error with a weak second rotation and little pitching depth, the bullpen can’t always pitch.

4. Seattle Mariners – Robinson Cano is a fine ballplayer, the Mariners are not a fine team.

5. Houston Astros – They will continue to test the prowess of super fans with tantalizing trivia questions like “can you name more than six people on the Astros?”

American League Central

1. Despite their best efforts at giving away this division – I don’t like the Fielder trade, Miguel Cabrera lost some serious lineup protection, and Doug Fister was given away for nothing – they will win it.

2. Kansas City Royals – I go through these each and every year, but I like the Royals. I really do. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas put it together. Love their pen.

3. Cleveland Indians – I believe in Terry Francona and many argue that Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher will have bounce back years. I don’t see it. I see decline. The team sinks in the standings with them.

4. Minnesota Twins – Some nice additions. Phil Hughes will be a nice pickup and make the Twinkies brass look very smart. Some interesting pieces here to watch going forward, this division may soon be theirs.

5. Chicago White Sox – Outside of Chris Sale is there really a reason to watch this team?

American League East

1. Tampa Bay Rays – Last year I said something to the effect that anyone could win this division – though I can’t find where I said that. I feel the same is true this year when it will be the always steady Tampa Bay.

2. Boston Red Sox – The returning champs bring back a good squad, but they have a few holes and need a bit of luck. Still like them to do well.

3. New York Yankees – They added a billion some odd dollars in payroll, it won’t turn into a billion wins, or even enough to win the division. They are playing a losing game, buying free agents instead of developing stars. With guys being locked up young this game doesn’t work anymore and won’t in 2014.

4. Baltimore Orioles – I think this team has played over their head. Then again I’ve felt that way for a while now and maybe it is time for me to adjust my expectations.

5. Toronto Blue Jays – They added a lot of pieces, many of them the pieces Miami added two seasons ago. Now their added pieces look pretty pathetic.

National League West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers – The Yankees of the National League/West Coast. They are too good to fail.

2. San Francisco Giants – You can’t count out the Giants, they figure crap out when they shouldn’t.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks – The best player in the NL lives here, Paul Goldschmidt won’t propel Arizona to a championship.

4. Colorado Rockies – If things went really well I think Colorado could be a surprise team. It means a lot of things go really well, I don’t see the stars aligning that well.

5. San Diego Padres – The thought processes of this front office completely baffle me.

National League Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals – The addition of Peter Bourjos was great as it frees up the infield logjam. The Cardinals have so much talent in the minors too it is conceivable they could play at an elite level for the next five years plus.

2. Cincinnati Reds – The Reds stood pat and didn’t do much this offseason while losing a big piece in Shin Soo Choo. I don’t like the Reds but I dislike the other teams in this division more.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates also stood relatively pat. Their failure to sign A.J. Burnett will haunt them and it will haunt them by finishing in third and out of the playoff picture.

4. Chicago Cubs – I like this team. I don’t know why exactly but I do.

5. Milwaukee Brewers – It’ll be interesting to see how Ryan Braun does. Nothing else about the Brew Crew ought to be interesting.

National League East

1. Washington Nationals – They are good. They had a bad year last year where everything that could go wrong did go wrong. See Red Sox, 2013 for their storyline.

2. Atlanta Braves – The pitching injuries hurt, but Ervin Santana is a nice pickup late in the game. This team is very good.

3. New York Mets – Third place? Why not?

4. Miami Marlins – This team will be very good very soon. They will win a World Series title then all the champs will be playing for the Yankees or Red Sox within six months.

5. Philadelphia Phillies – There is no team I’d rather not watch than the Phillies. They make the Yankees look youthful.

American League Most Valuable Player

Mike Trout. He is amazing and Cabrera’s numbers will sink without Prince.

American League Cy Young Award

Justin Verlander. He is good. He is on a good team. He wins.

American League Rookie of the Year Award

Masahiro Tanaka. He won’t deserve it. He really isn’t a rookie even. But I expect he’ll put enough numbers up to justify it.

American League Surprise and Bust Players

Mike Moustakas will get back on track while Carlos Beltran will look his age and wither in the bright lights of New York – again (though he really wasn’t bad at all with the Mets, but narratives are narratives).

National League Most Valuable Player

Paul Goldschmidt gets better and better. He wins it.

