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Ryan Braun – Here we go…again?

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Ryan Braun – Here we go…again?

Posted on 12 February 2013 by Trish Vignola

Major League Baseball’s investigation into the widening Biogenesis scandal has become more complicated. Tuesday, four more players, including Brewers superstar Ryan Braun, were linked to the now-defunct Florida clinic alleged to have distributed performance-enhancing substances.


Here we go again.

Yahoo Sports named Braun, Orioles’ third baseman – Danny Valencia and Yankees’ catcher – Francisco Cervelli in a report as being included in handwritten logs of clinic operator Anthony Bosch. Mariners’ catcher (and former Yankees’ farm hand) Jesus Montero also appears in the clinic’s records as the New York Daily News reported.

At the rate the Yankees are going, I’ll be behind the dish this year.

Is it me or is inclusion of Braun, the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player, on this list as frustrating as Alex Rodriguez? Braun won last season an appeal of a positive test. An arbitrator ruled his urine sample had not been handled properly. Although it may or may not be significant that, unlike the previous names surfaced, there were no specific illegal substances listed next to Braun’s name. Nonetheless, can’t these guys stay home and stay out of trouble? There was a number next to his name which many have interpreted as dollar amounts he might have paid or been billed for undisclosed reasons.

I don’t want someone to be guilty until proven innocent, but come on.

The Miami New Times had previously named Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez and Cesar Carrillo, as well as three players who have previously been suspended for use of illegal substances: Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon and Yasmani Grandal.

At that time, MLB confirmed that it had been independently investigating Biogenesis and that it planned to attempt to interview any player whose name surfaced in connection with the lab. The Commissioner’s Office released a statement Tuesday night, saying: “We have an active ongoing investigation in Florida. Until that is completed we can’t comment on any of the details or information that has surfaced.”

Yahoo reported that it had been given three documents by a former Biogenesis employee with Braun’s name attached. One matchef a list the New Times posted online with Braun’s name redacted and Cervelli and Valencia cut off. Another showed Braun on a line connected to the notation “RB 20-30K.” That is similar to how Bosch listed the amounts owed by other players, although, in this case, the number was markedly higher than most.

Added by Yahoo, “Later in the document are multiple mentions of Chris Lyons, one of Braun’s attorneys during the 2011-12 offseason when he fought a positive drug test. While Braun never contested the findings of the test, which found elevated testosterone levels in his urine, a 50-game suspension was overturned after chain-of-custody issues arose from the test-taker keeping the specimen in his basement over the weekend instead of immediately shipping it to a testing lab. Braun denied use of testosterone publicly. … When reached by Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday evening, Lyons declined comment.

The third record is a letter from Bosch that appears to be Juan Nunez, a former runner for the ACES sports agency that represents Cabrera, Cruz and Gonzalez. Though undated, it congratulates ‘Juan’ on ‘the MVP award’ – a possible reference to Cabrera’s All-Star Game MVP – and continues: ‘This smells like the ‘Braun’ advantage.’”

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Posted on 21 January 2013 by Will Emerson

When Jack Zduriencik completed the deal that landed the Mariners Michael Morse, he was not applauded for his efforts. In fact, the countdown to his dismissal as the Mariner general manager was started or perhaps the clock was just sped up a bit.


The Mariners and their lowly offense needed a power bat and Jackie Z went out and got a power bat. But of course that is not the whole story surrounding the trade, because there is more than one side to every trade. What the Mariners had to give up is of course also a big factor in evaluating the trade. They gave up John Jaso. Now, in theory, that looks okay, in that, this does improve the Mariner offense. Sure they now have one catcher on their roster, Jesus Montero, and he is someone that they don’t want as an everyday catcher. Now, would Mariners fans rather have Justin Upton or Giancarlo Stanton? Sure, who wouldn’t? But Upton would not go to Seattle (can’t imagine why) despite JZ’s best efforts, so you can’t fault him for that. But overall, in the grand scheme of things, are we being a bit too harsh on old Z? I mean maybe he is actually an evil genius. Not every plan or idea that seems bad or “off” ends up being bad down the road, right? Does a little thing called Moneyball, ring any bells?

