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2016 MLB thread. THE CUBS HAVE BROKEN THE CURSE! Chicago Cubs are your 2016 World Series champions. - Page 689  

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Seven bold predictions for 2014.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
With the start of the 2014 season upon us, it's time to take a guess at what might happen this year.

In this space last season, I predicted that Yasiel Puig would become an instant hit in Los Angeles and envisioned a last-place finish for the New York Yankees. Although the Yankees did not end up in the AL East cellar, they definitely fell off, and "Puigmania" did indeed ensue. So here are seven predictions I'm making for 2014.

1. Phillies finish last in the NL East

The Philadelphia Phillies might not have the worst roster in baseball, but they do have the oldest, and it's a team that has been on a steady decline for the past few years. I expect the Phillies to have a fire sale in July, possibly trading players such as Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Carlos Ruiz and Jimmy Rollins, among others.

It's possible that they'll be in fourth place by the time they make these deadline deals. But when it’s all done, I expect a dismal August and September to result in a cellar-dweller year for the Phillies. The Miami Marlins have an abundance of good young arms and appear much hungrier than the current Phillies and should be able to blow right by them in the standings.

2. Derek Jeter sees one last October

On paper, I like the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox over the Yankees in the AL East. However, I have long learned never to bet against Jeter and the Yankees. Jeter has enjoyed a storybook Hall of Fame career, and I just can't imagine him not playing October baseball in his final major league season.

Masahiro Tanaka is the favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year, and their signings of a trio of free-agent left-handed hitters/switch-hitters (Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran) should be enough to get them back to the playoffs even though questions still remain at second, at third and in the bullpen.

3. Albert Pujols wins AL Comeback Player of the Year

Pujols’ first two seasons with the Los Angeles Angels have been a disappointment. Injuries have played a major part, as Pujols has dealt with plantar fasciitis and nagging knee injuries. However, this spring, Pujols looked healthy again, diving for balls during infield practice and putting on a display during batting practice to show how his lower half has healed.

I expect him to hit 35 home runs with approximately 120 RBIs, en route to winning the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Although it won’t be a slam dunk win for him, as he’ll have plenty of competition from Grady Sizemore, Jeter, teammate Josh Hamilton, and perhaps even Mark Teixeira.

4. Chicago Cubs secure No. 1 pick in 2015 draft

Although most experts are betting on the Houston Astros or the Marlins to get the top pick in the 2015 draft, I’m going with the Cubs. Led by team President Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer, the Cubs continue their long-term rebuilding effort, which means that, in the short term, things will be painful.

Another last-place finish is practically clinched, and I wouldn't be surprised if they wind up with the first overall pick in 2015, thanks to the progress the Marlins and Astros have had in rebuilding their starting rotations. If the Cubs don't sign Jeff Samardzija long term by the July 31 trade deadline, he could be dealt, as well as Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson.

This scenario could end in the Cubs having the worst overall record by season's end. The Cubs will promote top prospect Javier Baez at some point this season (probably at the end of June), and that move will give Cubs fans immediate hope and understanding of what they're building. With a high pick this year and a chance for the top pick next year, the Cubs should be in position to be legitimate contenders from 2016 through 2023.

5. Kansas City Royals win the AL Central

The Royals haven't made the playoffs since 1985, when George Brett was still playing third base. However, I predict that will change in 2014. Things will go right for them, and they will edge the Detroit Tigers to win the division on the final day of the regular season.

The Royals have the best defense in the American League, led by catcher Salvador Perez, left fielder Alex Gordon, shortstop Alcides Escobar and first baseman Eric Hosmer. All are favorites to win Gold Gloves this year. The bullpen once again is also one of the best in the league even with the season-ending injury to Luke Hochevar. The lineup is stacked with players who either just had their breakout season or should have it this year.

However, making the playoffs will depend largely on the starting rotation, led by ace James Shields, who will be pitching on his free-agent walk year. Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie should provide quality innings. But rookies Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer will have to have a major impact for the Royals to beat the Tigers.

Ventura made the rotation out of spring training, and, if all goes well, Zimmer will be ready to move up after the All-Star break. If those two live up to their potential this year, the Royals will be playing October baseball.

6. Jay Bruce wins NL MVP

There are so many great MVP candidates in the National League: Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman, Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, any of the Dodgers’ middle-of-the-order bats… Even Bruce’s teammate Joey Votto could win it. However, I predict that Bruce will surprise the baseball world and take home the NL MVP award and lead the Reds to another wild-card berth.

Throughout his career, Bruce has shown snapshots of MVP-caliber play, but he’s just never been able to do it over a 162-game schedule. He is in his prime, turning 27 in early April, and I think this is the year when all aspects of his game come together. Manager Bryan Price moving him to the clean-up spot directly behind Votto will mean opponents will have to pitch to him with men on base very frequently, and you can bet he will take advantage of it.

7. Instant replay a success but tweaked before playoffs

I predict that instant replay will be a huge success and embraced by players, teams, the media and, most importantly, the fans. I also think the process will change before the postseason to eliminate managers’ slow walk out to the umpires followed by the turn to the dugout to get the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to challenge.

However, by the first game of the playoffs, baseball will decide managers cannot come out of the dugout to argue calls until their challenges have been used up. Therefore, challenges will have to occur before the next pitch by signal without leaving the dugout. This will save considerable time and expedite the process. Time of game is important to everyone, and it won’t take baseball long to figure out there is a much faster way of accomplishing the same goals.

Picking division and award winners.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
AL East

It's hard to pick against a Boston Red Sox team that returns so many of the players who helped them win the World Series last year, losing Stephen Drew but replacing him with one of the majors' best rookies in Xander Bogaerts. I'm far from sold on Grady Sizemore's ability to be productive and stay healthy in center, but Jackie Bradley Jr. will be ready when the time comes.

I'll take Boston over the Tampa Bay Rays on paper and because of their greater ability to add during the season; the Red Sox have a stronger farm system and more resources, whereas the Rays are more likely to trade David Price than they are to package low-minors prospects for a short-term, major-league property.
Boston 92 70
Tampa Bay 88 74
NY Yankees 85 77
Baltimore 81 81
Toronto 78 84

The New York Yankees are better, yet older, and they have no margin for error with their rotation if there should be an injury or a shortfall in performance. Second base and third base could both be serious problems for them all year, although Drew would be an ideal fit and is still sitting out there in free agency.

The Orioles boosted their rotation and offense, and would be an 85-win team in most other divisions, but they and the Blue Jays (whose rotation is thin already and relies on a lot of health from guys with injury histories) will suffer for the tougher competition they have to face.

AL Central

The Detroit Tigers are once again the class of the division, slighty worse off after trading Doug Fister and losing Jose Iglesias for all or most of the year, but still far stronger than any of the teams likely to chase them down.

The Kansas City Royals have the best chance to do so, thanks to the rise of Eric Hosmer last year and the arrival/return of some of their top young pitching prospects -- Yordano Ventura now, Danny Duffy sooner, Kyle Zimmer later.
Detroit 92 70
Kansas City 81 81
Cleveland 80 82
Chicago WS 77 85
Minnesota 70 92

The Cleveland Indians' 2013 season was almost as surprising as Pittsburgh's, but losing Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez hurts their rotation, without internal options ready to step in and provide that kind of performance. A full year of Danny Salazar will help, and they can always hope for Trevor Bauer to fulfill his potential, but I've never been a big Carlos Carrasco fan.

The Chicago White Sox had a great offseason, most recently grabbing a free Javy Guerra from the Dodgers, and they're a team on the rise again, with a fighting chance to get above .500 if John Danks and Felipe Paulino can stay healthy for 50-plus starts.

The Minnesota Twins' farm system is among the best in baseball, but their products won't start showing up in the majors until much later this year or early in 2015.

AL West

Three battered rotations top this division, and that could even create an opportunity for the Seattle Mariners, whom I've pegged in a somewhat distant fourth place, to slide into the playoff picture.

The Los Angeles Angels have the offense, and I think adding Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago improves the rotation to “adequate,” enough to get to 85-plus wins and the playoff picture.

The Oakland Athletics would have been my pick for the top spot, but losing Jarrod Parker for the season stings, and their internal options -- such as career reliever Jesse Chavez -- are nowhere close to as productive.
LA Angels 89 73
Oakland 87 75
Texas 84 78
Seattle 76 86
Houston 64 98

The Texas Rangers' rotation was hit even harder, pressing two relievers -- hard-throwing Tanner Scheppers, who has a history of shoulder problems, and polished lefty Robbie Ross -- into starting roles, while the team had to give a long look to Joe Saunders for the fifth spot even though he has nothing left. Losing Jurickson Profar, who I thought was primed for a breakout year, for three months also sets them back a win or two.

The Mariners could be a lot better than I predicted, based mostly on their reliance on young starters whom I don't think are quite ready for league-average production over a full season.

Houston Astros fans just need to be patient; all those great kids you've been hearing about will start to show up in the majors this year.

NL East

With the caveat that I thought something similar last year, the Washington Nationals are the best team in the National League in my opinion, with strength in just about every area that counts other than, well, defense at third base. I thought adding Doug Fister helped in two ways -- making the rotation stronger and lessening their reliance on their bullpen, which was one of their weaker points coming into the year.
Washington 95 67
Atlanta 82 80
NY Mets 80 82
Philadelphia 72 90
Miami 68 94

The Atlanta Braves took several wins backward with the hits to their rotation and the particularly unfortunate timing -- a year from now, prospect Lucas Sims might have been ready to grab one of those spots. It's a rough start for a team that was otherwise strong almost top to bottom, with the one major hole, behind the plate, waiting for top prospect Christian Bethancourt to fill it.

The New York Mets' rotation has quietly become both good and deep; give them Matt Harvey and we could be discussing a wild-card spot, even before we talk about any of their pitching prospects contributing.

The Philadelphia Phillies are old and getting older, spending their money in what seemed to be suboptimal ways this winter, and if I did specific player forecasts, I wouldn't give Cole Hamels more than 120 or so innings, given the questions around his shoulder.

The Miami Marlins will at least be fun to watch because of all of their young talent, but the rotation is thin, and they don't put enough men on base.

NL Central
St. Louis 92 70
Pittsburgh 83 79
Cincinnati 80 82
Milwaukee 75 87
Chicago Cubs 68 94

The St. Louis Cardinals are the deepest team in either league -- the best equipped to get through a 162-game season with all of its inevitable injuries and need to rest regulars. The roster is strongest on the pitching side, with two potential midrotation or better starters, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal, working in short relief.

The Pittsburgh Pirates had a lot of little things go their way last year, so I see a little regression, but I also see a lot of improvement from core young players, as well as the arrival at some point this year of Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon, both of whom should contribute right off the bat.

The Reds’ loss of Shin-Soo Choo could cost them four or five wins alone, depending on what they get from Billy Hamilton, whose speed can change the game if he can get on base enough; they've also got too many holes on the left side of the field, although I think their rotation is a little underrated because of their homer-friendly home park.

The Brewers have no depth and are depending on a lot of question marks around their infield, although I think their rotation will be better than expected.

The Cubs need pitching, now and in the future, although the arrivals of some of the big four hitting prospects, starting with Javier Baez, should at least provide some hope.

