Tag Archives: Cliff Lee

Season Preview: NL East

Onto the National League, starting with the East division. You can also take a look at my previews of the AL East, AL Central and AL West.

Last Year’s Records
Philadelphia – 97-65
Atlanta – 91-71
Florida – 80-82
New York – 79-83
Washington – 69-93

Notable Additions

Atlanta – Dan Uggla

Florida – Omar Infante, Mike Dunn, Javier Vazquez, John Buck

New York – Brad Emaus, Ronny Paulino

Philadelphia – Cliff Lee

Washington – Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Tom Gorzelanny

Notable Losses

Atlanta – Omar Infante, Mike Dunn, Derrek Lee, Melky Cabrera, Takashi Saito

Florida – Dan Uggla, Cameron Maybin, Ronny Paulino

New York – John Maine, Hisanori Takahashi, Pedro Feliciano

Philadelphia – Jayson Werth

Washington – Josh Willingham, Adam Dunn

My Thoughts

Atlanta – This is a playoff team from last year that has upgraded itself at 2B (Uggla), and will look for growth from Jason Heyward in his second season. The team will plug in Freddie Freeman to start at 1B, and hope that he can have even a partially similar season to Heyward’s rookie year. The pitching remains solid, behind Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, and Jair Jurrjens. The biggest role that seems to be up in the air coming into Spring Training is the closer, with Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters competing for the job.

Florida – As they prepare to move into their new stadium in 2012, this is a young team who should continue to be exciting for the next few seasons. It appears that 3B Matt Dominguez is likely to be the starter this year, despite not playing a single day in the Majors yet. However, the loss of Dan Uggla‘s bat in their lineup could cause a major hole in terms of power and run production. They’re also hoping that Javier Vazquez will rebound with a return to the NL East, and also provide some more veteran leadership with Josh Johnson in the starting rotation. I’m not sold that they stand a great chance of winning the division, but they could surprise some people in a tough division.

New York – With new GM Sandy Alderson on board, 2011 is going to be a partial rebuilding season. They did not make any substantial changes to their roster, and will look to get bounceback seasons from players like Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes instead. Ace Johan Santana is expected to be out until midseason, and the team is going to be looking for nice performances from Chris Young and Chris Capuano.

Philadelphia – The Phillies went out and made what was probably the biggest surprise move of the offseason, inking Cliff Lee to a 5 year, $120 million contract. With their four aces in the starting rotation, they definitely look like the team to beat in the NL East. However, the injuries are already starting to pile up, as Chase Utley has yet to play in Spring Training, and potential right fielder Domonic Brown will miss 3-6 weeks after having hand surgery. If this team can stay healthy, I don’t think there’s a team in the NL that can compete with them. But that is a gigantic if.

Washington – The Nationals made one of the biggest splashes in the free agent market, and it was completely unexpected. Jayson Werth signed a 7 year contract with the team, and will play right field for the first few years of the contract. The team is still not ready to compete, but they will look for continued growth from Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. Jordan Zimmermann will also look to have an injury free campaign, and while they will miss Stephen Strasburg this season, he should be back in 2012 from his injuries.

Overall Thoughts

The NL East really comes down to the two teams at the top of the pile. The Braves and Phillies really seem like they will be the only teams that are likely to win the division or the Wild Card. The Mets and Nationals just simply aren’t ready, and I don’t believe that the Marlins are ready to compete quite yet either.  Here’s my predicted order of finish:

1. Philadelphia
2. Atlanta
3. Florida
4. Washington
5. New York

Season Preview: AL West

Time to move to my own team’s division, as I take a look at the AL West. You can also take a look at my previews of the AL East and AL Central.

Last Year’s Records
Texas – 90-72
Oakland – 81-81
Los Angeles – 80-82
Seattle – 61-101

Notable Additions

Los Angeles – Vernon Wells, Hisanori Takahashi

Oakland – Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus, Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour, Josh Willingham, Rich Harden, Brandon McCarthy

Seattle – Miguel Olivo, Jack Cust

Texas – Adrian Beltre, Arthur Rhodes, Mike Napoli, Brandon Webb

Notable Losses

Los Angeles – Mike Napoli, Juan Rivera, Hideki Matsui, Scot Shields

Oakland – Rajai Davis, Vin Mazzaro

Seattle – Russell Branyan, Jose Lopez

Texas – Cliff Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Frank Francisco

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Season Preview: AL East

With Spring Training well under way and the first games starting very soon, I figured it was a good time to take a look at my own predictions for the league, and the changes the respective teams have made.

Last Year’s Records
Tampa Bay – 96-66
New York – 95-67
Boston – 89-73
Toronto – 85-77
Baltimore – 66-96

Notable Additions

Baltimore – Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, Vladimir Guerrero, J.J. Hardy, Justin Duchscherer

Boston – Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler

New York – Russell Martin, Rafael Soriano, Pedro Feliciano, Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Eric Chavez

Tampa Bay – Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, Adam Russell, Cesar Ramos, Felipe Lopez, Sam Fuld, Chris Archer

Toronto – Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Juan Rivera, Scott Podsednik, Brett Lawrie, Rajai Davis

Notable Losses

Baltimore – Kevin Millwood, Julio Lugo, Ty Wigginton, David Hernandez, Kam Mickolio

Boston – Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, Bill Hall

New York – Javier Vazquez, Andy Pettitte, Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood

Tampa Bay – Carl Crawford, Matt Garza, Rafael Soriano, Carlos Pena, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit

Toronto – Vernon Wells, Shaun Marcum, John Buck, Miguel Olivo, Scott Downs

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What Value Would the Trading of Draft Picks Add?

