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Tis The Time For Bold Predictions Continued

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Tis The Time For Bold Predictions Continued

Posted on 30 March 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

How are those brackets holding up? Have they made it to the trash can yet? On the bright side, we are days away from Opening Day! Last week, the prediction jinx was placed on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to represent the American League in October’s Fall Classic. This week will be the National League 2013 preview.

TroyTulowitzki

There figures to be compelling season long races in both the National League East and West. The west features the defending World Series Champions, San Francisco Giants and also the new version of “Showtime”, the Los Angles Dodgers. While in the east, the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves both had very busy off seasons in the hopes of playing deep into October.

Starting out west, the rival Giants and Dodgers are expected to be in a season long two team race for the division championship. The Colorado Rockies are rebuilding and potentially experimenting with a new pitching model. Aside from Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies will have struggles and finish fifth with the campaign. The San Diego Padres will always compete with a solid bullpen and pitcher friendly park. However, in the end, the offense is not quite there to compete. They will finish just behind the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs, after making one of the impactful trades of the season will be a hard team to forecast. Ian Kennedy will have a nice season on the bump and Paul Goldschmidt is an emerging first baseman. Much like the Padres, they just do not have enough talent to compete.

The Giants and Dodgers have two very different philosophies. The Giants are a team first collective effort franchise. The sum of the parts is greater than one individual. Buster Posey is the offensive leader on the club and the pitching staff is one of the best in the league. On the other hand, the Dodgers brought in deep pockets to re-buy a new club. With one of the highest payrolls in all of baseball it will not quite be enough to overtake the champs in the divisional race. The Giants will be one, the Dodgers runners up.

For the first time in awhile, the Central Division has five teams competing. The division figures to be a one playoff team group with the Cincinnati Reds the favorites. The Reds have a balanced attack offensively and on the mound. How will Aroldis Chapman be utilized is the big question. The Pittsburgh Pirates have improved over the last two seasons. Led by MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates will continue to improve but fall short of the post season again.

With the remaining three teams in the Midwest, all will have very intriguing summers. The St. Louis Cardinals will compete. The offense under the arch has some pop. The club has two major downfalls however. The loss of Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse will have the starting rotation rely on young arms. Along with that, up the middle appears to be a weak spot and prevent a trip to the postseason. The Chicago Cubs have more questions then answers. The current outfield on the North side is not exactly Cooperstown bound but the Cubs however do have potential. They will be toward the bottom of the league in home runs, but quality of at bats will be a category they will be vastly improved in. The Milwaukee Brewers a week ago was a team that seemed to be viewed as an also ran. However, the surprise signing of Kyle Lohse makes the rotation much more improved. Can Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez carry the offense enough?

The National League East also figures to be a two team race as well between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves. The Miami Marlins cleaned house again and figure to have fifth place locked up. The New York Mets have young arms that could keep them relevant but sadly, David Wright will not quite have the same protection he did during the World Baseball Classic. A very under the radar team, The Philadelphia Phillies could wedge themselves into the division race, and also compete for a Wild Card spot as well. Health will be the key for the Phillies. Can Ryan Howard and Chase Utley play 140 plus games? Can Roy Hallady and Cliff Lee get back to CY Young numbers?

The popular pick in the National League is the Nationals. Loaded with talent, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez will lead the club all year. However, I expect even bigger things from the Braves. Chipper Jones is gone, but the law firm of Upton, Upton, and Heyward will be the “Big Three” in the ATL. The Braves lineup on paper is one of the best 1-7. The bullpen is top tier and the rotation will keep them in ball games. The Braves, not the Nationals win the East.

Once October hits the Wild Card match up will be east versus west as the Nationals will defeat the Dodgers and advance. Because of the weaker division, look for the Reds to be the team welcoming that wild card winner. However, the season will end there for the Reds as the Nationals will advance to the National League Championship. The other Divisional match up will pit the Braves versus the Giants. In an entertaining five games, the Braves will move on setting up an all east coast series.

With the two teams evenly matched in all categories, I am high on the Braves making a return trip to the Fall Classic to battle the Angels. An Angels versus Braves match up will be very entertaining to watch. The future of the game will be on display for both teams. In six games, I am giving the edge to the Angels to defeat the Braves in the World Series and make a short drive over to Disneyland to celebrate. Rally Monkeys welcomed.

When awards season hits, the East will be the landing spot for all of the major awards. Look for the Rookie of the Year to be in New York with pitcher Zack Wheeler. The CY Young winner will be in D.C. No it is not Stephen Strasburg, but Gio Gonzalez who has found a home in the National League and is the award winner. Both the Manager of the Year and MVP will be found on the same team. Once again, Atlanta could have a magical season after difficult ends to the previous two seasons. Manager Fredie Gonzalez and newcomer Justin Upton will bring home hardware. In a new uniform Justin Upton is the pick to click in the National League.

