Who is really the best baseball team in the majors? I honestly don't know but I try to figure that out by using basic and advanced statistics. I live for talking about baseball, it's my biggest drive in my life and I will jump on the opportunity to talk baseball with anyone, even with people who I don't really like. For me, Baseball is a piece of art that sits in my mind all day, ready to be painted on at any point of the day.

Monday, February 28, 2011

30 Teams: Cleveland Indians

By Mike Moritz

By no means am I expecting a play off appearance this year from the Cleveland Indians, but I do like their team for the future. In 2007, the Indians made the ALCS against the Red Sox but blew a three games to one lead and Boston went on to win the World Series. And since, the Indians have been on a downward spiral and won just 69 games in 2010. But they have a few prospects that you should keep your eye open for. This post is not so much about what their free agent and trade pickups and losses mean for the Indians (not that Cleveland made any huge moves), but rather what the future holds in store for the tribe.

But first: the biggest signing that Cleveland made was Orlando Cabrera. He was signed to a one-year deal worth $1 million and will probably be used as the primary second baseman but also as a utility infielder. Cabrera last year hit .263/.303/.354/.292 and just four homers. He has never been a get-on-base guy (career: .320 OBP) nor has he been a good BABIP guy (career: .286). This is a nice pickup though nothing huge about it. Expect about the same year but perhaps around eight homers since his HR/FB rate was a little low to his career: 4.3% to his 2010: 2.4%.

Michael Brantley was drafted in the 7th round of the 2005 draft by the Brewers but was traded in 2008 in the C.C. Sabathia trade. In the minors, Brantley's career slash line is .313/.406/.377. But he does more than just hit. He has never posted a walk rate below 10.4% in the minors. Overall, Brantley has very little power and his highest ISO in the minors was a mere .107 and currently has a just a .068 career mark. But that is perfectly OK because his job is to get on base, move up and score runs. His speed makes up for the loss of power, in his most recent full season in the minors, 2009, he had 46 steals in 51 chances. Brantley should be a good hitter in his career and should lead the Indians running game in years to come. His decent fielding and left handed pitching struggles are the only big things that are holding his value lower.

I can not say enough the young catching phenomenon Carlos Santana. The switching hitting catcher has power, plate discipline and should hit for a good average. In all of Santana's stops in the minor leagues, he posted an ISO under .212 just twice. Perhaps his most awesome stat from his minor league resume was the fact that he did not post a walk rate below 10.3% (shedding his two games in AA in 2008). It seems as though he took yet another leap in that stat catagory in 2010 in AAA where he posted his bested walk rate of an astonishing 18.3% before getting the call up to The Show. How did that translate into major league action? How about a 19.3% walk rate? Although he had just 192 PA, which I would not neccisarily consider a "small sample size", I can not reiterate how amazing that is. To back that up, also showed good pitch selection with a mere 22.4% O-Swing%. In case you were wondering, that absurd. Amazing. The one thing that even comes close to giving me a worrisome attitude toward Santana is his Contact% which was about 3% below the average at 77.3%. But honestly, that really should not mean anything and should improve with age, I don't see how it can't improve unless he just stops practicing. This is a special kid, simply put. For this year, I could see a .280 average or there about with about 25 homers and easily an OPB over .380. That is a ballsy projection for his OPB but I truely think that he can do it at his young age, 25, with his great plate discipline. Santana is coming off knee surgery to repair a torn LCL on his left knee that he suffered on a play at the plate in early August and went under the knife on August 6, 2010. This should not be an issue moving forward in his career, though.
Already one of my favorite players: Carlos Santana