Over at Minor League Ball, John Sickels interviewed Athletics GM Billy Beane, and this little nugget really caught my eye:

SICKELS: With the basic agreement up for negotiation as we approach 2012, what do you think of the idea of trading draft picks?

BEANE: I think it would be a great idea. I have always been in favor of that, it would create more interest in the draft for the fans, and as a GM anything that improves my flexibility is a good thing.
SICKELS: Will it happen? It always gets talked about but it never gets implemented.

BEANE: Well, I can’t say for sure obviously, we’ll have to see what gets negotiated. I would say that it is a better than 50/50 chance, but it is not guaranteed. We’ll just have to see.

This really caught my attention, as it is something that happens in both the NFL and NBA right now, and is another asset that allows for the movement of players. When you think about it, amateur draft picks are the only commodity in baseball that cannot be traded for something else.

The example I heard mentioned on the Baseball Prospectus Podcast was this: What if the Nationals had decided that they did not want to meet the demands of Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg in either of the last two years? Undoubtedly, there would have been a team that would have been willing to meet those demands if the Nationals had not, and as such this pick has trade value. Would the Nationals have been better if they had, say, traded the rights to the #1 overall pick (Bryce Harper) to the Yankees for a package of Jesus Montero and another top-10 prospect? I’m inclined to believe that both teams would have benefitted from this.

I could see using future draft picks as another commodity in the same way that the minor leagues are used now. Would the Mariners have wanted instead of some of the secondary players in the Cliff Lee trade, instead they received Justin Smoak and the Rangers’ 1st round pick in 2011?

The biggest concern to me would be that there probably would need to be a limitation on how far into the draft (rounds deep) and how many years in advance a team could trade, but I think that this bears consideration. Even if the owners are able to get a hard slotting system for the draft, there could still be a lot of value in the ability to trade picks, as teams may not want to take players at certain picks and “move down” like seems to happen in the NFL a lot.

Free Agent Review – Cliff Lee to the Phillies

Wow. That’s pretty much all I can say.

With the news overnight that there may have been as much as $50 million left on the table by one Clifton Phifer Lee, it has been a complete shock to see that Cliff Lee has agreed to sign with the Phillies. The terms appear to be for 5 years, $115 million dollars, with an option for a 6th year that might be reasonably achievable.

From the Phillies Perspective

Honestly, I’m not sure I understand this entirely. Clearly, Lee is more than $10 M better than Joe Blanton ($20M salary for Lee, $10.5M for Blanton), but this seems a bit excessive. Adding Lee now brings them a 4th ace to go with Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt for next season. The part that could really kill the Phillies long term is the amount of money they have tied up. The Phillies will most likely have the highest payroll of any team not playing in the Bronx next year, and have a ton of money committed to their roster already for 2012, 2013, and 2014.

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Trade Review: Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox

You know, I keep planning on writing about the Hall of Fame case of Kevin Brown, and major stories in the game seem to keep coming up. When I went to bed last night, it appeared that the trade talks surrounding Adrian Gonzalez had been heating up, and that teams besides just the Red Sox were involved. When I woke up this morning, it appears that the other teams have fallen by the wayside, and that the Red Sox are very close to acquiring Gonzalez from the Padres.

According to MLBTR, the players involved have been confirmed, but the things holding up the trade remain a physical for Gonzalez and the contract extension discussions as well. The package of players seems to have reached a general consensus, if not complete confirmation for the public. Let’s take a look at how this trade looks:

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Free Agent Signing – Victor Martinez to the Tigers

We have the first major piece to fall into place from free agency this offseason, with the news that catcher Victor Martinez has agreed to a 4 year, $50 million contract with the Detroit Tigers.

It appears, according to MLBTR, that Martinez was offered both a 3 year and 4 year deal by the Red Sox, but for less money than the Tigers offered. 

From the Tigers’ Perspective

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Fantasy Rankings in Review – Starting Pitchers

Back in February, I took my first shot at attempting to rank players for fantasy purposes. After a full season, I thought it wise to take a look back at how they went, and compare them to how it actually turned out and see if there is anything to be gained from it. You can find my preseason rankings here and here. Next up is the review of my SP rankings.