Soon it will be time to Play Ball and in October these will be lead pipe locks!

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A New Kind Of California Gold Rush

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A New Kind Of California Gold Rush

Posted on 08 February 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

Many say that the Super Bowl is the greatest game of them all. It is a great game. It is a game that also means that the day after our attention turns to the best game ever invented. Pitchers and catchers begin to report to Spring Training soon to begin the 2013 season!

CountriesOfBaseball

One of the big off-season topics as always is the Free Agent class choosing their fate. This year’s class was headlined by outfielder Josh Hamilton and starting pitcher Zack Greinke. The common denominator between the two was that they both chose teams that play in the state of California. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim respectively were the benefactors of the two players.

These two signings were just the latest of high price all star talent heading to the Golden State. At the start of the 2012 season, the Angels won the Albert Pujols award along with the surprise signing of pitcher C.J. Wilson. Just a few weeks into the season they struck it rich with eventual Rookie of the Year and near MVP Mike Trout. The Angels started to become loaded with talent and major contenders in the American League.

Across town in LA were the Dodgers. For much of the year they were contending for a division championship. But then, the “Magic” came and so did the money. Hall of Fame basketball player Magic Johnson among others became the new ownership group of the storied ball club. One of the first digs they made was a blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox bringing over All Star talent with show me the money contracts in the form of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford.

The 2012 season ended with neither Los Angeles team making the post season. Instead, the post season show was highlighted by the eventual champions, the San Francisco Giants. For the geography majors, San Francisco is also located in the state of California. The Giants won their second World Series title in three seasons.

This type of success and big money moves sound all too familiar. These types of moves, trades, and titles are typically reserved for the east coast teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies. In the last four seasons those three teams have been in at least the top seven team payrolls in baseball. World Series success has also followed as each team has won at least one title in the 2000’s. Fans in other markets hated the east coast tilt of the game. It was perceived that monopolies were forming out east and Evil Empires casted large shadows on the small markets. California was just a vacation spot. However, it appears that the tide is turning and the rush is heading west.

It was January 24th, 1848 when the California Gold Rush began. Travelers and miners migrated to the state in the hopes of finding gold and the effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. Fast forward to 2012, 2013 and the trend seems to now be for All Star ball players migrating west for big money and the ultimate gold ring.

Why is there a growing trend of moving west? Is it the weather, the lifestyle, or is it simply just the money? For the last decade there has been countless discussions about playing on the east coast adds a different element of pressure, that the Yankee pinstripes or Fenway fanatics demand greatness and nothing else. If you do not bring home a championship to the Bronx or Yawkey Way then the season was a failure. Many big name free agents have not quite lived up to the pressure of east coast baseball.

Perhaps that could be the cause for the move. Players are going west for a less stressful environment. It does not quite seem so scary when crowds arrive late, leave early, and the rest of the country is sleeping. Even if a few more championships do land in California, the hatred that fans have for the Yankees and others may never arise for the Angels and Dodgers. After a long day on the beach, it is hard to hate. As long as there is still east coast baseball, attention will be directed that way first and foremost. California may be just fine with that. They will continue to do their own thing in their own time zone.

The Giants have been the first to strike it rich with two championships. However, the surprise Oakland A’s are reigning division champs and the two teams in Los Angeles do not seem to have a bottom to their bank accounts. They are banking on the gold nugget signings this year of Hamilton and Greinke to get them to the mountain top. The true baseball beauty is that each organization is doing it a different way. California is providing many philosophies, and a nice tan. Before our eyes, the west may be overtaking the east. Only time will tell if this rush is as substantial as the one in 1848.

Could the east be left in the cold and not just weather wise? The Golden State has the trophy, the money, and the players are following.

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Hamilton Did Not Owe The Rangers Anything

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Hamilton Did Not Owe The Rangers Anything

Posted on 14 December 2012 by Bill Ivie

Josh Hamilton made his splash this offseason when he landed a $25 million per year over the next five years from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  His formerly club feels slighted because they were not given the opportunity to match the offer.

JoshHamilton

Wait…what?

The Rangers made an offer to Josh Hamilton and then told him if he found a better offer to let them know and give them the chance to match it.  There is some seriously flawed logic here.