NL West

The Dodgers are loaded for Uribear this year, with the majors' best rotation, a bullpen so full they thought they could just toss Javy Guerra into the water (hint: you should have waived Brandon League instead) and an outfield surplus when everyone's healthy. They still need a second-base solution and Hanley Ramirez gives some runs back on defense, but otherwise it's the second-best club in the league, and maybe the best if we just consider the starters.
LA Dodgers 94 68
San Francisco 87 75
Arizona 79 83
San Diego 77 85
Colorado 74 88

The San Francisco Giants are stuck a little bit in good-not-great territory: not good enough to catch the Dodgers, but I think more than good enough to grab a wild-card spot -- and they have more than one option to take that one-game start if the situation arises.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have a solid lineup and some very good defensive players all over the field, but their rotation took a big hit with the injury to Patrick Corbin, and the team just doesn't look gritty enough to handle the grind of a 162-game season.

The San Diego Padres don't have much impact on the offensive side, and their rotation is extremely high-beta, with three starters -- Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and the already-hurt Josh Johnson -- bringing lengthy injury histories to the field this year.

The Colorado Rockies have pitching coming, but they're a little short right now, and I think at some point they'll have to look at trading Jorge De La Rosa for longer-term assets, which might put a damper on 2014 even as the future looks brighter.

Player Awards

AL MVP: Mike Trout

One of these years, they'll get it right.

AL Cy Young: Yu Darvish

The AL leader in strikeout rate last year, Darvish has gradually improved his control and should be among the league's top three pitchers again, as long as he stays healthy.

AL Rookie of the Year: Masahiro Tanaka

We've seen a number of players come over from Nippon Professional Baseball and not get much rookie of the year support, and I would like to think most BBWAA voters at this point are over any bias against NPB players in this category. Whether you like it or not, they're eligible, and Tanaka looks like the best of a full crop of AL rookies, someone who'll play well on his own merits and who'll get the kind of run support that helps a pitcher in postseason award voting. Bogaerts would be my choice among all other players.

NL MVP: Yadier Molina

Molina's a worthy candidate, and a few recent near-misses won't hurt his standing with voters, either.

NL Cy Young: Jordan Zimmermann

Zimmermann has looked as though he might make the leap for at least two years now, and the Nationals managing his workload carefully should help him stay strong into late September when the Nats make a playoff run this year.

NL Rookie of the Year: Travis d'Arnaud

As loaded as the AL rookie class is, the NL class is shallow, with a few guys given regular jobs but with big question marks over performance or, in d'Arnaud's case, durability. I'll concede that Billy Hamilton could run his way to this award, but if I'm putting money on a favorite, it's the catcher with 20-homer power.

Trout deal makes sense for him, Angels.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Miguel Cabrera deal seemed like it might pose big problems for the Los Angeles Angels as they tried to lock up Mike Trout, the best player in baseball in each of the past two seasons, to a long-term extension, but the Halos and Trout were apparently close enough that they still managed to come to terms on a deal.

The extension is for six years (2015 through 2020) and reportedly worth $144.5 million on top of the $1 million he'll earn this season.

It's a reasonable deal for both sides, paying Trout a rational salary in his free-agent years that could end up a little light if the market keeps going up while also giving him tremendous financial security.

A generational talent

Trout will almost certainly set the record for the highest annual salary with the three free-agent years in this deal, which I imagine will come in at more than $30 million per season. He's produced 20.3 WAR (wins above replacement) thus far in his career (per Baseball-Reference) and is one of just 28 players in history with two seasons of at least 8.9 WAR in his career -- and he's only 22 years old.

He has accumulated more career WAR through his age-21 season than any other player in history -- more than two full wins ahead of Mel Ott, almost five full wins ahead of Ken Griffey Jr. -- and only seven players produced more through their age-22 season.

SportsNation: Angels extend Mike Trout
SportsNationAre the Angels getting a steal with Mike Trout's new extension? Will they ever win a World Series with him? Vote! »

Junior might be the best recent historical comp for Trout -- a player who was athletically gifted, who contributed on both sides of the ball and who produced from day one in the majors. Even with the 1994 lockout and some early injury problems, Griffey still generated 50.1 WAR during his age-22-through-28 seasons -- 7.2 WAR per season. The Angels would likely be happy if Trout averaged that number even during his free-agent years, even though it's reasonable to expect much more; that's about what Cabrera generates per season right now, and he's set to earn $31 million per year under his new deal for seasons in which he'll probably produce less value than that.

The best news for the Angels is that every position player who started his career with a bang like Trout has at least managed to maintain strong production levels through his 20s. Mickey Mantle produced 60.9 WAR during his age 22-28 seasons; Alex Rodriguez produced 56.7 WAR; Albert Pujols produced 57.4 WAR; Rickey Henderson, who put up 8.8 WAR at age 21, produced another 47.1 WAR over the next seven seasons despite losing 50 games to the 1981 strike. Even Andruw Jones, who was very valuable at age 21 but was finished as a regular at age 30, generated more than 41 WAR during his age 22-28 seasons.

There is always risk of a catastrophic injury in a long-term deal for any player, but the production risk -- the chance that Trout just won't hit or run or field enough to be worth this money -- is very low based on his skill set and the best historical comparisons available.

Safe play for Halos

The Angels weren't going to lose Trout to free agency until after the 2017 season, if at all, but locking him up now covers what would have been three very entertaining arbitration negotiations and provides them with cost certainty while also protecting them against further inflation at the high end of the market.

Arbitration figures come from comparisons to recent arbitration awards or one-year settlements for similar players, but Trout has no similar players; the best either side could do would be to look at the highest salary for each class and try to shoot for something above that. Those figures would easily put Trout at $45-50 million for his three arbitration years, and adding $32 million per year beyond that gets us up to about the reported total of his deal. In other words, he was going to get at least this much if the Angels went year to year and he produced even at 80-90 percent of what he's already done.

A few readers asked on Twitter why he'd take this deal now rather than wait until free agency and hope someone goes Full Miggy for him. I imagine that the security of this kind of money was too hard to turn down; at these salary levels, the motivation to push for more has to be about a principle rather than a desire for more cash.

The Angels are a high-revenue team in a huge and growing market; they can, and should, pay this much money for this kind of production and probability. Trout gets set-for-life money and yet he can still look forward to another, potentially larger, payday when he hits the free-agent market entering his age-29 season.

Clayton Kershaw's uncertain timeline.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
SAN DIEGO -- Clayton Kershaw wants to maintain the five-day regimen that has defined his professional life, and Sunday was the day he was supposed to take the mound, stare toward home plate and cut up the strike zone with his slider and curveball and fastball.

But he can’t really throw the way he needs to, can’t really cut loose, because of a problem with the teres major muscle in his back. So Kershaw -- who was placed on the disabled list Saturday -- decided to simulate the physical exertion required in a start. Early in the afternoon, he ran sprints across left field in Petco Park, one after another, 25 in all; he held a stopwatch, to aid in the timing of his work.

But by 1 p.m. -- four hours before the scheduled first pitch -- a lot of the heavy lifting of his day was over. All he can do is work and heal and wait and root for his teammates, because he cannot pitch right now and there is much uncertainty about when he will pitch again.

"Whatever it is, we're going to take the time to get it right," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

Andrew Cashner, who started against the Dodgers on Sunday night, suffered an injury similar to Kershaw's two years ago and missed two months. Jurickson Profar, the Rangers second baseman, also has been dealing with the same sort of problem that ails Kershaw, and he will miss a lot of the first half of this season.

Those timelines don’t necessarily apply to Kershaw, but as Mattingly explained, the left-hander cannot cut the ball loose the way he wants to without feeling discomfort -- and until he can, the Dodgers will wait.

On Monday, Kershaw intends to go through a workout as if he had pitched Sunday night, lifting weights, and he will continue to simulate his starts, but not with his arm. The best pitcher in baseball may not be pitching for a while.


• The Padres' season-opening comeback victory provided the first signs of the San Diego roster depth. With the Padres trailing 1-0 in the eighth inning, manager Bud Black had a couple of nice pinch-hitting options, in Seth Smith -- who clubbed a homer -- and Yasmani Grandal, who worked a walk and eventually came around to score the lead run on Chris Denorfia's two-run single.

The Dodgers showed their vulnerability, writes Bill Plaschke.
[+] EnlargeStephen Drew, Daniel Descalso
AP Photo/Matt Slocum
For Stephen Drew, the wait continues.

• The season has started and Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales are still out of work. Some executives believe that Drew's best chance at getting a contract now would be if the Yankees or Red Sox suffer a significant injury with their respective shortstops, Derek Jeter and Xander Bogaerts. Morales' best deal may happen if Seattle gets off to a lousy start, the offense flounders and the DH-types that the Mariners are trying don't work out.

• Stephen Strasburg thinks the sky is the limit for the Nationals, writes James Wagner. The Nationals might be good enough to live up to expectations this time, writes Thom Loverro.

• Jimmy Rollins is expected to be in the lineup for Opening Day, writes Jim Salisbury.

• Instant replay has too many layers, writes Mike DiGiovanna.

Sunday night's game was the first with ad*****d instant replay in place, but there were no calls challenged. The Dodgers and the Padres have the same internal system in place: If there is a questionable call, the managers of those teams intend to go out and begin discussions with the umpires. Meanwhile, the folks assigned to review video replays in the clubhouse will see what they see, then call to the dugout to the bench coach -- Dave Roberts for the Padres, Tim Wallach for the Dodgers -- and then word will be passed on to the manager with a hand signal. On Friday, Mattingly was faced with a questionable call, but in the midst of his discussion with the umpire, Wallach gave him a thumbs-down from the dugout, meaning the call wouldn't be overturned.

As one staffer said, "There's almost no reason to argue [with the umpires] now."

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Indians added guys to their 40-man roster.

2. Cleveland signed a couple of veterans for depth, Paul Hoynes writes.

3. Ian Kinsler will lead off for the Tigers, with Austin Jackson hitting fifth.

4. Gaby Sanchez is getting his shot to be the first baseman for the Pirates, Rob Biertempfel writes.

Dings and dents

1. The Jays placed Casey Janssen on the disabled list.

2. Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are going to focus on their mechanics.

3. Mark Ellis' slip may have ensured a stay on the disabled list.

4. Jean Segura has been cleared to play.

NL West

• The Giants are looking to get back on track.

• Brandon McCarthy feels a lot stronger, writes Nick Piecoro.

• The Diamondbacks have room for improvement.

• Nolan Arenado is determined to hit this year.

• Colorado's future harvests look good, writes Patrick Saunders.

NL Central

• Mike Matheny says his financial woes helped him grow.

• Opening Day has special promise in Cincinnati, writes Paul Daugherty.

• The Cardinals have young players, and old expectations.

• All systems are go for the Brewers on Opening Day.

• For the Pirates, it all starts with the starting pitching, writes Dejan Kovacevic.

• The Pirates are hoping to get more consistent offensive production.

NL East

• Ian Desmond is the face of the Nationals, writes Adam Kilgore.

• Chase Utley vows to come out hitting.

• The Braves got a lefty from Winnipeg.

• Jose Fernandez will be front and center Monday. The Marlins are hoping for larger crowds.

• The Mets have a whole lot of questions as their season starts.

• The Mets have a lot of question marks, writes Andy Martino.

AL West

• Oakland has confidence in Sonny Gray.

• For Tanner Scheppers, there’s no looking back.

• The Rangers are limping into their opener, writes Jeff Wilson.

• Mark Appel was "the man" for the Astros.

• Larry Stone implores Mariners fans to keep hope alive, for now.

AL Central

• The Tigers have swapped muscle for athleticism.

• This season will be a referendum on GM Dayton Moore, writes Sam Mellinger.

• The Royals have had trouble living up to expectations.