National League Cy Young Award 

Can you really go against Clayton Kershaw? No. No you cannot.

National League Rookie of the Year

Kolten Wong. Does a Rookie of the Year award wipe out the game ending pick off? We may get to find out.

National League Surprise and Bust Players

Casey McGehee had a big year in Japan, he will have a surprisingly big year in Miami. The bust will be Curtis Granderson, bad signing by the Mets.

The Playoffs

Wild cards from the American League will be Boston and Texas. From the National League the entrants will be the Giants and Braves. I like Texas to come out of the American League – realizing the folly of picking a game 163 before a game one – and San Francisco to succeed in the senior circuit contest. The Divisional Series will feature Tampa Bay against Texas with the Rays advancing while the Angels and Tigers will see Detroit move on. In the National League, it’ll be a great divisional series with the Giants and Dodgers tangoing, Los Angeles advancing, and then the Cardinals getting past the Nats. The ALCS will see the Tigers get past the Rays, while in the NLCS the Dodgers will slip past the Cards.

The World Series

Don’t see how the Dodgers can’t win this. The Tigers will make it pretty tough on them but ultimately the Dodgers are your 2014 World Series Champions.

Pedro Figueroa Released

December 20, 2013

To make room for new acquisition Chris Gimenez, the A’s have elected to release left-handed pitcher Pedro Figueroa. Figueroa seemed to be clinging to a roster spot for a while, never materializing the way A’s scouts had envisioned. The 28-year old pitched three innings with Oakland in 2013, impressing no one with his 12.00 ERA in line with a 12.71 FIP, though really with three innings does it mean anything? He saw more time with Oakland in 2012 going 21 2/3 innings of 3.32 ERA baseball that were quite shaky as his 5.08 FIP would attest as the peripherals were an ugly 5.8 K/9, 6.2 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9. So he ends his Athletics career with a grand total of 24 2/3 innings of 6.2 K/9, 6.6 BB/9 and 1.5 HR/9 baseball for an ERA of 4.38 and FIP of 6.01. Good riddance.

In Sacramento he pitched more admirably with 59 1/3 innings (all in relief save for one start) where he again struggled with control (5.0 BB/9) while having modest strikeout numbers (5.0 K/9) and ERA (4.10) and an ugly HR/9 rate (1.4) and FIP (5.29). It is telling that here is a left-handed pitcher and the A’s didn’t even bother DFA’ing him but instead released him. Clearly they don’t see much to salvage in the Dominican who has been a part of the organization since 2003.

A’s Claim Chris Gimenez

December 20, 2013

Not sure what to make of this. Catcher is not a position where I felt the A’s were lacking with John Jaso, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt all in the fold. Despite what one would assume is quite surprising depth, the A’s today claimed catcher Chris Gimenez off of waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays. Gimenez has failed to inspire in his time in the Majors hitting a collective .199/.292/.293 in 380 plate appearances across five seasons. He has been worth a total of -0.1 WAR in his career, hitting to a .269 wOBA and 65 wRC+ while proving adept at striking out to a 25.3% K% clip.

Gimenez who spent all but four plate appearances last year with the Durham Bulls (he went 1-for-3 with a walk for Tampa Bay) hit to a .224/.350/.305 slash line in the International League with a .316 wOBA and 93 wRC+. I don’t see any way one could justify him supplanting any of the three existing catchers. I assume that the A’s try to sneak him through waivers and hope he accepts a MiLB assignment, otherwise I don’t make much sense of this especially in light of the fact that with a full 40-man roster, someone else has to go.

The Top 2%: An Oakland A’s Hall of Fame

December 20, 2013

I love Dave Cameron as even if I don’t agree with him his posts make you think. Yesterday he had a great post about the underrepresentation of 1960′s born baseball players in the Hall of Fame in Fangraphs. This is my generation of ballplayers so I took particular disdain with it. In the article he highlighted that basically one to two percent of MLB players are elected writing,

“I have no problem with the Hall of Fame being reserved for the top 1-2%, as that makes it an exclusive club and a legitimate honor to be chosen. This seems like the kind of standard that is worth upholding, and gives us a reasonable range of what a “big hall” or “small hall” might look like. At the minimum, we should accept the top 1%, and at the maximum, the top 2%.”