First of all, I understand the need to save a dollar if you can, but offering someone a contract and then saying that you could pay them more if you had to is borderline insulting to the player.  Imagine me coming to your house and saying that I would like to hire you for a new job.  I can pay you a lot more, but since no one else has offered you that much, you will have to settle for what I offer you.  If you find someone else willing to pay you more, let me know, and I will pay you more then.  Never mind what you are worth, let’s talk about what I am willing to pay you.

The Angels haven proven one thing over the last two seasons, if you make the best offer you possibly can and tell a player you need a quick answer, that player will be wearing your jersey next year.

The Rangers should realize that they simply got outbid and caught trying to low-ball one of today’s bright stars.  If you could have paid him more, you should have offered him more to start with.

As it stands, Hamilton joins Albert Pujols and Mike Trout in a new age Murder’s Row in the same division his former team has won the last few seasons.

The Rangers will open on the road in 2013 against Houston.  Their home opener, to be played on April 5, is against the Angels.  The start of the marathon baseball season just got a bit more interesting.

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Mike Trout: Poetry In Motion — Or Fish Tale?

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Mike Trout: Poetry In Motion — Or Fish Tale?

Posted on 24 August 2012 by Gary Perilloux

Somewhere along the meteoric path charted by Mike Trout this season, I became smitten with this whole fish tale. A National League sympathizer by habit, I’d only caught portions of the Trout tale. But when ESPN devoted a lengthy segment solely to the analytic physics of one catch made by the Los Angeles Angels outfielder, I knew that all of us in the audience were being sucked into a date with destiny.

No ordinary fish tale here. Mike Trout had burst onto the scene as the second coming of Willie Howard Mays himself. Willie Mays circa 1954, Game 1 of the World Series, with the Say Hey Kid churning his swift legs toward the center field fence and hauling in — his back to the plate, his head skyward — an over-the-shoulder, extra-bases-saving snare from a 460-foot black hole of the Polo Grounds: Vic Wertz and the Indians denied.

After that catch, Leo Durocher would growl, “Willie makes (expletive) catches like that every day.”

Amazing grace

I think “The Lip” would do little more justice to Trout’s exploits. So with deepest apologies to the late, great Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I submit the poetry of Mike Trout in motion.

mag_next02_trout_mike_600

Sonnet from Disneyland

How do I love thee, O Millville Meteor? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when balls sail out of sight
Toward fences scaled by thy gloved grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
ESPN gasp: The Catch! and bases swiped.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Ruth.
I love thee purely, as women shed their Bonds.
I love thee with a passion put to use
in Fantasy drafts, and with my Sabermetric faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my fallen Astros, — I love thee with the Pujols,
Braun, Harper, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better in the World Series.

By now, you may have surmised that I’m of the tongue-in-cheek school that questions Trout’s long-term greatness. Read that again: “long-term greatness.”

I don’t doubt Trout’s present-day greatness. Besides the catch, his skills as a leadoff hitter with power (.344/24/70) and speed (39-for-43 SBs) and table-setting results (97 runs, an MVP-worthy WAR of 8.6) are easily documented.

Leap of faith

What set me on edge, beyond the unctuous ESPN catch analysis, was an ESPN.com piece in which David Schoenfield opined: “Ranking the center fielders: Trout No. 1.”

To say that a few of us bristled at the premature crown placed on Trout’s head would not be a fish tale. At last glance, Schoenfield’s ranking (with Andrew McCutcheon No. 2 and Matt Kemp No. 3) had elicited 832 comments. A few of them were mine, and after pointing out the superiority of Joe Dimaggio’s rookie year to this great Trout season, I was roundly booed, hissed upon and scolded by Angels Nation for mixing dissimilar baseball eras.

Point taken. It was only later, upon weighing the base-stealing exploits and that other great catch, that I landed upon Willie Mays as an interesting touchstone for Trout. Yes, it’s a different era again, but there aren’t any current-day center fielders with the track record to establish head-and-shoulders superiority at the position.

Here’s an example of what Trout would need to do to establish himself as the premier player of his time at any position, as some are prematurely calling him. Willie Mays won Rookie of the Year honors in 1951 at age 20, posting more modest numbers than Trout: (.274/20/68/59, with 7 SBs in 464 ABs). What’s less known about Mays than some other greats is that he would miss most of his second and third seasons to military service during the Korean Conflict.

But upon his return, oh, upon his return, the heavens burst open: his season of .345/41/110/119 at age 23 would launch 12 straight years with more than 100 runs scored and 13 consecutive seasons with more than 300 total bases. During that stretch, Mays would lead the league in triples three times, home runs four times, stolen bases four times, slugging percentage five times and OPS five times. Nine times he would meet or exceed Trout’s current WAR (soaring past a 10 rating a half-dozen times) and 10 consecutive years he would win Golden Gloves, with an eventual 12 top fielding awards.