• The White Sox and Cubs will be bad, but David Haugh believes you should watch anyway. I think the White Sox could be relevant in the AL Central race, as they were in 2012.

• Opening Day is Adam Dunn’s kind of day.

• The Twins are bullish on Ricky Nolasco, writes Mike Berardino.

• Jim Souhan wants the Twins to show something.

AL East

• This could be a summer of discontent for the Blue Jays, writes Steve Buffery.

• The Jays explained why they’ll be competitive.

• Hiroki Kuroda is helping Masahiro Tanaka adjust.

• Success and personality put Joe Maddon in his own class.

• Hal Steinbrenner aimed for a $189 million mandate. From Joel Sherman’s piece:
In a 45-minute conversation with The Post, Steinbrenner did not conceal his disappointment with the lack of farm production he felt forced his decision to open his wallet. Joe Girardi publicly defended the players he was provided last year, but that was not reality. In a never-before-reported detail, Steinbrenner revealed, "When Joe and I had a conversation at the end of the season, even before he agreed to come back, he said, 'Look, I got guys coming up here who don’t even know how to run the bases, guys coming up that don’t know how to bunt. Something is clearly being missed at some levels.'"

Rather than clean house, Steinbrenner called for more nuanced alterations, notably the hiring of people such as Jody Reed, Mike Quade and Trey Hillman to specialize in specific areas such as infield or outfield play with the idea of graduating farmhands who have mastered the basics of the game. He said he expects to see results this year and vowed firings -- as they were last offseason -- remain viable.

"It is an important question to ask every year anyway: Is our philosophy correct, are the people instituting our philosophy correct? Do they believe it and are they living it?" he said. "That is something I am going to look at after the year, even if things are a little better, even if things are a little more optimistic."

• The Orioles will play the role of underdog once again, writes Peter Schmuck.

• Boston's success stems from John Farrell, writes Ron Borges.

• A maturing Jon Lester is now a leader, writes Peter Abraham.

What could derail the Dodgers?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
SAN DIEGO -- The votes are in, and the Los Angeles Dodgers were picked by more folks at ESPN than any other team to win the World Series; 38 of the 44 ESPN experts who cast ballots chose the Dodgers to win the NL West. Las Vegas is picking them as well, by a solid margin.

Those facts are understandable. When you attend a Dodgers workout, it’s like watching batting practice the day before the All-Star Game, with big names all over the place. Heck, even their coaches -- Don Mattingly, Davey Lopes, Mark McGwire, John Valentin, Tim Wallach and Rick Honeycutt -- are former stars.

The Dodgers have baseball’s highest payroll, and so for the first time in 15 years, some team other than the New York Yankees will have that title. The Yankees can testify to the Dodgers that this is the blessing and the curse of having a high payroll, and L.A.’s payroll dwarfs that of its division rivals:

Los Angeles: $235 million
San Francisco: $154 million
Arizona: $112 million
Colorado: $95 million
San Diego: $90 million

The Diamondbacks and Padres stretched their payrolls this year in their effort to break into the postseason, and yet both teams will spend less than half of what the Dodgers will spend. And presumably, the Dodgers will have more room for in-season growth in deals than any of the other NL West teams.

I voted with the majority: I picked the Dodgers to win the NL West because their talent reflects their payroll; they are absolutely stacked. Their pitching staff is the deepest in the National League, with a bunch of former closers serving as setup men for Kenley Jansen at top dollar. As soon as Matt Kemp returns, Mattingly will have to decide which of his four star outfielders he will have to bench out of Yasiel Puig, Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford.

But let’s try to imagine the plausible scenarios in which the Dodgers don't win the NL West.

1. Hanley Ramirez and/or Clayton Kershaw are greatly limited by injury

Kershaw will start the season on the disabled list, but the Dodgers don’t believe his injury is serious. Ramirez is healthy, which is a good thing, because the Dodgers are much less of a team when he’s not on the field, as we saw last season. As he’s gotten older and has missed a lot of games:

Games missed by Hanley Ramirez
2010: 20
2011: 70
2012: 5
2013: 76

The Dodgers could lose any of their four outfielders and they would probably be fine, given their depth at that position. They have good defensive catchers behind A.J. Ellis. They would miss Adrian Gonzalez, but have some alternatives.

But if Ramirez goes down, it’s a huge problem for the Dodgers, who are thin in middle infielders. If Kershaw goes down, well, it'd be like the 1962 to '66 Dodgers losing Sandy Koufax. Kershaw’s the best pitcher on the planet, having won three straight ERA titles in the National League.

2. The depth of the San Diego roster pays dividends

Last season, the Padres had one player -- one -- who had more than 500 at-bats, Chase Headley. Just about everywhere else, they were plagued by injury or suspensions. Catcher Yasmani Grandal and shortstop Everth Cabrera were both hit with 50-game suspensions stemming from the Biogenesis investigation. First baseman Yonder Alonso missed a lot of time because of a hand injury, and the effect of that lingered even when he did play.

All three of those players have had good spring trainings, and are surrounded by a roster of players who have acute talents -- strong platoon splits against lefties or righties. They have a deep bullpen, behind the developing Andrew Cashner (who held hitters to the second-lowest OPS in the second half of last season among all starters) and Tyson Ross. San Diego’s roster is a lot like Oakland’s roster last season: They don’t have a Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera, but they have a lot of really good players.

3. The Giants’ rotation rebounds in a big way

It must start there for San Francisco, which will always win or lose because of pitching. The Giants ranked 24th in starters ERA last season (4.37) -- more than a run behind the Dodgers' mark -- and so Matt Cain must climb into the upper ranks of starters, again. Tim Hudson must stay healthy. Tim Lincecum must pitch effectively with his diminished stuff. Ryan Vogelsong has to be better. If not, it’ll be a long summer for the Giants.

4. Archie Bradley climbs into the big leagues and is a monster for Arizona

The Diamondbacks have an MVP candidate in Paul Goldschmidt and are a good defensive team, but they need somebody to step up at the front of their rotation now that Patrick Corbin is out for the year. Bradley will open the season in the minors, and on his way out the door this spring, he said all the right things about improving his fastball command and the consistency of his breaking stuff. GM Kevin Towers said the other day that when you listen to Bradley talk, you see how his background in football plays into how he thinks.

Whenever he arrives, the Diamondbacks need him to be really good, right away. They need him to grab the rope and add the weight of his considerable talent right away.

5. The Rockies’ young power arms crush it from the outset

Colorado is going to hit -- the Rockies always hit -- but as always, the gray area is in the pitching. This year, the organization could have a couple of high-end pitchers at their disposal in Jon Gray and Eddie Butler. At some point, the Rockies could reach for one or both and throw them into the mix, and they could be reinforcements with impact.

Around the league

• The rationale of Mike Trout and his agent is sound: He takes a six-year, $144.5 million deal now, and then he can become a free agent at age 28 and evaluate the Angels and opportunities elsewhere, like in New York and Philadelphia. Some folks who know him say that he wants to win, and he is intrigued by the idea of playing for the Yankees -- down the road. This is completely his prerogative.

But an equally sound counterargument could be made that Team Trout missed an incredible opportunity with this deal, and that there is an assumption being made that MLB will remain on its current trajectory. There are so many X factors that could turn baseball’s money-making operation onto a different path. Labor peace could be threatened, or evaporate. International events -- an economic collapse, for example -- could change everything. Television habits could continue to evolve, and undercut the local deals that teams are making.

Trout will be fine no matter what happens, because he’s guaranteed a whole lot of money. But rival agents wonder whether he could’ve gotten twice as much as he did, and if you look at this like a poker game, he may have underplayed a monster hand.

Trout and Kershaw are great leading men, writes Bill Shaikin.

• The Astros signed a mediation agreement regarding their television deal.

• Chris Owings won the shortstop job with the Diamondbacks, as expected. Arizona has depth at the position, and its intent is to spend the weeks and months ahead looking at possible targets in other organizations as it considers moving one of its own pieces -- like Didi Gregorius.

The Diamondbacks have a long-term need for starting pitching and catching, and could be interested in someone like the Yankees’ J.R. Murphy, who is drawing attention for his defensive skills.

• This could be the last go-round for Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez together because of their escalating salaries, Troy Renck writes.

• Jonathan Schoop made the Orioles’ roster. As written here before, he may be the biggest second baseman in MLB history, at about 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds.

The fight for jobs

1. Josh Beckett is the winner of the No. 5 spot in the Dodgers’ rotation, writes Steve Dilbeck.

2. Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan made the Nationals’ rotation, because Doug Fister got hurt. Fister could be out a month, writes Chase Hughes.

3. Jenrry Mejia won the No. 5 spot in the Mets’ rotation because of Jon Niese’s arm trouble.

4. Eduardo Nunez was sent to the minors by the Yankees after losing out to Yangervis Solarte.

5. Brandon Workman has found a job.

6. Randall Delgado won the No. 5 spot in the Arizona rotation.

7. Drew Pomeranz won a spot with the Oakland Athletics.

8. David Hale is the Braves’ fourth starter.

9. The Pirates designated Vin Mazzaro for assignment.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Red Sox and Jon Lester have decided to take a break in their negotiations.

It’s an interesting decision. Pitchers who have been headed to free agency in past years have said privately that this dynamic does add a weird sort of pressure on each start. They have noticed that if they have a couple of great starts, their team will try to restart talks, and if they struggle, there is silence.

2. The Indians worked out a six-year extension with Yan Gomes. Given what Gomes has turned out to be for the Indians -- and what they expect him to be -- the Blue Jays’ trade of Gomes has not turned out well.

3. There is no new deal for Hanley Ramirez.

Dings and dents

1. Shane Victorino has strained his hamstring.

2. Lincecum was bruised, but is OK.

3. Omar Infante is expected to be ready for Opening Day.

4. Mike Minor looked sharp.

5. Cory Gearrin appears headed for Tommy John surgery.

Saturday’s games

1. Chris Young made a strong first impression on the Mariners, writes Ryan Divish.

NL East

• Even with the Marlins, spring can be a time of hope, writes Greg Cote.

• Here are five questions about the Marlins, from Clark Spencer.

• Terry Collins is optimistic, but has a lot to manage with the Mets, writes Kristie Ackert.

• The Phillies see versatility in their roster.

NL Central

• Joey Votto intends to do what’s best in each at-bat.

• Bryan Price, in his own words.

• Hal McCoy wonders about the Reds: Who are these guys?

• The Brewers have developed a strong backbone.

• Gerrit Cole has been working on his curveball.

• The Cubs need Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo to be really good soon.

• The Cardinals are rich with young arms.

• Adam Wainwright is the Cardinals’ fearless leader.

• Wrigley Field is 100 years old.

NL West

• Kemp says he’s ready to go.

• Carlos Quentin is opening this season on the disabled list.

• Cashner gets the ball for the Padres tonight.

AL East

• Derek Jeter completed the final spring training of his career.

• The Red Sox have placed trust in their young talent, writes Peter Abraham.

• There isn’t a lot of excitement or optimism for the Blue Jays, writes Steve Simmons.

• Tommy Hunter is taking over as the Orioles’ closer.

• The Rays have World Series hopes.

• Tampa Bay appears to have all the pieces to be a World Series winner, writes Marc Topkin.

AL Central

• Brad Ausmus is a student of human nature, writes Shawn Windsor.

• The Tigers are short in the bullpen, writes Lynn Henning.

• The Twins want Joe Mauer to be an everyday guy.