It took a little while before Shin-Soo Choo could really get his career onto the band-wagon as he was hampered by injuries early in his major league pursuit, more specifically, his elbow. He had Tommy John surgery on September 25, 2007 and did not come back until May 31, 2008. No, Choo is not a pitcher, he is a right fielder who was signed as an amateur free-agent back in 2000 and was traded to the Indians in July of 2006 along with Shawn Nottingham for Ben Broussard. Choo then came back in 2008 for a slash line of .307/.397/.549/.402 with a .240 ISO, 11.9 BB%, 14 homers and 28 doubles in 370 PA. His first full season in the majors was great, .300/.394/.489/.389, 20 homers, 21 stolen bases and 38 doubles for a total of 5.0 WAR. But there was one problem that seem to hurt him in both 2008 and 2009: his strike out rate in 2008 was 24.6% and it rose in 2009 to 25.9%. But those strike out issues were dispelled in 2010 when he put his strike out rate down to 21.5% as Contact%, O-Contact% and Z-Contact% all got better signifying an improved plate discipline that was good to begin with. That should bode well for Choo. But for this year, I am not that high on him: since 2008, his LD% has gotten worse for three straight years; his GB% has been on the rise for, again, three years; his speed score (by Fangraphs) dropped from 6.1 in 2009 to 4.6 last year; his O-Contact% was up (2010: 62.5%, 2009: 54.3%) and with that, his O-Swing% was also up to 26.8% after 2009s 22.3% mark which means that if those two stats stay high, then he would just have weak hits. And that brings me to my last point (sorry to bore you), his strike out rate improved but his batting average did not and that is because his BABIP was .347. This was after 2008s .367 BABIP and 2009s .370 BABIP. At some point, even for hitters who have high BABIPs through their careers, a BABIP that high is likely to regress to the mean. It is so rare for a hitter to constantly hit for a BABIP around .370 and the .347 from Choo from last year started to show regression and I believe, also from looking back at the stats that I just mentioned, that Choo is due for a down year. Just my belief.

And let us not forget Grady Sizemore! He is two years removed from his most recent and "Grady-like" season and has since suffered multiple injuries including the big blow on his knee in May of last season. It is in question as to weather or not he can bounce back to All-Star status. If you would like to know more on Sizemore and where his career might take him from here, check out my post on him by clicking here.

Alex White is really the only young pitcher/pitching prospect that I like but I am not a HUGE fan of him (but I do like him, don't get me wrong), and, no offence, I basically have no faith Carlos Carrasco.

Some other players to keep an eye on are Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Nick Weglarz and Matt LaPorta. All of whom could be impact players in the future.

But for this year, the Indians should do the same, 70 wins is my projection.

And lastly, congratulations to Fausto Carmona! He was just named the opening day starter for the tribe. This will be his first opening day start.

Feel free to share your comments down below by posting a comment.

(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com, espn.com and baseballinjurytool.com)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

30 Teams: Milwaukee Brewers

By Simon Stracher

After their magical 2008 playoff run, the Milwaukee Brewers had to suffer with the agony of two sub .500 seasons. In 2011, General Manager Doug Melvin knew that this would most likely be their last season with slugger Prince Fielder, so he went all out in trying to bring Milwaukee a championship. The additions and subtractions that he made are as follows:


RHP Zack Greinke, RHP Shaun Marcum, RHP Takashi Saito, SS Yunieksy Betancourt, C Wil Nieves, OF Brandon Boggs, OF Mark Kotsay, OF Jeremy Reed, RHP Sean Green, IF Edwin Maysonet, C Shawn Riggans, RHP Eulogio de la Cruz, RHP Zack Segovia, RHP Justin James, C Mike Rivera


RHP Trevor Hoffman (Ret.), RHP Doug Davis (FA), RHP Dave Bush, LHP Chris Capuano, C Gregg Zaun, SS Alcides Escobar, RHP Carlos Villanueva, RHP Todd Coffey, 2B Brett Lawrie, OF Lorenzo Cain, RHP Jeremy Jeffress, UTIL Joe Inglett (FA), RHP Jake Odorizzi, RHP Adrian Rosario

The two biggest acquisitions are the trade of former Cy Young winner Zach Greinke, and the trade for former Blue Jays ace Shaun Marcum, who had a 3.64 ERA last season. The Brewers acquired Greinke for shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and right-handed pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress from the Brewers in exchange for Greinke, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and cash considerations. Cain and Escobar were the centerpieces of this deal, and both are former top prospects. Escobar is a career .250 hitter in 690 PAs in the majors, and batted .234 in 145 games last season. When he played Triple A in 2009, he stole 42 bases, but so far in the majors he has only stolen 14. He projects to be a .275 hitter with solid defense and 20-30 stolen bases. He has little to no power and has a career 5.8% walk rate.