Those are the standards Trout and his admirers need to examine before crowning him with anything beyond one-year awards. I’m of the school (a minority one now) that Bryce Harper eventually will enjoy the superior career of the two, once he assimilates the defensive skills and pitch-timing required to thrive in the Major Leagues.

The debate will continue, and two great young outfielders can’t be anything but good for baseball. But let’s enjoy watching what MAY be the Mays and Mantle of our generation without a rush to judgment.

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Mike Trout Unreal Catch

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Sabermetric Spotlight: Mike Trout

Posted on 23 August 2012 by Patrick Hayes

Sabermetric Spotlight: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Reason -

There should be zero question as to why I’m writing about Mike Trout for my latest installment of Sabermetric Spotlight. The kid is a phenom, already. Most likely your 2012 AL MVP. He just turned 21. My biggest question heading into this article is finding out what exactly he excels with and gain some more respect for just how special this year has been. Man crush engage!

Mike  Trout Main Pic

 

Basic Numbers -

Some of you might not remember that he appeared in 40 games last year and recorded 132 plate appearances, lets compare to this year.

Mike  Trout Basic Stats

Weird, huh? Last year look like numbers you would see from a 19 year-old making their major league debut. This year he has an unreal .344/.407/.606 slash line, with not to mention 24 HRs and 39 SBs. These are video game numbers. I guess the only negative is that he strikes out more than he walks?

Sabermetrics -

Immediately we see that he has already improved his eye and patience at the plate. Walking almost 3% more this year and striking out 2% less. That is a good and scary trend (for opposing pitchers, duh). Yes, Mike’s BABIP is sky high at .390 but it isn’t even one of the highest two on the year (Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson take the claim), it might dip a bit to finish the year, but it’s not far off from past years leaders. His power (ISO) has skyrocketed this year as he has only begun (more on this later) to fill out, his speed has not waned as a result either.

Mike  Trout Saber Stats

His line-drive percent is right near 1 out of 4 which translates into seeing the ball very well out of pitchers hand. Trout isn’t hitting that many fly-balls, but when he does, over 1 out of 5 leave the yard, this will fall. There really isn’t much to hate, he hits ground-balls the most, but with his speed, there is no worry.

Pitch and Swing Data -

Looking at what pitches he is seeing, teams have shied away from the curveball (down 3.4% to 8.2%) and have thrown more fastballs (up to 65.9% from 58.2% last year). All the rest are steady…why aren’t teams throwing more curves to him?

Further continuing the theme of his sharpened eye, Mike is swinging at less pitches outside of the strikzone (down 3.5% to 26.3%).  When he does swing at a would-be-called ball, he is making more contact (73.9% of the time up from 68%). Overall, he is swinging at just about the same amount of pitches (39.7%) and is seeing 50.7% of total pitches inside the strikezone. He swings at the first pitch a little over half the time at 55.6% and only swings and misses on 6.5% of pitches (down form 7.1% last year). He has robotic eyes.

Forward Looking -

His current WAR is 7.2 and he has played 20 games less than the next highest at 6.3. Think about that.

Looking more into the future than this year, his body appears as if it will fill out and continue to add muscle. Will his homeruns increase? Yes. Will his stolenbases dip? Yes. Will he still be a stud? Yes.

There is nothing not to like here.

Fantasy Analysis -

Do you like creating superhuman baseball players in video games? Well, that’s essentially what Mike Trout is. He hits for power, steals bases, leading the league in average and scores almost a run per game. If you have him and aren’t in the top 3 or 4 of your league, shame on you!

Did You Know? -

The Yankees were poised to take Mike if  he fell to them 4 picks later in the 2009 draft.

Mike  Trout Unreal Catch

 

Conclusion and Projection -

Attempting to answer my question is easy and hard at the same time. His eye for the ball is outstanding and he does everything well. The only negative thing about Mike Trout is that he plays out on the west coast. The majority of (baseball) America (Eastern Seaboard) is not getting the routine opportunities to see his games live, which is a tragedy. This 2012 year of his happens so rare that I would be shocked to see it replicated in my lifetime (I’m 27). Doing what he is doing as a rookie is unbelievable. In my opinion there is not even a debate on who should win the AL MVP this year, it’s the rookie, Mike Trout. If the Angels fail to make the playoffs some writers will hold that against him in balloting, but it wont matter, he has been the biggest difference on any team all year, give him the hardware!

 Reactions and opinions are always welcomed. Find me on twitter: @pf_hayes

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