• Minnesota's major question is its offense, writes Mike Berardino.

• There will be grass in Cleveland.

• The White Sox and Cubs are set to stink again, writes Rick Morrissey.

AL West

• Lloyd McClendon has put the Mariners back on course.

• For 2014, Robinson Cano will be the Mariners’ primary show.

• The Rangers’ season won’t be as bad as it seems.

• Pray for the Rangers, writes Randy Galloway.

• Jeff Luhnow doesn’t mind in-season contract talk.

• For the Angels and Dodgers, failure is not an option.
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Originally Posted by DeadsetAce View Post a boss pimp.gif



post #20643 of 78800
Thread Starter 
post #20644 of 78800
I was sort of glad to see Bonds get a pretty good reaction in Pitt yesterday. Dude has his detectors and self inflicted issues with the city/team but it has been 20 years and probably time to heal the wounds

From Smith to Friedman, we know what's up

Official Member of the Steeler Nation

From Smith to Friedman, we know what's up

Official Member of the Steeler Nation
post #20645 of 78800
don baylor broke his leg trying to catch ceremonial first pitch from vlad guerrero sick.gif
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Thread Starter 
Miguel Cabrera, When It’s All Said And Done.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The week leading up to Opening Day 2014 turned out to be quite historic, with the clear two best players in the game locked into long-term contracts guaranteeing them nearly a cool half-billion. Obviously, the prognosis for the respective long-term efficacy of the two deals varies dramatically, with Cabrera’s extension locking up his age 33-40 seasons, compared to Trout’s doing the same to his age 23-28 campaigns. This week, let’s take a step back and put these two greats into some sort of historical perspective, then use that perspective to research their aging curves in order make some educated judgments regarding the Tigers’ and Angels’ investments. Today, let’s look at Miguel Cabrera.
First, let’s take a look at how Miguel Cabrera gets it done. We’ll focus primarily on the bat, as A) Cabrera’s complementary skills are negligible at best, and B) Let’s face it, even with a five-tool guy like Trout, these teams are paying for the bat first when they give out such deals. Below is a grid of Cabrera’s percentile ranks indicating the respective frequency of the six key batted ball outcomes – K’s, BB’s, popups, fly balls, line drives and ground balls – over the last six seasons. Batted ball authority is not taken into account at all here, but these numbers alone – from 1, indicating lowest in the majors, to 99, indicating the highest – paint a very accurate portrait of a hitter qualitatively. They’re his technical merit scores, if you will.

2008 71 48 49 65 73 31
2009 44 63 47 46 77 46
2010 34 92 63 73 66 22
2011 25 98 18 37 96 53
2012 26 70 14 87 64 39
2013 26 96 34 65 91 23
This, my friends, is as close to perfection as a hitter can get. A very low K rate in 2013, with a steady ongoing downward trend. A very high BB rate, with a steady upward trend. Very high line drive rates, ranging from a low percentile rank of 64 to a high of 96 – these befit perennial batting title contenders. High fly ball rates, but low popup rates – the mark of the rare power hitter who doesn’t give away free outs in the process. And remember, we’re not even taking authority into account – and Cabrera’s batted ball authority just happens to be the best in the game today. We’ll take a gander at that later.

So he’s the best hitter today, as far as the eye can see. But does being the best hitter in the game at age 30 justify his new eight-year, $248M contract extension that now guarantees him a total of $292M thru 2023 – his age 40 season? Even a hitter this prolific has peers – let’s identify them, see how they aged, and what this might mean for Cabrera and the Tigers.

I maintain a database of MLB regulars going back to 1901 that contains a whole lot of fun info. For all regulars, it tracks – among other gems – the cumulative number of standard deviations above or below league average OBP and SLG. For well above average players, it is a useful way of tracking development of on-base and slugging skills independent of one another. Cabrera has already reached 41st on the all-time list in this statistic, with 17.84 cumulative standard deviations above league average OBP and 20.34 cumulative standard deviations above league average SLG (38.18 combined). This ranks him 4th among active players (#19 Albert Pujols = 23.51 + 27.59 = 51.10, #22 Alex Rodriguez = 20.55 + 28.94 = 49.49, #35 David Ortiz = 17.17 + 24.32 = 41.49).

Cabrera has also just completed a three-year stretch that goes down as his career peak – so far – according to this method. Over the last three seasons (weighted on a 3-2-1 basis), Cabrera has accumulated 17.23 cumulative standard deviations above league average (8.71 OBP + 8.52 SLG). This represents the 9th highest individual player peak ever recorded. Check out his company on the list below:

Bonds 02-04 37-39 16.07 12.79 28.86 255
Ruth 19-21 24-26 9.68 13.41 23.09 237
T.Williams 47-49 28-30 10.41 10.79 21.20 195
Hornsby 23-25 27-29 9.80 10.43 20.23 208
Cobb 09-11 22-24 8.55 9.62 18.17 198
Mantle 56-58 24-26 8.71 8.83 17.54 206
Pujols 08-10 28-30 8.54 8.77 17.31 184
H.Wagner 07-09 33-35 7.02 10.24 17.26 190
Mi.Cabrera 11-13 28-30 8.71 8.52 17.23 176
In particular, take note of the similarity among the peaks of Cabrera, Mantle and Pujols, both overall and with the OBP and SLG components separated. Pujols’ peak three-year run also occurred from ages 28-30, like Cabrera’s. Both of these players will go onto Cabrera’s comp list.

Next, let’s look at a list of players with the most cumulative standard deviations above league average OBP and SLG through age 30 – Cabrera ranks 12th on this list:

Cobb 12 30.64 33.60 64.24 186 4
Hornsby 11 25.22 29.18 54.40 178 6
T.Williams 8 25.56 25.61 51.17 196 2
Mantle 12 24.32 26.81 51.13 177 8
Ruth 8 20.35 29.22 49.57 216 3
Pujols 10 21.93 24.08 46.01 172 19
Foxx 11 19.64 26.29 45.93 170 15
Ott 12 21.58 22.97 44.55 160 10
Musial 9 19.25 23.07 42.32 172 5
Speaker 10 20.84 21.00 41.84 168 7
F.Robinson 11 18.40 20.84 39.24 155 11
Mi.Cabrera 11 17.84 20.34 38.18 154 41
F.Thomas 8 20.05 17.21 37.26 174 18
First, note the eerie similarity between Cabrera and Frank Robinson, across the board. On top of the overall and component OBP and SLG and OPS+ similarities, both won AL Triple Crowns at similar ages, and peaked at almost the same time (28-30 for Cabrera, 29-31 for Robinson). He’s definitely a comp. Frank Thomas also qualifies as a close comp, especially once you take body type into consideration. Mel Ott also peaked at age 28-30, so let’s use him as a comp. One thing we can say with virtual certainty at this point is that Miguel Cabrera is going to wind up as at the very least one of the Top 20-25 hitters in baseball history.

To round out Cabrera’s group of comps we will add two recent peers with similar body types and levels of statistical accomplishment, who both experienced their career peaks at about Miggy’s current age – Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez. That gives us a group of seven – Mantle, Pujols, Robinson, Thomas, Ott, Ramirez and Rodriguez. You will notice the absence of Hank Aaron and Willie Mays from these lists. Their athleticism is obviously on a whole different level, but they built from a less power-centric base of skills in their 20′s that continued to build and allowed them to thrive throughout their thirties. For all of these players, let’s look at their performance through age 30 compared to their final cumulative career total standard deviations above league average OBP and SLG.

Mantle 24-26 24.32 26.81 34.55 33.27 75.4% 8
Pujols 28-30 21.93 24.08 23.51 27.59 90.0% 19
F.Robinson 29-31 18.40 20.84 30.40 33.17 61.7% 11
F.Thomas 24-26 20.05 17.21 27.60 23.78 72.5% 18
Ott 28-30 21.58 22.97 31.91 31.86 69.9% 10
M.Ramirez 28-30 14.90 18.05 28.25 31.77 54.9% 13
A.Rodriguez 29-31 13.30 20.26 20.55 28.94 67.8% 22
Mi.Cabrera 28-30 17.84 20.34 41
Obviously, Pujols’ career is not complete just yet, so let’s keep his numbers out of the overall percentage of career offensive value accrued by age 30 for this group – excluding Pujols, they accumulated 67.0% of their career combined standard deviations above league average OBP and SLG by age 30. If Cabrera hits that number exactly, he’ll finish at 56.99 and rank 15th overall, between Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. Not too shabby. Still, let’s look more closely at the specifics of these seven players’ performances in their thirties to see what may be in store for Cabrera.

Mantle remained an exceptional offensive player on a per at-bat basis after age 30, but never again played over 144 games in a season, playing over 125 only three more times. He had only one Mickey Mantle-esque season ahead of him, at age 32 in 1964. His durability plunged after age 29, at least in part due to some hard living, but a 10-year, big money deal bestowed upon Mickey Mantle after his age 30 season would not have been a good investment.

Pujols is an easy one, as his 10-year, big-dollar deal is fresh in all of our minds. Even his age 31 season, his last in St. Louis, was a big step down from the standard he had previously set. His annual OPS+ has gone 148-138-116 since age 30, and he played only 99 games in 2013 after never playing fewer than 143 in each of his first 12 seasons. He might bounce back to some extent, but the pre-2011 level of production for which the Angels paid a premium isn’t likely coming back.

Robinson is perhaps the most unique overall comparison. He won the AL Triple Crown at age 30 – Cabrera did the same at 29. Robinson never played 150 games in a season after age 30, but had exceptional age 31 and 33 seasons, though his “black ink” days were over. As late as age 38, Robinson was still recording OPS+ of over 140, albeit as a DH requiring regular days off. The Tigers would certainly not complain if Cabrera went on to accumulate 38.3% of his career offensive value after age 30 – that would raise his score to 61.89, 12th on the all-time list, right behind Robinson.

Thomas basically became a full-time DH at age 30, and his best days were already behind him. He had only three 150-game seasons ahead of him, and only two of them – at ages 32 and 35 – could be considered star-quality. After being very durable in his twenties, he began pulling and tearing things in his thirties, missing over half of his age 33, 36, 37 and 40 seasons. A 10-year, big dollar commitment to Thomas at age 31 would have been a very bad idea.

Ott remained an extremely productive full-time player through age 33, but only because of the short right field porch in the Polo Grounds. After age 30, Ott hit an amazing 111 of his final 142 homers at home. He had three solid years from 34 to 36 versus wartime competition, with quite a few more days off, and that was it. 10-year, big money deal at age 31? Again, a very bad idea.

Of this group, Ramirez was the most productive offensive player after age 30, and he has a couple of PED suspensions to show for it. Moving into extremely fly ball-friendly Fenway Park at age 29 also certainly helped to fight off his decline phase. He remained a 150-game, high-performance fixture through age 33, and tossed in one more vintage Ramirez full-time season at age 36 in 2008. Man-Ram’s performance level throughout his thirties is about the apex of what Cabrera can wish for – and it is likely wishful thinking.

Then there’s A-Rod. He was an 150-game per season fixture through age 31, but hasn’t played 140 games in a season since. He capped his peak period with arguably his best season ever at age 31, with a 176 OPS+, but has watched it decline every year since – from 150 to 138 to 123 to 119 to 111, twice. Rodriguez, obviously, was a shortstop through age 27, starting in a much more athletic place than Cabrera, who did play some shortstop in his minor league days. After leading the AL in SLG at age 32, his black ink days were over. As we know, his long-term, big dollar contract has not turned out well.