Yeah, Brad Pitt, er Billy Beane, was met with some pretty strong criticisms when he started his wackadoo advanced stat based scheme. Jeremy Giambi? Scott Hatteberg? An outside of his prime Dave Justice? Fans and critics were not exactly jumping on board and lauding Beane’s maneuvers and cockamamie on base percentage talk. He was making moves and evaluating players in a way that no one else was. And yeah, Beane and that whole cockamamie (boy, I sure do like the word cockamamie), hair-brained scheme of his was eventually the talk of the town and Brad Pitt was playing him in a movie. And I think I speak for most men when I say that having Brad Pitt play us in a movie is the dream. But, enough about Beane, let’s get back to Jackie Z. Maybe, just maybe, old Z has a plan. Perhaps, just perhaps, Zduriencik is an evil genius mastermind. Creating his own brand of baseball…Funnyball (we can work on the name later)!

With the Mariners continually finishing at the bottom of the league in offensive production clearly they needed some good bats. So who does he get? Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay and Michael Morse. All four do have bats and can swing them, you have to grant that. But in the case of all four players they are not good fielders and as far as the bat swinging is concerned they are, well, how do I put this delicately, past their prime. Also, of the four, only Morales is not over 30, but he will turn 30 this upcoming June. Okay, so here’s what we got- Four players who are 1) outfielders/ first baseman but do not play either position particularly well 2) in, or will be in, their 30s and 3) only one-dimensional hitters at best. To our simplistic mind we cannot look at this and see the brilliant plan that is unfolding in Seattle. It might as well be one of those equations Will Hunting figures out while washing floors at MIT. You want to complicate the equation even more? This is not even counting the players the Mariners already have in place!

Mike Carp? Justin Smoak? Eric Thames? Casper Wells? Michael Saunders? Ever heard of ‘em? Yeah, I know, the possibilities here are endless. Now I don’t like batting average as a telling stat, per se, but none of these players hit over .247 last season with the Mariners. Not one of them got a hit even once every four at  bats?! Well, they must have added something else then, right? Like they got on base a bunch, right? Wrong. The highest OBP of the bunch was .312. .312! Of course with averages that low, the OBPs are decent, I guess, if you choose to look at it that way. None of them knocked in more than 57 runs and only Saunders, of this group, scored more than 50 runs. But since no one seemed to generally get on base for the Mariners, RBIs and runs would be hard to come by. Sort of a chicken and the egg thing. So we can’t really see how Funnyball will work just yet. But we can sort of see the shaping of  Zduriencik’s plan, can’t we?

So Funnyball ( I will be happily accepting ideas for a new moniker for this) is gonna revolutionize the way we look at baseball and building baseball teams into contenders. Clearly, and I am just going on what I have seen so far, Funnyball is all about stockpiling designated hitter types. I’m telling ya, revolutionary! Think about it! Small market teams are always looking for a way to compete with the resources they have. Building a team around young pitching prospects and good defense? It’s been done. Building a team around good defense and speed? I’ve seen it a hundred times. But, building a team around hitting, and not 1927 New York Yankees hitting, but for the most part, mediocre at best, hitting while ignoring speed and defense pretty much altogether? No one one has had the brass buttons or cojones to be so bold as to build a team that way. Building a roster while basically ignoring any and all statistcal data that is out there. It’s unheard of! No one has done it! No one, that is, until Jack Zduriencik.

So, yeah, it’s easy to mock JZ and say he is a fool that will be out of a job come October, but maybe we should give this a chance folks. The plan just seems so outright nonsensical and ridiculous that there has to be something we’re not seeing, right? Something only Jack sees? There just has to be!  There is no other explanation for it. Sure, like most revolutionary ideas that will come to turn a sport on its heels, this will be a wait and see type of deal. You know the old saying, ‘”The Astrodome wasn’t built in a day!” Just don’t come crawling to me, saying I didn’t tell you so, when you are curled up under the covers reading the Funnyball chapter “The House That Ibanez Built”, waiting for Funnyball the movie (starring Paul Giamatti as Jack Zduriencik) to come out. Cause I will be hanging with JZ cracking a few Pike I.P.A.s and laughing at all of you who choose to live in ignorant bliss rather than seeing this idea for what it will prove to be…sheer and utter brilliance.

Can’t get enough of me? Follow me on Twitter- @WillieMoe and I assure you, you will get tired of me very quickly!

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Finding Keepers:Seattle Mariners

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Finding Keepers:Seattle Mariners

Posted on 17 April 2012 by Gary Marchese

The Seattle Mariners can’t get much worse then they were last year.  They still have a couple of marquee names in Felix Hernandez and Ichiro Suzuki.  They have some young promising players that should help them.  I don’t think they are a contender this year but maybe they can at least keep the fan interest for most of the season.  Lets take a look at some guys on their team that I would consider keepers.