However, the most important prospect in this deal is outfielder Lorenzo Cain. In his small cup of coffee in '10 he had a triple slash line of .306/.348/.415 in 147 ABs. On the surface that looks pretty solid, but underneath there are some real problems. Cain had a .370 BABIP, 70 points higher than the league average BABIP. He also had a 5.7% walk rate, which is subpar. All in all, the the Brewers got a great value in this trade. Cain and Escobar are two solid, but unspectacular prospects, and Greinke is a top-10 pitcher in the game today.

The Brewers also traded for former Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum. He had an excellent year in '10, a year after missing all of '09 due to Tommy John surgery. He is a player to watch in 2011, and has the chance to become a minor ace. In return, they traded Canadian second baseman Brett Lawrie, the 16th pick of the 2006 draft. He was also number 47 on Keith Law's top 100 prospect list in 2011. He projects to be a .290 hitter with decent power and good speed. Overall he is a good player, but the the Brewers do not need him, as they have the 29 year-old Rickie Weeks.

This brings me to my next paragraph. This offseason, the Brewers signed Rickie Weeks to a 4-year $38.5 million dollar contract, with an option for 2015 that could push it to $50 million. Prior to 2010, Weeks had never played more than 130 games in a season. But in 2010, Weeks played 160 games and had a 6.1 WAR and a wRC+ of 128, which are superb numbers. Weeks year was no fluke, as his, "average speed of the ball off his bat of his big flies was 106.1 MPH, compared to the 103.3 MPH major league average. The average distance on his dingers was 406.2 feet, while the MLB average was 393.5 feet" (David Golebiewski, Fangraphs). Simply put, Weeks was destroying the ball. If Weeks can stay relatively healthy, this can be a huge win for the Brew Crew. My prediction for 2011; 22 homeruns, a .265 average, a .370 OBP, and 5 WAR. Those are great numbers, and Weeks has the potential to do even greater. The Brewers got a steal in this extension.

But all is not good for these Brewers. Their star first baseman, Prince Fielder, is in his contract year and has made it clear that he will test the market. His agent, Scott Boras, is notorious for holding out for the best deal and it seems unlikely that the small market Brewers could afford the $200 million contract that Fielder seeks. GM Doug Melvin made all the right moves so that the Brewers can contend this year, and they have a real good shot of winning the world series. With a fearsome starting rotation of Greinke, Marcum, and Yovani Gallardo and a formidable lineup consisting of Fielder, Ryan Braun, Weeks, and Corey Hart, the Brewers will compete with the Phillies for the NL Pennant. Expect 92 wins and a season that ends in the NLCS.

I hope you enjoyed this post on the Brewers. My new 30 Teams post will be coming in in about 3-4 days, so make sure to read that one too.

(Statistics in courtesy of: www.fangraphs.com, www.mlbtraderumors.com, www.baseballreference.com, and www.espn.com).

Friday, February 25, 2011

30 Teams: Texas Rangers

By Mike Moritz

As we all know, the long time Texas Ranger Michael Young wants out of Texas. After the Rangers had signed Adrian Beltre to a five-year, $80 million contract, the plan was to still use Young as an everyday player but he would be a utility/DH player. That is clearly not okay with Young, as he has been requesting a trade for about a month now. Trade talks have been quiet of late, though and there are not many proper suiters for Young. 

The Rangers lost to the Giants in the World Series this past year, 4-1, as we all know and Cliff Lee, a post season master was beaten twice. It was thought that if the Yankees did not sign Cliff Lee, then he would go back to Texas which was, again, not the case since he latched on with the Phillies and their historic pitching rotation. 