Which brings us full circle, back to Cabrera. His durability throughout his twenties was exceptional – he played in at least 150 games every year, and in at least 157 every year but one. He was on his way to doing so again at age 30 last season before aggravating his hip injury on August 28. If the aging trends of his comps is to be used as a guide – and they should be – such interruptions in service are likely to increase in frequency over the coming seasons.

Cabrera’s performance dropped off precipitously after August 28, giving a glimpse of what a beaten-up, thirtysomething version of Cabrera might look like. Before: .356-.444-.586; After: .289-.393-.342. Quickly, let’s look more closely at his before and after production by BIP type to see what happened:

FLY 0.521 1.672 435 391
LD 0.670 0.860 102 131
GB 0.292 0.313 150 207
ALL BIP 0.429 0.827 218 241
ALL PA 0.356 0.444 0.686 237 258
— — — — — —
FLY 0.227 0.409 42 206
LD 0.688 0.688 88 108
GB 0.273 0.273 125 182
ALL BIP 0.344 0.406 88 184
ALL PA 0.289 0.393 0.342 116 213
First of all, Cabrera’s plate appearance frequency data (not shown above) didn’t change much at all after the injury. The actual production, however, certainly did. Most specifically and predictably, it changed most in the fly ball department, where he went from an actual .521-1.672 line before the injury to a paltry .227-.409 afterward. Looking at the “ADJ PRD” column, however, which adjusts for ballpark, luck, etc., you’ll notice that while Cabrera’s batted ball authority level did decline after he aggravated the hip injury, it didn’t drop nearly as much once adjusted for context. He simply went from hit-the-ball-harder-than-anyone guy – ADJ PRD of 391, with league average equaling 100 – to hit-the-ball-harder-than-just-about-anyone guy, at 206. With such a small sample, a couple of balls caught at the wall in Comerica that would have been homers almost anywhere else makes a lot of noise in the numbers.

After the injury, he still hit a ton of line drives. He still almost never hit a weak ground ball. He still hit the ball hard in the air, just not as hard. The one thing he could no longer do was pull the ball in the air. Prior to the aggravation of the hip injury, he pulled 46 of his 119 fly balls to LF and LCF – in fact, 18 of the 22 fly balls he hit to LF went over the fence, an otherworldly ratio. After the injury, he hit three, count ‘em three, of his 22 fly balls to LF and LCF, and zero went over the fence. Moving forward, over time such nagging, aggravating injuries, and just general wear and tear will not suddenly rob Cabrera of his powers, but they will gradually erode them, as they chipped away at them late last season.

For many of the reasons cited on Fangraphs and elsewhere, this contract really is indefensible. His existing deal wasn’t even expiring for two more seasons, after all. For me, it’s not the annual salary, but the duration that will bite the Tigers. Albert Einstein’s genius was, among other things, in discovering and explaining the relationship between space and time. Look at this as baseball’s take on those same laws of physics – today’s Miguel Cabrera hits a ball at a certain speed and angle that projects the ball over the fence. That same swing from that same player, three or four years from now, with more physical wear on the moving parts involved will yield a somewhat lower exit speed at a slightly higher or lower angle and won’t go over the fence quite as much anymore.

As the parts continue to wear down, they require more down time. Eventually, the exit speed too often declines only slightly to that fly ball tipping point where the result changes from the optimal – the home run – to just another out. It happens to everyone – to most of us, it happens in Little League or maybe high school. It too will happen to Miguel Cabrera, and if history is our guide, it will happen well before this contract runs out.

Tough Decisions: Gregory Polanco.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Coming off their first playoff appearance in a thousand years, the Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in a tough spot. On paper, they’re clearly second-best in their division. A whopping 30 out of 31 of us predicted the St. Louis Cardinals will win the National League Central. We did pick the Pirates to take the second wild card, by a thin margin over the Cincinnati Reds. Our depth charts predict the Pirates to be the sixth-best team in the National League. Per WAR, they’re in a virtual heat with the Atlanta Braves. However, nobody (except me) is taking the Colorado Rockies seriously — so maybe they’re actually predicted to finish fifth.

In any event, it’s clear the Pirates are in a position where every marginal run counts. As it turns out, they have a position that could potentially be improved by many runs if only it weren’t for service time considerations. And no, it’s not first base.

Right field looks like a modest problem area for the Pirates. At the moment, the work will be split between Jose Tabata and Travis Snider. Tabata’s expected to receive the lion’s share. Waiting in the wings is Gregory Polanco. This article is about him, but let’s identify what’s up with the other duo before moving on.

Tabata is signed through at least 2016, with three options. When Tabata signed that contract, he was coming off a rookie campaign that was worth almost two wins in 441 plate appearances. Since then, he’s had a couple seasons at a slightly below-average rate and one partial season six runs below replacement level. He hasn’t matured into the high-value role player the team had hoped That said, he’s entering his age-25 season and he’s coming off a decent 341-plate-appearance season. Tabata’s something. The issue is whether he’s enough to help get the Pirates to a postseason berth.

Snider is a little simpler to summarize: The 26-year-old has scorched various brands of minor-league pitching, but he can’t seem to put it together at the major league level. His power’s declined in the past two seasons, so it’s not certain there’s anything here to salvage. For a Pirates’ franchise that likes to find buried treasure, Snider is a good guy to give a shot to. The danger is giving him too many replacement-level at bats. If his bat is showing life, he can conceivably platoon in both right field and at first base.

Which brings us to Polanco, the guy Baseball America ranked as the game’s 10th-best prospect. Here’s what Marc Hulet had to say about him about a month ago:

The Scouting Report: A fast-mover, Polanco is still learning so it’s impressive that he reached Triple-A on the strength of his raw talent. The outfielder has a chance to be an above-average fielder with right field being his most likely destination where he’ll be able to showcase his plus arm. At the plate, he flashes the ability to hit for both average and power but he’s still learning to identify and handle breaking balls. He also has a bit of a long swing at times and needs to focus on taking a shorter route to the ball because he doesn’t need to swing out of his shoes to hit the ball with authority — thanks to his above-average bat speed.

That jibes with reports that suggest he can handle center field. Other outfielders who can handle center and feature strong arms — such as Josh Reddick and Shane Victorino — posted defensive marks in the range of +15 to +25 runs saved. Let’s conservatively suggest Polanco could probably save five to 10 runs in a full season. Comparatively, Tabata and Snider profile to be worth between zero and five runs lost on defense.

Offensively, Polanco has the raw tools to be a good contact hitter with on-base skills to boot. His future power is uncertain, but he’s currently more contact-oriented than he is powerful. Whether the 22-year-old is ready to use these tools at the major-league level is a question better posed to Pittsburgh’s’ talent evaluators. What we do know is his combined defense and contact-heavy approach probably put a one-win floor on his performance. Meanwhile, the Tabata-Snider platoon projects to between one and two wins without much upside.

If that was all the Pirates had to consider, we might see Polanco start tomorrow against Jeff Samardizija. But as we all know, service time considerations reign supreme. There are two dates the Pirates will be watching: The first is typically around the fourth week of April. That’s the point in the season where a player can no longer gain a full service year. If Tabata-Snider are playing poorly and Polanco is mashing in Triple-A, we might see him called up then.

The other date is usually in late June or early July. That’s when clubs can can avoid Super Two status, which applies to players in the top 22% of service time. As an example, Wil Myers was called up on June 16 last season.

Super Two players get an additional year of arbitration, which is a good thing for those who want to make more than the league minimum. On average, Super Two players make between $10 million and $15 million more than their not-so-super cousins.

For the Pirates, the decision on when to promote Polanco really depends on a few distinct factors. They absolutely will wait until they can claim a seventh season of club control, which would happen sometime in late April. Tabata and Snider will audition while we wait for that date. If one or both are playing decently, it could behoove the Pirates to continue auditioning them into the summer. In particular, Tabata’s contract and youth could be seen as valuable to some clubs; enough so they may part with a useful prospect.

Polanco’s development is important to consider. It’s been said more than once that we’ve been spoiled by guys like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. To a lesser extent, Myers also fits in that conversation. Unfortunately for impatient fans, there is a very real chance the best thing for Polanco is a full season against Triple-A pitching. That might be the ticket for him to tap into his power. At the major-league level, he’ll be struggling every day against the best pitchers in the world. That’s not the best place to practice putting backspin on the ball.

The last factor is a cost-benefit analysis. We know the Pirates need marginal runs in 2014. Presuming Polanco provides more of those than Tabata, plus backups, the question becomes: “Are those runs worth enough to justify the potential for an additional $10 million to $15 million in the next six seasons?” This’s the business side of baseball, and it’s entirely possible the fiscally responsible decision is to hurt the club’s playoff odds in 2014 so it can realize long-term savings. A playoff berth is extremely valuable — both in the same year and in future seasons. The Pirates have an opportunity to bill themselves as a franchise that’s truly turned the corner, which could have a huge influence on revenue. But if Polanco only helps the club’s playoff odds by a very small percentage, then the right choice might be to keep him in the minors.

The decision to promote a top prospect is a difficult one. It’s hard enough if the franchise is only worried about player development and value in the current season. Adding service time considerations complicates the math. I wish I could tell you what the right decision is. And I really wish the answer was to promote him immediately, because I can’t wait to watch this guy play. For the time being, though, everybody needs to wait for a little more information.

FanGraphs 2014 Crowd Predictions: National League.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On Friday, managing editor Dave Cameron published the various (and probably wrong) FanGraphs staff predictions for the American League and National League — shortly after which the present author provided the readership their own opportunity to make embarrassing predictions.

Below are the results of that same exercise for the National League. The results for the American League, published earlier this afternoon, are available here. Note that, owing to rounding error, percentages might add up to slightly more or less than 100%.

Division Winners

West: L.A. (89%), San Fran. (6%), Arizona (3%), San Diego (2%), Colorado (1%)
Central: St. Louis (87%), Pitt. (8%), Cinn. (5%), Milwaukee (1%), Chicago (0%)
East: Washington (82%), Atlanta (17%), Miami (1%), Phil. (1%), New York (0%)

As Cameron noted on Friday, there was near-total consensus with regard to the staff’s divisional picks. This is also largely the case with the crowd’s divisional selections. Moreover, just as Atlanta was the only club besides the triumvirate of Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington to receive as many as three of the staff’s 31 votes, so Atlanta is the only club here to appear on more than 10% of the crowd’s ballots.

Wild Card Winners (Top Five)

Note: Consensus division winners are excluded, and the non-consensus winners have had their division title selections added to their Wild Card selections, so for the teams listed below, their placement is based upon their combined number of total predicted playoff appearances, either through WC or Divisional victory.

Atlanta (47% WC, 17% DIV)
Pittsburgh (42% WC, 8% DIV)
San Francisco (26% WC, 6% DIV)
Cincinnati (23% WC, 5% DIV)
Arizona (11% WC, 3% DIV)

Predicted Playoff Appearances by Overall Percentage

Los Angeles: 97%
Washington: 96%
St. Louis: 96%
Atlanta: 63%
Pittsburgh: 50%
San Francisco: 32%
Cincinnati: 28%
Arizona: 13%
San Diego: 8%
Milwaukee: 6%
Colorado: 6%
Philadelphia: 1%
Miami: 1%
Chicago: 1%
New York: 1%

Once again, three clubs appear to be regarded as virtual certainties to qualify for the postseason. Both the staff and the crowd view the fourth and final playoff berth as considerably more open.