Yesterday, I talked about how I liked what the Brewers were doing to honor their history with their Wall of Fame, which honored players who made significant contributions to the Brew Crew over the years but did so largely by sticking around, not necessarily accumulating amazing numbers. Guys who would be important to a given franchise, but may (or more likely, will) be forgotten by history in the greater scheme of the game of baseball. What if instead of a Wall of Fame, we look at a Hall of Fame. Who are Oakland’s best players of all time? Who would be enshrined, in this franchise, one of the more successful in the American League? Here is who and I divide it into “small Hall” and “big Hall”, with of course the former all being members of the latter. For the purposes of determining who is best, I used Fangraphs’ WAR calculation.

Small Hall: Sal Bando, Vida Blue, Bert Campaneris, Eric ChavezJason GiambiRickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Mark McGwire and Dwayne Murphy.

Big Hall: Jose Canseco, Mark Ellis, Dave Henderson, Tim HudsonCarney Lansford, Joe Rudi, Terry Steinbach, Dave Stewart, Gene Tenace and Barry Zito.

Interesting group of guys. On the outside looking in is Dennis Eckersley who gets burned likely because WAR is so derived from counting stats, his WAR of 18.6 being accumulated in just 525 appearances, while Dave Henderson had 695 games to get up to 18.8. Surprising really just how few pitchers there are for a team known so much for developing starting pitching.

Oakland Makes Eleven-Thousandth Trade With Washington

December 19, 2013

Billy Beane has again made a deal with Mike Rizzo. While it may seem like the eleven-thousandth trade between the two clubs in recent weeks/years, it is in fact the seventh trade between the two. And like A.J. Cole and Kurt Suzuki before him, Corey Brown again marks another guy who has gone from team to team and back again as today the A’s acquired Brown for cash considerations.

Brown originally dealt to Washington with Henry Rodriguez in exchange for Josh Willingham, returns to Oakland having recently been DFA’d by the Nats. Brown was originally a first round pick (59th overall) for the A’s out of Oklahoma State, a pick they had back in the Type A free-agent days as compensation for losing one probable Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. Brown has done little at the MLB level with Washington, with whom it he made his MLB debut in 2011, since participating in a total of 36 games with 45 plate appearances of .175/.250/.400 hitting with a .283 wOBA and 77 wRC+. He has been amazingly somehow worth 0.2 WAR in his career, during which Davey Johnson used him in all three outfield positions. He has suffered through a .217 BABIP at the MLB level which can be attributed to poor luck though his 33.3% K% can be fully attributed to a lack of understanding as to how to hit major league pitching.

Given that Brown has to stick on Oakland’s roster or be DFA’d and thrown to the waiver wire for all to pluck from, given that the A’s are no longer afraid of letting such guys go, he’ll get a fair shot in Phoenix this spring and should he fail to capitalize on that opportunity, he will again meet a fate of being DFA’d.

This move does nothing to move the A’s towards winning a third straight AL West crown as Brown doesn’t even offer the promise of “well he crushed MiLB pitching!” with a total mark of .267/.351/.484 with 123 home runs in 3,090 plate appearances, and a less than amazing total .254/.333/.461 batting line in Triple-A where he has hit 16 home runs in 1,602 trips to the plate.

Oakland’s Brewers Wall of Honor

December 19, 2013

I just liked a nonsensical title like that but today the Milwaukee Brewers announced that they are creating a Brewers Wall of Honor which is meant to recognize players who made contributions to the Brewers by being mainstays not necessarily the prime attraction. As a baseball guy, I love this. How many times do you with your friends shout out the names of somewhat obscure players to “Hall of the Very Good” types, and reminisce? Now Brewers fans can do that for the guys who were outsized players in their memories if not in their accomplishments.

As reported by Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the requirements for entrance are quite simple:

Individuals will qualify for the Wall of Honor by meeting any of the following criteria:

*2,000 or more plate appearances

*1,000 or more innings pitched

*250 appearances as a pitcher

*Winner of a major award (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, or Fireman of the Year)

*Manager of a pennant-winning team

*Individuals memorialized with statues on the Miller Park Plaza

*Members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame who played for or managed the Brewers

I wonder what this would look like for the Oakland A’s? I imagine quite a few cool names. So let’s change a few things. As much as I want to honor Oakland A’s HOFers who played for the Brewers (Rollie Fingers we are looking at you!) we’ll change any Brewer specific mention to an Oakland A’s one. Here goes the 76 A’s who make it to the Oakland “Brewers Wall of Honor”:

Catchers: Mike Heath, Ramon Hernandez, Jeff Newman, Terry Steinbach, Kurt Suzuki, Gene Tenace.