Yahoo’s Final Rankings (Top 25)

1.     Roy Halladay
2.     Adam Wainwright
3.     Felix Hernandez
4.     Roy Oswalt
5.     Ubaldo Jimenez
6.     Jered Weaver
7.     David Price
8.     Josh Johnson
9.     Cliff Lee
10.  Mat Latos
11.  C.C. Sabathia
12.  Jon Lester
13.  Justin Verlander
14.  Matt Cain
15.  Tim Hudson
16.  Clayton Kershaw
17.  Trevor Cahill
18.  Clay Buchholz
19.  Cole Hamels
20.  Chris Carpenter
21.  Jonathan Sanchez
22.  Tim Lincecum
23.  Brett Myers
24.  Johan Santana
25.  Ted Lilly

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Season Previews in Review: American League West

Back during Spring Training, I took a look at each team and made predictions about how each team would do and how I thought their season would go. This was the first year doing this, and I figured now was a good time to take a look back and see how it went. I reviewed the AL East and AL Central previously, and now it’s on to the AL West.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Predicted Record: 86-76            Actual Record: 80-82

I’m not entirely sure what happened with this team. The only event that I can pinpoint that stands out as a major turning point in the season was the loss of Kendry Morales for the season back in late May. Their pitching seemed suspect at the beginning of the season, and might have been worse had it not been for the midseason acquisition of Dan Haren from the Diamondbacks. The Angels continue to develop solid players though, with Peter Bourjos coming up after the All-Star break and should continue to develop next season. This team needs a bit of help in the offseason, but should do well and spend what is needed to do that.

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The AL Walter Johnson Award

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Over at the Baseball Bloggers’ Alliance, we have been voting on our award winners for the regular season. Previously I have announced my votes for the Connie Mack awards (Best Manager of the Year), the Willie Mays awards (Top Rookie), and the Goose Gossage awards (Top Reliever). Now we’re starting to get down to the big boys, as I take a look at my vote for the American League’s top pitcher, the Walter Johnson award recipient.

2010 was definitely a season for top tier pitching, and the American League definitely had its’ share of excellent pitchers. The hard part for me is that there is no clear cut pitcher who is head and shoulders above the rest of his counterparts. Before going into the candidates themselves, let’s go over a bit of what I think the top pitcher should represent:

Wins, Losses, and Run Support

The top pitcher doesn’t necessarily need to lead the league in wins, as they are pretty clearly not a great indicator of how a pitcher actually fared. That said, they aren’t worthless either, and I think that it’s important to acknowledge that the goal of the game is to win. But with the shift to specialists out of the bullpen, I think that a pitcher has less control than he has ever had over wins. While we as baseball analysts try to find a way to establish what a pitcher is truly responsible for and what he is not, it is impossible to ignore that run support given to a pitcher also plays a key piece of wins. A pitcher could throw a perfect game, but if the team doesn’t score any runs for him in the game, he won’t necessarily still earn himself a win.


I’ve discussed before why ERA is a deceiving statistic, and I think it will definitely show itself to be true as we review the cases for the top pitchers. But coupled with advanced statistics like FIP, SIERA, and WAR, I think we start to get an idea of whether or not a pitcher was truly dominant, a bit lucky, or somewhere in between. They provide value to look at, but can’t be the end all of statistics to look at. WHIP falls a bit in the same category for me as well.

Strikeouts, Walks, and Innings Pitched

Strikeouts and walks are really two of the few things that a pitcher can really exert control over. More strikeouts generally are a good thing, and less walks are always a good thing. They are also taken into the picture by me and are given weight along with the other statistics. Innings pitched to me represent not only the trust that the manager of their team places in their ability to get out of jams, but also their ability to get outs.


There’s always a little bit of the human element to pitching, and I think it’s important to look at some of the things that aren’t necessarily measurable. These can include, but are definitely not limited to: whether the pitcher is in the playoff race, what kind of stories are occurring around the team, and even the role that the pitcher is being asked to fill.

With all that (phew!), here’s my top candidates for the AL Walter Johnson award. Players are listed from east to west, and my vote will be at the bottom. For this award, it’s a 5 person ballot. Also, when you’re talking about the best of anything, it invariably ends up a bit nit-picky when it comes to differentiating candidates. Everyone on this list had a great season, and it just comes down to trying to determine small ways in which one was better than the rest. There’s not a whole lot to say about each player as a result, and so instead here are the statistics that I looked at for each player, and then I’ll go into my logic for my decision.

Jon Lester BOS 19-9 3.25 1.20 225 83 208 3.20 3.13 5.6
C.C. Sabathia NYY 21-7 3.18 1.19 197 74 237 2/3 3.75 3.54 5.1
David Price TAM 19-6 2.72 1.19 188 79 208 2/3 3.82 3.42 4.3
Justin Verlander DET 18-9 3.37 1.16 219 71 224 2/3 3.43 2.97 6.3
Francisco Liriano MIN 14-10 3.62 1.26 201 58 191 2/3 3.02 2.66 6.0
Cliff Lee SEA/TEX 12-9 3.18 1.00 185 18 212 1/3 3.03 3.06 7.0
Trevor Cahill OAK 18-8 2.97 1.11 118 63 196 2/3 4.16 4.19 2.2
Jered Weaver LAA 13-12 3.01 1.07 233 54 224 1/3 2.97 3.06 5.9
Felix Hernandez SEA 13-12 2.27 1.06 232 70 249 2/3 3.19 3.04 6.2

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