But looking back at this loss, it seems like it might be a good thing that Texas (and the Yankees) missed out on him. If Lee had signed a big six or seven year contract, the contract would most likely back fire down the road on Rangers (or Yankees). He is already 32-years old so perhaps the first and maybe the second year of his contract might look "Lee-like" but after that, when he reaches 34 and 35 etc., when he might start losing his "stuff", then the contract becomes garbage. It would have been a risky contract to say the least and in a few years, Texas GM John Daniels might look back and smile on the fact that he did not bring Lee to back to Texas for the long term. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I would love to have Cliff Lee in my rotation, even if he is 32 years old, for five years, just as the Phillies did. Would I rather that Lee signed with the Yankees than the Phillies, or Rangers, or any other baseball team? Of course! What Yankee fan would not love to have a pitching artist like Cliff Lee? But on a seven-year deal that the Yankees offered him? I don't think so. 

Let us keep a level head though, missing out on Cliff Lee is a shame. But let's go through some moves that the Rangers did make.

They signed catcher Yorvit Torrealba to a two-year, $6.25 million contract. Of course, the Rangers would love to see Torrealba catch at least 100 games this year, something that he has only done once in his ten year career. Coming off a season in which the right handed hitter posted his best career WAR, 2.5, he hit .271/.343/.378/.320 (which was somewhat inflated by his .321 BABIP), I am sure that the Rangers are very happy with their catching situation as they could do much worse. But the catching situation went from OK to good with a trade that brought Mike Napoli back the AL West.

Napoli was originally traded to the Blue Jays and was with them for not even a week, five days, before being traded again. The Rangers picked him up and sent 31 year-old relief pitcher Frank Francisco back to Toronto. Once again, Napoli will probably be platooning with someone as he did with Jeff Mathis with the Angels. 

The reining AL MVP and Texas Ranger left fielder, Josh Hamilton. Hamilton had a .359 average, 32 homers and a .447 wOBA and led the majors with an 8.0 WAR. 

The Rangers also signed Brandon Webb and Arthur Rhoads to one-year deals, as well as bringing Darren O'Day back to Texas on a one-year deal as well. The Rangers brought some players on minor league contracts, the likes of Endy Chavez and Seth McClung as well as many others.

The Rangers have a pretty good farm system and there is one guy who I would like to talk about.  Jake Skole is an outfielder, center mostly, who is ranked 8th on Marc Hulet's Fangraphs Texas Rangers Top 10 prospects. Hulet had this to say:

"A football player in high school, Skole did not focus solely on baseball until turning pro. Despite his split attention as an amateur, the outfielder showed signs of being more advanced than expected. He posted a walk rate of 10.1 BB% in short-season ball. His inexperience does show with pitch recognition and struck out at a rate of 25.9 K%. He gets out on his front foot with off-speed pitches, but he his good bat speed (which currently generates line-drive power) helps him compensate. Skole did not show much home-run pop in his debut (.095 ISO) but could develop above-average power with more experience. Defensively, he might stick in center field but will more than likely end up in right field. He has a good arm. Skole should open 2011 in low-A ball."

Although I have no notes of my own on Skole, which is kind of pathetic, I really like this kid. All it took was to read this paragraph by Marc Hulet to get me to do some further research. I found that his swing consists of the following: he stays tall, he has a very short path to the ball (my favorite part of his swing), and that he generates good bat speed. All very good notes to have in my opinion. You can check out Marc Hulet's Top 10 Ranger prospects by clicking here.

I'm nuetral on the Rangers this year. I think that the Beltre signing overlooked the loss of Cliff Lee to an extent. The pitching rotation is in solid shape, if not, decent. The rotation has solid pitchers but no real clear ace. We have no idea how Brandon Webb will do given his shoulder troubles. My projection is that they will fight for a play off spot but the Athletics will be very close through the whole season.

86-90 wins is my final projection. 