First basemen: Tony Armas, Daric Barton, Jason Giambi, Scott Hatteberg, Mark McGwire.

Second basemen: Mark Ellis, Mike Gallego, Dick Green, Joe Morgan, Tony Phillips.

Shortstops: Mike Bordick, Bert Campaneris, Bobby Crosby, Miguel Tejada, Walt Weiss.

Third basemen: Sal Bando, Scott Brosius, Eric Chavez, Wayne Gross, Carney Lansford.

Outfielders: Jose Canseco, Coco Crisp, Mike Davis, Ben Grieve, Dave Henderson, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Stan Javier, Mark Kotsay, Terrence Long, Dwayne Murphy, Billy North, Joe Rudi.

Designated hitters: Orlando Cepeda, Jack Cust, Willie McCovey, Mitchell Page, Matt Stairs.

Pitchers: Andrew Bailey, Jerry Blevins, Vida Blue, Chad Bradford, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Keith Foulke, Buddy Groom, Ken Holtzman, Rick Honeycutt, Tim Hudson, Catfish Hunter, Matt Keough, Billy Koch, Rick Langford, Paul Lindblad, Steve McCatty, Mike Mohler, Mark Mulder, Gene Nelson, Mike Norris, Blue Moon Odom, Dave Stewart, Huston Street, Don Sutton, Billy Taylor, Bob Welch, Curt Young, Barry Zito.

Managers: Al Dark, Tony LaRussa, Dick Williams.

Two Pitchers: A Comparison

December 17, 2013

Here are two pitchers and their performance the past two years:

G IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 LOB% GB%
RP A 145 139.0 6.28 2.14 0.52 77.5% 60.2%
RP B 140 137.1 9.44 3.60 0.72 80.3% 36.8%
ERA FIP xFIP WAR SD MD SD/MD Salary ’14
RP A 2.72 3.35 3.50 2.2 86 15 5.73 $10.8M
RP B 2.56 3.24 3.64 2.1 70 13 5.38 $7.5M

There isn’t a lot of daylight between them in most categories. Relief pitcher A, has more games and slightly more innings pitched. Pitcher B, has more strikeouts by a wide margin, though he has more control issues and problems with the home run. One pitcher is an extreme groundball guy, the other extreme flyball. Results though are what ultimately matter and both pitchers have sub-3.00 ERAs. Their FIPs think both are worse than that but are in the same neighborhood with one another. When it comes to the task of being a reliever and shutting down opponents both pitchers do an incredible job. How much they are being paid to do that job is the real big difference here.

The $3.3M difference between the two (RP B’s is a projected arbitration figure) is the big stark difference. $3.3M gets you on today’s free agent market a little north of half a win, far less than the one-tenth of a win separation between these two.

Why did the A’s not re-sign relief pitcher B (Grant Balfour)? Why did they opt to spend $3.3M more (an amount that could have been spent in the bullpen to acquire Joba Chamberlain ($2.5M) or LaTroy Hawkins ($2.5M)) for relief pitcher A (Jim Johnson)? Balfour who has proven success in Oakland, is a fan favorite, a guy who generates revenue while also thankfully doing his job? A guy who said,

“It’s been great, the fans here have been great to me. We’ll see what happens. You always want to come back where you enjoy playing, but it’s not up to me. I’ve had three solid years here, and I feel I’ve given them everything I have right up to the last pitch.”

And a guy with teammates who say things like this,

“He’s been phenomenal. One of the best closers in the game. It’s been fun watching him. It would be different seeing him do his deal for the other side if he leaves, but he’s got to do whatever is best for him and his family.” (Brett Anderson)

and,

“Balf is the leader of the bullpen.” (Stephen Vogt)

Why do you let that guy walk, for the pleasure of paying someone else more? I just don’t understand. In the myriad of trades the only one that made no sense was acquiring Johnson. With Balfour signing a two-year $15M deal with the Orioles today it makes even less sense. I think Johnson will be fine, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it – especially with a team whose fans are exasperated with seeing their heroes leave town.

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