MVP (Top Five)

1. Bryce Harper: 21%
2. Andrew McCutchen: 15%
3. Paul Goldschmidt: 10%
4. Hanley Ramirez: 8%
5. Joey Votto: 7%

Among the staff, no single NL field player received a vote on more than five of the 31 ballots cast. There are similar questions among the crowd with regard to the likely best player in the National League. Of note: despite finishing among the staff’s top five and also receiving entirely favorable projections, San Francisco catcher Buster Posey was omitted from the crowd’s own top five.

Cy Young (Top Five)

1. Clayton Kershaw: 46%
2. Stephen Strasburg: 14%
3. Jose Fernandez: 9%
4. Adam Wainwright: 9%
5. Madison Bumgarner: 7%

Owing to how he also received a number of MVP votes, it’s not surprising to find Clayton Kershaw’s name atop this list. More surprising was the support for Turd Sandwich, a pitcher of whom the author was previously unaware.

Rookie of the Year (Top Five)

1. Billy Hamilton: 19%
2. Gregory Polanco: 14%
3. Archie Bradley: 10%
4. Kolten Wong: 10%
5. Javier Baez: 9%

The author would like to extend a debt of gratitude to the reader who felt that my mother was the favorite for Rookie of the Year honors this season. My mother, likewise, sends along her regards.

How The Angels Can Compete In A Tight AL West.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
If there’s one thing I like here at FanGraphs — well, there are many things, but this is just one of those things — it’s our Depth Charts, which are fueled by manual inputs of playing time (the NL West is my beat, so you know who to yell at if you’d like to argue about, say, Marco Scutaro‘s projections) and get funneled as part of the input into our projected standings. And if you look at the projected standings, they’re more or less what you’d expect. The Dodgers are expected to be the best team, the Astros the worst. The Dodgers, Nationals and Cardinals are projected to win the three NL divisions. The Red Sox and Tigers look to win the most games in the American League. This all makes sense, even if that’s all but certainly not how it will really play out. Maybe that’s not exciting, but projections aren’t supposed to be exciting. It’d be a lot more interesting if the Twins were projected to win the AL Central and then face the Marlins in the World Series. It’d also be proof of a projection system that wasn’t worth looking at.

Like with any projection system, you can quibble around the edges, but in five of the six divisions there are clear leaders, ranging from projected leads of two games (Red Sox over Rays) to seven (Nationals over Braves, because like every media site, we are biased against the Braves).

Then there’s the American League West:
W L Rdif RS/G RA/G
Rangers 85 77 38 4.55 4.31
Angels 85 77 34 4.43 4.22
Athletics 85 77 33 4.27 4.07
Mariners 82 80 10 4.23 4.16
Astros 67 95 -131 4.04 4.85
Well, look at that.

That the Rangers and Athletics are projected atop the division is no surprise; after all, they’ve split the last four division titles and added names like Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder, Luke Gregerson, Jim Johnson and Scott Kazmir to rosters already full of talent. But what really stands out here as being unexpected, perhaps more than any other projection we have — Reds fans, I imagine, may disagree — is the appearance of the Angels right in the mix for a three-way tie among the leaders. That’s despite a disappointing 78-win season last year, another year of tread on Jered Weaver‘s arm and Albert Pujols‘ foot, and some offseason moves that were not exactly universally beloved.

And the fancy science computers aren’t totally alone! In our staff picks last week, 8 of the 31 writers picked the Angels to win the division, as compared to 19 for the A’s and just 4 for the Rangers. Four more chose them to be a wild card, meaning that along with Tampa Bay, the humans at this site think the Angels will be a playoff team in 2014, despite a lower-third starting rotation that is projected to be similar in value to the rebuilding Cubs and the “more Edinson Volquez, less A.J. Burnett” Pirates.

Is that crazy? It feels crazy. This team wasn’t competitive last year, and many of the same issues remain. But while we need not blindly accept the projections, nor should we ignore their fine-tuned hard work. Let’s put on some red-colored glasses and investigate why the Angels might have a shot.

The competition has been weakened

I don’t have historic versions of what our projections were, though I imagine it’s safe to say that a month ago, the Angels were not tied for first place, or probably even second place.

I briefly wrote about this at ESPN last week, but no matter what’s happened in Detroit and Atlanta — the Tigers are still the favorites in the AL Central, and the Braves were at best going to be seen as close competitors to the Nationals in the NL East even with their rotation intact — there’s not a division race that has been impacted more by injuries this spring than AL West, particularly the Rangers. Just look at the Texas rotation: Derek Holland is out for half the season with a knee injury, Matt Harrison isn’t yet recovered from his back injury and Yu Darvish will miss at least his first turn or two with a neck problem. It’s likely that all three of them are in the rotation in August, plus maybe Colby Lewis, but right now, the rotation is Martin Perez, Tanner Scheppers, Nicholas Martinez, Joe Saunders and Robbie Ross. Three of them have never started a big league game, and one is Joe Saunders heading from Seattle to Texas after a 5.26 ERA in a great pitcher’s park. That is… problematic, to say the least.

No, one shouldn’t make too much over an early game or two started by Martinez instead of Darvish, and they’re still our No. 3 overall rotation, though probably with some overvaluation on Scheppers and Ross. But then, in a division this tight, there’s not exactly a lot of wiggle room to drop an extra game or two — and having to get by with Donnie Murphy or Josh Wilson instead of Jurickson Profar, and Geovany Soto‘s knee injury giving more plate appearances to J.P. Arencibia, and worrying about Elvis Andrus‘ sore arm, and wondering if Neftali Feliz‘ velocity will come back, and hoping that not only that Joakim Soria can replace Joe Nathan but that those behind him, without Scheppers, can step up to perform before the ninth, well, these things are all not helping. Texas is still a very good team, as any lineup with Choo, Adrian Beltre and Fielder in the top four would be. They’re just seeming a whole lot more vulnerable now, and for as bad as Houston figures to be, it’s difficult to see a somewhat improved Astros team losing 17 of 19 to Texas once again. Those 17 wins were nearly 20 percent of Texas’ 2013 total.

It’s not quite as bad in Oakland, though the loss of Jarrod Parker to elbow surgery, along with a month or so without A.J. Griffin, doesn’t help. Jeff Sullivan, writing about the No. 13-ranked Oakland rotation last week, noted that the depth provided by former No. 6 starter Tommy Milone helps stave off Parker’s loss, and he was absolutely right. But that’s it for the depth, really; Jesse Chavez is already in the rotation, and he’s a 30-year-old veteran of seven organizations with two (terrible!) career starts under his belt. Scott Kazmir is already in the rotation, and he’s Scott Kazmir, talented yet never to be relied upon. The rotation is still fine for now, but if projections should rightfully take into account expected requirements to dip into depth, the A’s are suddenly thin there. Plus, while we’re not going to suddenly start talking about how spring training stats mattering, it’s worth noting that a big part of the Oakland offense depends on Yoenis Cespedes bouncing back from a .294 OBP last year, and he did little in Arizona to show that he’s figured himself out.

Were I to pick a roster of the three right now to spend a season with, it probably wouldn’t be the Angels, but the door has swung wide open as compared to where it was a month ago.

The offense could be very good

As with everything else in the world, this is due in no small part to the presence of Mike Trout, of whom we are legally obligated to praise at least twice a week. Even without the departed Mark Trumbo, the Angels hitters (and, since it’s by WAR, defenders) are projected to be neck-and-neck with the Dodgers for the best in baseball, That’s the case even though our 8.0 win projection for Trout falls short of the dual 10-win seasons he just put up, meaning we just might be underselling him, if that’s even at all possible.

Those are just projections, but the real 2013 Angels scored the seventh-most runs in baseball on the fourth-highest wRC+. They did that despite Pujols and Josh Hamilton each having the worst (by wOBA) seasons of their careers, along with a third base situation that was a trouble spot all season long. If we’re trying to see how the Angels are making the playoffs, it starts with these two. Since he took the last two months of the season off to heal an injured foot, Pujols has had a longer offseason than usual, and doctors deemed the foot healthy way back in December. He’s not ever going to be the monster he was in St. Louis, but if the foot isn’t a problem — and when the FG staff saw the Angels play the Cubs two weekends ago in Arizona, he looked great — the 3.3 WAR projection we have on him doesn’t seem unreasonable, which would be nearly full three wins higher he contributed last year. Hamilton doesn’t have the same injury excuse to hang his hat on, and was in fact slowed by a strained calf this spring, but if we’re giving the Angels the benefit of the doubt here, it’s this: his poor .302 wOBA in the first half last year went to .344 in the second half.

There’s also David Freese, if we’re trying to look on the bright side, because even though most of us disliked the deal that brought him from St. Louis — Peter Bourjos is cheaper, younger and almost certainly more valuable, and the Angels also had to kick in maybe-still-a-prospect Randal Grichuk — the Angels can at least argue that third base is a much bigger hole than an outfield that starts with Trout and Hamilton. Freese was terrible last year, but was very good in 2012. Our projections think he can split the difference. The Angels badly need him to. But if only due to Trout alone — and Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar, both above-average at their positions, and some rebound out of Hamilton and Pujols — this may still be one of the majors’ more productive offenses.

The pitching could be, ah, not as bad

The 2013 Angels rotation was brutal, really. By WAR, 23rd. RA9-WAR, also 23rd. By ERA, 22nd. Those numbers are consistent, and they are bad. Yet they’re also partially due to Joe Blanton, Jerome Williams and Tommy Hanson, all of whom are gone. In their place at the back of the rotation are Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago, each acquired in the Trumbo deal. Skaggs in particular offers some excitement, since the Angels have tried to undo the mechanical changes that Arizona put upon him, and the results this spring have been encouraging. From Pedro Moura in the Orange County Register:

Skaggs, finishing up his first spring with the Angels, has been pleased with his velocity. His fastball reached 95 mph several times Saturday.

Skaggs has thrown 521 four-seam fastballs in his brief MLB career and, according to PITCHf/x data, none of them has been clocked at more than 93.

“This is the hardest I’ve thrown in a long time,” Skaggs said.

Skaggs is still only 22, and just a year ago was considered a top-20 prospect by every major prospect ranking. This is not a guarantee of success; it is, at least, not Blanton. Santiago is less exciting, because his strikeout skills comes with too many walks and not enough grounders, but a move to Anaheim from Chicago ought to at least help his homer numbers. He is also not Joe Blanton.

Otherwise, much has been written about Weaver’s declining velocity, and I will not disabuse you of that notion other than to say this: it hasn’t yet prevented him from being an above-average pitcher. He’s no longer an elite starter, but he consistently beats his FIP, and if we’re simply talking about winning games, keeping runs off the board is paramount. C.J. Wilson continues to be C.J. Wilson; Garrett Richards showed some life in 2013. This still isn’t a good rotation, and it won’t be a strength, but if the offense is as good as it could be, then this just needs to not be a detriment. It’s at least possible to dream on that. One might add, however, that a bullpen that is Ernesto Frieri, Joe Smith, and cover-your-eyes isn’t helping either.


So can the Angels win the West this year? Sure, it’s possible. Anything is possible, especially now that the A’s and Rangers may have come back to the pack a bit. But a whole lot has to go right here. Trout has to be Trout, Pujols and Hamilton have to be some approximation of their former selves, and the back end of the rotation really has to be considerably better than last year’s version. I’m not sure I’d pick them, and in our predictions, I didn’t, though I gave them some thought as a wild card choice. But our projections like them, and so do many of our writers. That alone — as though Trout by himself wouldn’t do this — makes them one of the more interesting teams to follow in what should be a fascinating AL West.