RF Ichiro Suzuki had the worst season of his career last year.  I don’t expect him to be as bad as he was last year.  Is he getting older, yes he is but he is basically a singles hitter with a little bit of pop.  I don’t think he forgot how to hit and should have around 200 hits again this season.  I wouldn’t drop him just yet, give him a chance to rebound this season.

SP Felix Hernandez plays for a bad team in a market where he doesn’t get much publicity.  He is a great pitcher though, one of the best in the game if not the best.  He is still young and will continue to put up numbers.  There would be no reason at all to drop this guy, he hasn’t even been injury prone.  The only think with him is that sometimes his wins totals are low because of the team he is on.

SP Hector Noesi is a second year pitcher who came over from the Yankees in the trade that landed the Yankees Michael Pineda.  He was a long reliever for the Yankees but is a starter now.  I think he is pretty good pitcher who will do well out in Seattle.  He is a guy that I would keep, hoping he develops into something pretty good. 

DH/C Jesus Montero is the big name that the Mariners got from the Yankees in the trade with Noesi coming to Seattle also.  Montero is a promising hitter it is his defense that is in question.  I have no doubt this guy is going to hit and hit a lot.  I think he will be around a 30 homerun guy with 100 RBI potential and I think he can hit 280-290.  I would not let go of this guy too easily.

2B Dustin Ackley is a pretty good second baseman.  He is only in his second year in the majors.  He is a guy that can hit for a decent average, can have a pretty high on base and has some pop.  I wouldn’t mind keeping him on my team if he was there.  He could also be a pretty good backup to have.  He should be able to hit 275-280 with around 10 homeruns and 50+RBI.  He could also steal a few bases for you.

Closer Brandon League became a closer with Seattle last year.  He had 37 saves last season in 42 chances.  He in his career was mainly a middle relief and setup man.  He is 17-22 in his career with a 3.65 ERA.  He is a guy that has always had good stuff but needed to harness it.  It looks like he is in a good situation now in Seattle where he can grow and be a pretty good major league closer.  I would hold onto him and see if he can repeat what he did last year.  If he can he is a keeper.

I hope you enjoy my work and that of my colleagues.  As always you can comment on the articles on the website or reach me through face book or twitter.  @gmarchesej on twitter and my name on facebook.

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Keeping The Experts Honest

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Keeping The Experts Honest

Posted on 05 April 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Predictions Are Dumb

Baseball’s spring training never lacks for unsolicited and solicited prognostications from nearly every baseball “expert” on the planet.  Some writers spend hours and hours carefully constructing logical arguments to support every possible angle they might cover in a debate.  The rest probably spend about 15 minutes slapping some names together based on ideas they have exchanged with colleagues, friends, family, and their neighbor’s best friend’s urologist.  I’m completely unconcerned with the method utilized to conceive of a person’s playoff predictions, but I find myself extremely interested in keeping track of who actually turns out to be right.  There has yet to be an organized method of aggregating experts’ playoff picks that helps facilitate a November review to pass judgment upon the experts themselves.

Until now.

This post will start with a minimal number of experts listed along with the picks the experts have gone on record as making.  If you, the reader, will kindly apprise me of additional “experts” along with a link to their picks, then the post will be updated to reflect new additions as they are submitted.

“Expert” Predictions:

MLB Trade Rumors – Tim Dierkes => AL East – Yankees, AL Central – Tigers, AL West – Angels, AL WC1 – Rays, AL WC2 – Rangers, ALCS – Tigers over Rays, NL East – Phillies, NL Central – Brewers, NL West – Giants, NL WC1 – Diamondbacks, NL WC2 – Marlins, NLCS – Phillies over Brewers, WS – Phillies over Tigers, AL MVP – Albert Pujols, NL MVP – Justin Upton, AL ROY – Yu Darvish, NL ROY – Trevor Bauer, AL CY – David Price, NL CY – Zach Greinke

MLB Trade Rumors – Mike Axisa => AL East – Yankees, AL Central – Tigers, AL West – Rangers, AL WC1 – Angels, AL WC2 – Rays, ALCS – Yankees over Rangers, NL East – Phillies, NL Central – Brewers, NL West – Diamondbacks, NL WC1 – Cardinals, NL WC2 – Dodgers, NLCS – Brewers over Cardinals, WS – Yankees over Brewers, AL MVP – Miguel Cabrera, NL MVP – Justin Upton, AL ROY – Jesus Montero, NL ROY – Devin Mesoraco, AL CY – David Price, NL CY – Stephen Strasburg