(Statistics and additional information in courtesy of: fangraphs.com, espn.com, and jbrynsvold.blogspot.com)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

30 Teams: Seattle Mariners

By Mike Moritz
Edited by Jack E. Cody

Coming into the 2010 season, the Seattle Mariners were favorites to win the American League West division. GM Jack Zduriencik retooled the roster by bringing in Cliff Lee in the big trade that included Roy Halladay going to the Phillies, also bringing in Milton Bradly from the Chicago Cubs. In addition, Seattle signed Chone Figgins to a four-year deal, and Jack Wilson, Ken Griffy Jr., David AardsmaErik BedardRyan Garko and Eric Byrnes each to one year deals.  

By July, Cliff Lee had already hit the DL once for a 15-day stint, with Milton Bradley hitting .212 with a 28% strike out rate, and with Figgins hitting .231 with 0 homers (not that he's a power guy anyway). Jack Wilson also spent time on the DL, Griffey Jr. hit .184 and retired on June 3, and just forget about Bedard since he did not pitch a single inning in 2010. Oh yeah, and Eric Byrnes hit .094 before being released in May. All of that led to the trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers on July 9th and brought back some players including first baseman Justin Smoak, a top prospect.

By the end of the 2010 season, Bradley had been placed on the Restricted List and Figgins posted an average of .259 (he had a much better second half) with just one, lonely home run.

Even some of the original Mariners not acquired in 2010 had disastrous seasons. The Converted third baseman Jose Lopez posted a .239/.270/.339/.268 line with just eleven long balls and a total WAR of .7. Franklin Gutierrez hit .245/.303/.363/.300 with twelve homers and a 24.1% strike out rate. On the other hand, he did have 25 stolen bases and a 41.7% fly ball rate. But his offensive WAR (which just measures how many runs a player contributes for just offense) was -7.7.

It was no surprise that the Mariners finished with just 61 wins even though Felix Hernandez won the AL Cy Young with a 2.27 ERA and 232 strike outs in 249.2 innings pitched. However, due to the Mariners' terrible offense that scored just 513 runs over the whole season, he only had thirteen wins and twelve losses. To put that into perspective, no other team in the majors scored below 600 runs. 

This off season, though, was a little better. The Mariners first named Eric Wedge the new manager, and then later re-signed Erik Bedard and Jack Wilson to one-year deals again. They also signed catcher  Miguel Olivo and shortstop Brendan Ryan to two year deals. The Mariners originally got Ryan from the Cardinals in a trade for Maikel Cleto, who was one of the better prospects in the Mariners system last year, ranked number nine by Marc Hulet's 2010 edition of Mariners Top 10 prospects on Fangraphs.

Though I haven't even mentioned Ichiro in this post, he is still the best hitter on the Mariners and continues to be one of the best in the game.

Finally, the Mariners also signed Adam Kennedy, Manny Delcarmen and Chris Ray to minor league contracts. 

Seattle's closer David Aardsma had hip surgery just about a month ago but should be ready for opening day. Seattle was looking to trade the right handed pitcher but that has obviously been put on hold. Aardsma last year, in his second season with the M's, had 31 saves (out of the 61 Seattle wins) with 5 blown saves, a 3.44 ERA and 49 strike outs in 49.2 innings.

Lastly, the Mariners have two top prospects in Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda. I'll just talk about Pineda to save time. 

Pineda is 21 years old. He has a mid-to-high 90's fastball and an above average change up that is 84-85 mph. He also carries an average slider. He uses his strong core and legs to drive through and add that extra velocity to all his pitches. He avoids deep counts and walks by pounding the strike zone constantly with a fastball that possesses a lot of life and sink to it. He has great deception due to his max-effort pitching motion and pitch speed deferential. On the other hand, there are a lot of injury concerns for him. His very jerky motion should be a worry for Mariners fans and he has already had significant elbow and forearm injuries. All the injuries aside, this is what he has done in the minor leagues thus far:


Mariners (A)

Mariners (R)

Mariners (A+)

Mariners (AA)

Mariners (AAA)




Those are some really gaudy numbers. I think that if he fixes his pitching mechanics, then he should be a top-of-the-line starter. In Seattle, though, he is obviously going to be behind King Felix

That's my shpiel for the Seattle Mariners. My projection is 70 wins. I don't think they can contend because, put simply, the offense is just not good enough.

(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com and espn.com