FanGraphs 2014 Crowd Predictions: American League.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On Friday, managing editor Dave Cameron published the various (and probably wrong) FanGraphs staff predictions for the American League and National League — shortly after which the present author provided the readership their own opportunity to make embarrassing predictions.

Below are the results of that same exercise for the American League. The National League will follow later this afternoon. Note that, owing to rounding error, percentages might add up to slightly more or less than 100%.

Division Winners

West: Oakland (49%), Anaheim (29%), Texas (18%), Seattle (4%), Houston (0%)
Central: Detroit (83%), Kansas City (10%), Cleve. (7%), Chicago (1%), Minn. (0%)
East: Tampa Bay (47%), Boston (37%), New York (8%), Toronto (4%), Balt. (3%)

With regard to the crowd’s divisional picks, neither the selection of Oakland nor Detroit to win their respective divisions departs from either the FanGraphs staff’s picks nor the projections hosted here at the site (with the caveat that the projections suggest a very tight race in the West). The crowd has its own favorite for the AL East, however: Tampa Bay. Also of note: the only ballot cast for Houston featured the Astros as a divisional winner. The said voter was drunk is not impossible.

Wild Card Winners (Top Five)

Note: Consensus division winners are excluded, and the non-consensus winners have had their division title selections added to their Wild Card selections, so for the teams listed below, their placement is based upon their combined number of total predicted playoff appearances, either through WC or Divisional victory.

Boston (46% WC, 37% Div)
Anaheim (14% WC, 29% Div)
Texas (19% WC, 18% Div)
Kansas City (17% WC, 10% Div)
New York (15% WC, 8% Div)

Predicted Playoff Appearances by Overall Percentage

Detroit: 92%
Boston: 83%
Tampa Bay: 82%
Oakland: 71%
Anaheim: 44%
Texas: 37%
Kansas City: 26%
New York: 23%
Cleveland: 17%
Baltimore: 9%
Seattle: 8%
Toronto: 8%
Chicago: 2%
Minnesota: 0%
Houston: 0%

Surprisingly or not, the crowd’s picks — towards the top, at least — more resemble the projected numbers at the site than the FanGraphs staff’s own picks. Mostly by choosing Detroit over Boston, is what I mean. Not really captured here is the logjam suggested by the projections in the AL West, with the crowd preferring Oakland by a wide-ish margin.

MVP (Top Five)

1. Mike Trout: 79%
2. Miguel Cabera: 8%
3. Evan Longoria: 4%
4. Prince Fielder: 1%
5. Edwin Encarnacion: 1%

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a population that by definition reads FanGraphs, the league’s most productive player by WAR each of the last two seasons, Mike Trout, is regarded as a heavy favorite to win the MVP in 2014. Among the players not listed here who also received a vote is Dodd. No first name (or last name, as the case may be), just Dodd.

Cy Young (Top Five)

1. Yu Darvish: 21%
2. Felix Hernandez: 21%
3. Justin Verlander: 20%
4. Chris Sale: 13%
5. David Price: 8%

Not listed here, but also receiving a vote, was Guy LeDouche. You don’t really hear a lot of talk about LeDouche — or any, even — but it’s clear that one reader is pretty optimistic about his 2014 season.

Rookie of the Year (Top Five)

1. Masahiro Tanaka: 29%
2. Jose Abreu: 24%
3. Xander Bogaerts: 21%
4. Yordano Ventura: 6%
t5. George Springer: 3%
t5. Nick Castellanos: 3%

The top-four players listed here were the only four named by FanGraphs authors. Not listed here, but also receiving votes: Alex Castroneves. The darkest of horses, one has to say.

Five Things I Believe About the 2014 Season.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Major League season is, I guess, already three games old, but for basically everyone who isn’t the Dodgers, today is still the real Opening Day. We have a nearly full slate of games on the docket, and we’ll be live blogging throughout the day here on the site. But before we get to the actual games, let’s run through a few more preview-ish things I believe about the 2014 that you might not infer from my picks in the Staff Predictions (NL, AL) posts from Friday.

1. I believe that the Cubs might be better than we think.

The Cubs return most of the same team that lost 96 games a year ago, except they don’t have Matt Garza, David DeJesus, Alfonso Soriano, and Scott Feldman this time around. They have a lot of young talent on the way, but those guys are all starting the year in the minors, leaving the Major League at-bats in the hands of low upside stop-gaps. No one expects much, including our forecasts, which have the Cubs as a 74 win team, leaving them with about the same playoff odds as the Mets and Marlins. This isn’t supposed to be a very good team.

But I think this team might be surprisingly not awful, in part because I think the players who are taking the field on Opening Day might not be regulars for a terribly long period of time. Javier Baez looks to be on the verge of a Major League call-up, and if he hits in Triple-A like he did in Double-A last year, the Cubs won’t keep him down for too long. And depending on how the infield shakes out, he might not come alone. Arismendy Alcantara and Kris Bryant also aren’t that far off, and depending on how aggressive the Cubs want to be with second half promotions, Jorge Soler could see Chicago towards the end of the year as well.

Toss in the addition of an arm like C.J. Edwards on the pitching side, and the Cubs have a wave of pretty great prospects that could finish the year in Wrigley Field. It’s unrealistic to expect all of them to contribute this year, but with this kind of talent, the odds are good that one or two of them prove to be ready faster than expected, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Baez, Bryant, and Edwards ended up being pretty solid Major League players as soon as they hit the field. I’m not expecting any of them to pull a Yasiel Puig, but given early enough call-ups, I could see some combination of prospects adding three to five wins to the Cubs total this year, and I don’t think a .500 season is completely out of the question.

2. I believe the Royals are being overrated.

I’m sure Kansas City fans will just take this as more evidence that I’m biased against their organization, but I just don’t see the evidence that this team is as good as some national writers are suggesting. Jon Heyman has them as his AL pick to go to the World Series; Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi have them winning the AL Central, as does Jeff Passan. I just can’t get there.

James Shields is great, but behind him, the rotation is really kind of terrible. Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, and Bruce Chen are all okay back-end starters who have some history of out-pitching their peripherals, but these are the #2, #3, and #4 starters on a team that is supposed to be among the best in the AL? Really? I know Yordano Ventura has exciting velocity, but he had that last year too, and his results in both Triple-A and the Majors were just okay. For as much as we hear about pitching winning championships, this is simply not a championship rotation.

So, essentially, a bet on the Royals is a bet on the team’s offense. And it’s not a bad offense, certainly, but is it really a great offense that can carry a pretty meh pitching staff? Butler, Hosmer, and Gordon are good-not-great hitters and they’re the three best bats on the team, which is fine if you have a deep line-up full of guys who can hit at every spot, but this team is also starting Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain. They are worthy starters based on their defense, but having second tier middle-of-the-order hitters makes it hard to be an offensive behemoth when you also start some glove-first guys who aren’t much at the plate.

The Royals bullpen is good — though losing Luke Hochevar hurts — and they have some nice pieces, but it feels to me like this team is being projected as a contender based on the presumption that a young team that won 86 games should win 90+ this year. That just isn’t how things work, generally. There are some real problems with this roster, and as long as Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer have a pulse, it’s hard for me to see this roster stacking up against the Tigers and coming out ahead.

3. I believe Giancarlo Stanton is going to remind us how good he is.

Stanton’s raw power is such that it is almost unfathomable that he only hit 24 home runs last year; I think he might double that this year. Certainly, you should always take the under on anyone hitting 48 home runs in a season, but I don’t think we’ve seen Stanton at his best yet, and if I’m taking anyone to go all Chris Davis on the 2014 season, I’m taking Stanton.

I know, he doesn’t have any “protection” in the line-up, and if he’s crushing the baseball, he’ll just end up drawing a bunch of walks. However, I think pitchers are already pitching around him about as much as they’re going to — the 41.1% Zone% he saw last year was fourth lowest in MLB, behind only two notorious hackers in Pablo Sandoval and Josh Hamilton and the aforementioned Chris Davis — and he’s got the kind of strength that allows him to launch bombs on pitches that shouldn’t lead to home runs. Stanton might have lost a little shine with his down season in 2013, but I think he’s going to re-establish himself as a dominant offensive force this year.

4. I believe we’re going to see #YearOfTheSplitter show up on Twitter before long.

The split-finger/split-change/splitter has been making a resurgence in the last few years, led in part by the dominance of a series of Japanese hurlers who rely heavily on the pitch. Hiroki Kuroda, Koji Uehara, and Hiasahi Iwakuma have drastically outperformed expectations by pounding hitters with fall-of-the-table splitters, and at this point, I think every pitcher on the Rays — except for David Price, maybe — throws the pitch with frequency. This year, we’re going to see Masahiro Tanaka‘s splitter on a regular basis, and if he has the kind of success that the numbers suggest he might, then the call-it-whatever-you-want-vertical-drop-pitch may experience unprecedented recognition.

And while baseball trends are cyclical, this seems like one that might have some staying power. Pitches with significant vertical movement without relying on horizontal movement are usually the most effective weapons against opposite-handed hitters, making the splitter a better out pitch than something like a slider, which usually only works against one type of hitter. Pitchers who pitch off their fastball and throw an off-speed pitch that looks like their fastball instead of a big breaking ball seem to be regularly developing into better pitchers than they are given credit for as prospects, and if Tanaka becomes the latest pitcher to come over from Japan and dominate with a splitter, then I wouldn’t be too surprised if we saw more teams emphasizing the pitch in the same way that the cutter rose to prominence a few years back.

5. I believe last year’s busts might redeem themselves this year.

I tipped this one in the Staff Picks piece when I tabbed the Angels and Nationals as division winners, but one of the stories of 2013 was how many of the high priced favorites just fell flat on their face and were outplayed by plucky underdogs. The Blue Jays were declared winners of the off-season before losing 88 games, and watched Oakland, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland claim three of the five AL postseason berths instead. The Nationals were supposed to be a powerhouse; they finished 10 games behind the Braves in the NL East.

I think this year is going to go a bit better for teams who entered last year with some pretty high expectations. Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton almost have to be better than they were a year ago, and there’s enough talent there for me to take the Angels as AL West favorites, even after their 78-84 finish from a year ago. I think the Nationals are going to get better years from a lot of their returning players, and I still don’t see too many flaws with their roster. The Blue Jays are going to have the toughest road to redemption, given the competition in the AL East, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a Wild Card run, especially if they can find another starting pitcher somewhere.

The plucky underdogs aren’t going to just hand things over, but this year, I’d expect that the big budget expected winners actually win more often than they did a year ago.

How Yasmani Grandal Stole Third Base.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
In the first 2014 regular-season baseball game played in the Northern Hemisphere, the Padres hosted the Dodgers. A 1-0 game became a 1-1 game late, and then Yasmani Grandal got on and stole third base. Moments later he scored the go-ahead run, and the Padres held on to win 3-1. That steal happened to be the first of Grandal’s major-league career. It also happened to be the first of Grandal’s professional career. Grandal is a slow-moving catcher and he’s coming off knee surgery. You’re right to identify this as an unlikely turn of events. It was also, in part, the consequence of an unlikely turn of events.

Not long ago I wrote a few posts about the challenge of bunting. Bunting, see, has the reputation of being something absurdly easy to do, but it’s really quite hard, even if certain position players don’t do it enough. Sunday night’s attempted bunting was a mixed bag. There were seven attempts overall. There were two successful sacrifices. There was one blown sacrifice, where the lead runner was thrown out. Two bunts went foul. Another bunt went foul into a glove on the fly. One attempted bunt was missed completely. That missed bunt, by the Padres, was instrumental in the Padres earning the win.