MLB Trade Rumors – Mark Polishuk => AL East – Yankees, AL Central – Tigers, AL West – Angels, AL WC1 – Rays, AL WC2 – Rangers, ALCS – Yankees over Angels, NL East – Phillies, NL Central – Brewers, NL West – Rockies, NL WC1 – Reds, NL WC2 – Cardinals, NLCS – Reds over Rockies, WS – Yankees over Reds, AL MVP – Jose Bautista, NL MVP – Troy Tulowitzki, AL ROY – Yu Darvish, NL ROY – Zach Cozart, AL CY – Felix Hernandez, NL CY – Clayton Kershaw

MLB Trade Rumors – Ben Nicholson-Smith => AL East – Yankees, AL Central – Tigers, AL West – Rangers, AL WC1 – Angels, AL WC2 – Rays, ALCS – Yankees over Rangers, NL East – Phillies, NL Central – Cardinals, NL West – Diamondbacks, NL WC1 – Marlins, NL WC2 – Reds, NLCS – Phillies over Marlins, WS – Yankees over Phillies, AL MVP – Evan Longoria, NL MVP – Justin Upton, AL ROY – Yu Darvish, NL ROY – Devin Mesoraco, AL CY – Felix Hernandez, NL CY – Roy Halladay

MLB Trade Rumors – Steve Adams => AL East – Rays, AL Central – Tigers, AL West – Angels, AL WC1 – Yankees, AL WC2 – Rangers, ALCS – Angels over Rays, NL East – Phillies, NL Central – Reds, NL West – Diamondbacks, NL WC1 – Nationals, NL WC2 – Marlins, NLCS – Phillies over Reds, WS – Angels over Phillies, AL MVP – Albert Pujols, NL MVP – Joey Votto, AL ROY – Matt Moore, NL ROY – Yonder Alonso, AL CY – Felix Hernandez, NL CY – Cliff Lee

Click here for the official MLBTR picks.

Not enough “expertise” there?  Then head over to ESPN where they are one idiot short of half-a-hundred.  Yes, ESPN had 49 different people provide picks.  I’m fine with some of the actual baseball people making picks, but do we really need to hear from the key dolly grip, the 2nd assistant sound guy, and the intern who brings sandwiches to John Kruk every 15 minutes?

Apparently so.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though.  Wear a helmet, and then click here.

Glutton for punishment?  Check out what the folks at YahooSports have to say.

Aside from the fact that predictions are monumental wastes of time, very few people really care enough to go back and check the predictions several months later.  The issue is not simply that people forget but that so many writers create plausible excuses for why they were wrong.  The farcical, almost-comedic attempts to cover their tracks deserve some kind of award.  Forget that.  All of it.

Almost all of the “experts” pick from a small pool of no more than 8 teams in each league to make the playoffs.  Anybody who does go off and make a crazy pick like say….the Astros gets absolutely mocked shamelessly.  Predictions are just meant to be fun.  Do not take them too seriously……unless I happen to be right.  If that happens, then feel free to congratulate me all you like.

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The Roster Report – March 10, 2012

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The Roster Report – March 10, 2012

Posted on 10 March 2012 by Bryan Grosnick

Hey there, hardball fans. In this edition of the Roster Report, we’ll cover a couple of those exciting Spring Training position battles. We’ll keep things on the West Coast, with positional battles in the Bay Area and over by Puget Sound. One battle is due to the fact that there just plain aren’t any good players available, and another is due to an unsurprising injury.

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The San Francisco Giants Middle Infield

I thought for sure that the Giants would take the opportunity over the offseason to make a move and address the team’s biggest weakness: a lack of talent in the middle of the diamond. Instead, the Giants reloaded with veteran retreads in an attempt to patch their hole, and now project to have very poor production from the middle of the infield. Ostensibly, the starters for this team are veteran 2B Freddy Sanchez and rookie SS Brandon Crawford, but one has to expect that backups Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot will see plenty of time in the middle as well. And that’s not a good thing.

We’ll start with Crawford, who certainly has his good points. He’s a solid defensive shortstop, and has done well from both a scouting and an analytical standpoint.  In about 500 innings at short in 2011, Crawford managed to be worth about three runs with the leather, according to FanGraphs. That’s not half bad. Unfortunately, the glove (and arm…and range…and decent baserunning skill) is all Crawford has going for him. His bat is a work in progress, but even when that work is finished, it may not be any good. Brandon flashes virtually no power, makes fairly weak contact, and his burgeoning on-base skill can’t make up for his offensive failings. With a 60 wRC+ last season in limited action, he projects to be sub-par with the bat, and could be a real drain on an already soft Giant lineup. You have to play terrific D to hit as bad as Crawford does and stay a starter.

At second base is the veteran Freddy Sanchez. Sanchez is easily the best middle infielder on the Giants, capable of mixing above-average defense at the pivot with a bat that’s roughly league-average. At second base, that combination will certainly play. The Giants would have to be thrilled with a repeat of his 2010 performance, in which he was worth a full 2.5 FanGraphs WAR. But alas, Sanchez has become terribly injury-prone, and he’s on the downward slope of his career. Freddy only managed 111 games in both 2009 and 2010, then a meager 60 games in 2011. A late-season shoulder surgery should be recovered enough to have him start the season off the DL, but it remains to be seen if it affects his offensive output. Since Sanchez doesn’t hit for power or draw walks, his offense is tied to his ability to put balls in play, and if that skill fades, it will be a long season at second for the Giants.

The Giants are going to party like it is 2008 (and they’re the Cubs) with the combo of  Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot in the middle infield. I can already predict how this is going to work: Theriot will get the first call at short when Crawford fails to hit, and Fontenot will get the first call at second when Sanchez needs an injury breather. The trouble is, neither player is a plus defender, and both posted similar wRC+ scores in 2011. Theriot managed an 84 wRC+, while Fontenot managed an 87 wRC+. Unfortunately, both those scores put them as below-average hitters. Neither player hits for any power, or provides substantive walk totals. Do you see a pattern forming here? They may hit better than Crawford, but not by enough to offset their defensive shortcomings.

I wouldn’t get too worked up though, if I were a Giants fan. I personally believe that the team’s long term answer at second base is already on the team’s roster! If you want to try and hazard a guess at who I’m thinking of, take a minute. I’ll wait.

That’s right. Buster Posey. I had the opportunity to watch him play while I attended FSU, and I can attest that he has the footwork and defensive chops (he played shortstop for the ‘Noles…as well as every other position on the team) to make the Biggio-transition if the need presents itself. And from a realistic standpoint, I truly believe that it will. I think we all want Posey to stay behind the dish for as long as possible, but his bat is just too talented to risk the near-constant wear and tear that inevitably leads to injury. Posey’s bat would certainly play better in a position like second or third base rather than first, which should be locked up for the foreseeable future by Brandon Belt anyways.

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The Seattle Mariners Outfield

Before Spring Training began, the Mariner outfield looked pretty much set. Since Jesus Montero projects to get many of the at-bats at DH, the Mariners looked to run out a glove-friendly outfield of Ichiro Suzuki (RF), Franklin Gutierrez (CF), and Mike Carp (LF). Alas, Gutierrez proved his reputation as an injury-prone player, and wound up with a torn pectoral muscle. With Gutierrez looking to miss about a month (if not more), the Mariners are looking for a new defensive anchor in the outfield.

Given that the Mariners aren’t poised to be top contenders this season, it seems unlikely that they’d look for an outside option. The team has several interesting, if not earth-shattering options to fill in at center until “Death to Flying Things” returns. Those options, in no particular order, are Casper Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Michael Saunders, and Chone Figgins. Robinson had a terrific stat line at Triple-A last season hitting 26 homers, but he makes precious little contact. His numbers were likely inflated by the positive run environment in the PCL, and he looks more like a Triple-A hitter or occasional bench bat. His defense probably isn’t good enough to keep him in a regular CF role anyways. Chone Figgins…is Chone Figgins. I’m not even sure why his name has come up as a potential CF option, given that he hasn’t played the position since 2006, and wasn’t particularly good there anyways when he did play in center. Figgins’s bat has completely disappeared (.218 wOBA in 2011) since coming to Seattle, and there’s virtually no way he’d be a positive upgrade over any other player with the lumber.

That leaves Casper Wells and Michael Saunders as the two most likely options in center. Both players play solid defense, and they are both young(ish) and have shown promise in the minor leagues. Each player strikes out too much (28.3% K-rate for Saunders, 26.5% for Wells), but shows flashes of power, and each could play passable center field given the opportunity. In fact, the biggest difference between the two players is their handedness: Saunders hits lefty while Wells hits righty. Given that both players are likely to make the team (as utility outfielders, if nothing else), the best bet for the Mariners might be to take the platoon advantage and alternate the two young players. By mixing and matching, they may be taking ABs away from the young hitters, but they’ll also be maximizing their advantage in each game. Given that neither Saunders or Wells is a real blue-chip prospect, the idea of playing each guy against their best opponent could be a strategy that pays dividends in the short-term. And if either player gets hot and cements himself as a starter, all the better.

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