In the bottom of the eighth, Grandal pinch-hit and walked with none out. Everth Cabrera put down an easy sac bunt, but Brian Wilson couldn’t pick the ball up cleanly, and that doubled the number of runners. Up came Chris Denorfia, and Denorfia’s task was to move the runners another 90 feet. All Denorfia had to do was bunt the ball softly on the ground, and Wilson gave him a pitch in the zone.

Denorfia whiffed. Grandal moved up anyway on the same pitch. Shortly thereafter, Cabrera took second, and then Denorfia singled both runners home. Had the plan gone as intended, the Padres would’ve been in a good spot. The plan going awry put the Padres in a commanding spot instead.

I know now, better than I ever have, that bunting presents a challenge. I’ve played with the numbers over a handful of hours. But something about this still struck me as unusual, as the majority of bad bunts I came across went foul. Back I went to Baseball Savant. Last season, with runners on base, position players attempted nearly 1,500 bunts on pitches in the zone. About 55% of those attempts were bunted fair. All of 3.5% were missed. Or, 52, out of 1,473. Based just on that data, Denorfia missing completely was a 1-in-28 shot. It was highly unlikely that Denorfia would blow the bunt in that fashion, making it all the more remarkable that Grandal got himself to third. Most times, he doesn’t even have the chance.

So, about the steal. It lifted the Padres’ odds of winning by about ten percentage points. It also opened second base up for Cabrera to take, so that was an extra small bonus. Based on my own calculations, the break-even rate was right around 65%, meaning Grandal needed to think he could make it safely twice out of every three identical attempts. One key was that Denorfia bunted right through the ball. Another key was that Denorfia was bunting in the first place, which drew in Juan Uribe.

It wasn’t quite enough that Uribe positioned himself far away from the bag. Grandal moved off second aggressively, but he broke for third only when he noticed that Uribe charged hard toward the batter, anticipating a live bunt. At that point, Grandal figured he could sprint to third faster than Uribe could reverse momentum and get back. Uribe, of course, wouldn’t have been too concerned about Grandal being in motion. On the one hand, it’s somewhat remarkable that Grandal did this on the first pitch. But then, he’d also seen Uribe’s bunt behavior when he was on base and Cabrera dropped one down, and also, this is presumably pretty ordinary for third basemen. Grandal didn’t need Uribe to forget about him — Grandal just needed Uribe to not be worried about him. One way to be fast is to run a split-second quicker than your peers. Another way is to just make reactions a split-second slower.

Daniel Murphy had a big baserunning season in 2013 not because he was fast, but because he ran smartly and aggressively. Grandal:

“I had a couple of things they weren’t expecting,” Grandal said, smiling. “One, I’m coming off of ACL surgery. Two, I’m a catcher. And three, I’m pretty slow.”

Bud Black:

Grandal’s steal of third, the first theft of his career, was “huge,” Black said. “He’s an instinctual player. He saw [third baseman Juan] Uribe in for the bunt. We talk a lot about game awareness.”

Don Mattingly:

“We’ve got to get back to third,” said Mattingly. “He was caught too far off when he bunts through.”

Of course, the response to Grandal’s steal is hopelessly biased by the result. Had Uribe hurried back, and had Grandal been thrown out, people would’ve been wondering why a catcher coming off knee surgery was trying to steal a base with a good bunter standing at the plate. But many decisions in baseball are borderline, the right call and the wrong call separated by only a few percentage points. No throw to third was even attempted. Grandal did a good job of reading the situation, and he wasn’t even particularly close to being gunned down. Grandal stole third base with the ease of Billy Hamilton and the speed of Dan Uggla. It’s a lot easier to out-run the play when the play doesn’t expect a live runner.

Over the course of a full season, most good baserunning plays and bad baserunning plays cancel out. The spread in team baserunning tends to be fairly small, and last year the Padres were five runs better than average, and no more than that. But while baserunning is a little thing, a single game is also a little thing, and within one little thing, another little thing looks a lot bigger. Yasmani Grandal stealing third was critical to the Padres’ win, and that’s why Black and other managers are so keen on running aggressively. Do it smartly enough, consistently enough, and maybe it will be a huge factor. More bad can be avoided. More good can be seized.

In the first game of his fifth regular season, Yasmani Grandal stole his first professional base. It happened because he was aware, but it also happened because of an unlikely missed bunt. And because of that missed bunt, and because of that steal, the bunter got to swing and he immediately swung home the winning run. You never know what could happen in a baseball game. So you never know what could happen in a baseball season. Happy baseball season, everybody.

Mike Trout, King of Trade Value Now and Forever.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
According to Alden Gonzalez, the Angels and Mike Trout are close to finalizing a six year contract that will pay Trout $144.5 mlilion over the 2015-2020 seasons.

Trout deal for $144.5M. Average annual value is nearly $24.1M. Makes Trout third #Angels player with AAV of at least $24M (Pujols, Trout).

— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) March 29, 2014

Those six years cover Trout’s three arbitration eligible seasons and his first three free agent seasons. Instead of hitting free agency after his age-25 season, he’ll play for the Angels through at least his age-28 season.

You don’t need another 1,500 word explanation of why this is a hilarious steal for the Angels. Trout would have made something like $50 to $60 million in arbitration had he gone year to year, so the Angels are basically getting three free agent years for $85 to $95 million. This doesn’t come anywhere near Trout’s value, and Trout has left an enormous amount of money on the table. Even if his goal was to reach free agency again and sign a second monstrous contract, he still is worth so far more than the roughly $30 million per year he signed away three free agent years for.

It’s very possible that Trout simply doesn’t care about maximizing his career earnings, or that he didn’t want the pressure of a precedent setting contract. $140 million is enough money that Trout will never have to worry about his financial well being again — to be realistic, though, he passed that point a while ago — and it certainly is Trout’s right to sign whatever deal he wants.

But Mike Trout has basically secured the #1 spot on the Trade Value series for the next four or five years. There’s no contract in baseball that will provide more return for the price than this contract. There’s no contract that will even come particularly close. A day after Miguel Cabrera reminded everyone of just how much money baseball teams have, Mike Trout took a deal for a fraction of his actual value. Good for him, if he’s happy. And great for the Angels. So great for the Angels.

Joint-Drug Program Toughened, with Exception.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Right around the eve of the meaningful beginning of the 2014 regular season, baseball has announced an enhanced Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. You can read the details right here, but the primary takeaway is that now a first-time PED violation will result in an 80-game suspension, and a second-time PED violation will result in a 162-game suspension. A third violation still earns a lifetime ban, since it’s not very easy to make that penalty tougher without breaking actual laws. Also, a player suspended for a violation will no longer be eligible for that year’s postseason.

Of course, there are other enhancements, too. And it should be noted that the majority of the players have been supportive of tougher penalties for users. Many of the players want to play within a clean game, and they’re not fans of what users do for the perception of themselves and everyone else. In that way, perhaps this shouldn’t be viewed as a concession, but one bullet point in there shows that the players got something extra for themselves in return.

From the linked article:

The parties provided the Arbitration Panel with the ability to reduce a Player’s discipline (subject to certain limitations) for the use of certain types of performance-enhancing substances if the Player proves at a hearing that the use was not intended to enhance performance

Let’s go back to last March. Ken Rosenthal:

One day after sources said that Major League Baseball had “no interest” in a two-tiered penalty system, a player familiar with discussions on the subject said that commissioner Bud Selig “may as well start trying to forget” tougher penalties if baseball will not consider such an idea.

Under a two-tiered system, players who intentionally violate the drug-testing program would receive harsher punishment than players who test positive unintentionally or due to negligence.

It would appear that MLB gave in, introducing something of a two-tiered system in exchange for stretching suspensions. That’s the way collective bargaining works — MLB wanted something, so MLB had to give something, and now they’ve re-achieved equilibrium. Of course, instances of accidental violations are unusual, but they’ve been known to happen in the past and now players can feel as if they have added protection.

Some other changes: a full-year suspension means a full year without pay, as opposed to 162/183 of a full year without pay. There will also be additional testing, including more blood collection for hGH detection. And this is of interest, so as to get fewer of the “tainted supplement” explanations for positive tests:

The parties established a program in which Players will have year-round access to supplements that will not cause a positive test result and which will improve home and visiting weight rooms.

Without doubt, the biggest question on everyone’s mind: why 80 games, and not 81? The rest makes good enough sense. That bit’s weird.

FanGraphs 2014 Staff Predictions: National League.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The 2014 Major League Baseball season kicks off for real on Monday — no, random days where the Dodgers play someone and it’s the only game of the day don’t count — and so, as a baseball site, we are compelled to offer our staff’s predictions for the upcoming season. We are compelled because you like to read our staff predictions, even though they are terrible. And boy are they terrible.

Among last year’s gems were things like Aaron Hicks, American League Rookie of the Year. Aaron Hicks did not get a single vote by any one voter on a Rookie of the Year ballot last year. We also had the Angels and Blue Jays making the playoffs. Predicting baseball is silly. Everyone is terrible at it, including us. But as long as you know that going in, it’s still kind of a fun exercise.

Okay, so, on to the picks. We did the AL this morning, so now for the NL.

Division Winners

West: Los Angeles (30), San Francisco (1), San Diego (0), Arizona (0), Colorado (0)
Central: St. Louis (30), Pittsburgh (1), Cincinnati (0), Chicago (0), Milwaukee (0)
East: Washington (28), Atlanta (3), Phiadelphia (0), Miami (0), New York (0)

People like to accuse groups of authors, like the ones we have here, of “groupthink”. Well, if you want to accuse us of such a thing, we have just provided you with evidence to support your claim. You are welcome.

The other possibility is that there really is just a clear separation between the NL contenders and NL pretenders, with the senior circuit hosting a bunch of rebuilding teams who have no realistic chance to contend in 2014. Or we’re biased and we hate your team. Your call.

Wild Card Winners

Note: Consensus division winners are excluded, and the non-consensus winners have had their division title selections added to their Wild Card selections, so for the teams listed below, their placement is based upon their combined number of total predicted playoff appearances, either through WC or Divisional victory.

Atlanta (17 WC, 3 DIV)
Pittsburgh (14 WC, 1 DIV)
Cincinnati (10 WC, 0 DIV)
San Francisco (7 WC, 1 DIV)
San Diego (5 WC, 0 DIV)
Arizona (2 WC, 0 DIV)
Colorado (1 WC, 0 DIV)
Milwaukee (1 WC, 0 DIV)

Total Predicted Playoff Appearances

This is the number of all authors who voted for each team to make the postseason, either through the division or the wild card.

Los Angeles: 31
St. Louis: 31
Washington: 31
Atlanta: 20
Pittsburgh: 15
Cincinnati: 10
San Francisco: 8
San Diego: 5
Arizona: 2
Colorado: 1
Milwaukee: 1
Philadelphia: 0
Miami: 0
New York: 0
Chicago: 0

Every single FanGraphs author who filled out our spreadsheet penciled in the Dodgers, Cardinals, and Nationals for the postseason in some fashion. There was less agreement on which second tier teams would emerge and claim the other two spots, but our staff is basically convinced that the three top teams in the NL are clearly in a class of their own.


Bryce Harper: 5
Hanley Ramirez: 4
Buster Posey: 4
Paul Goldschmidt: 4
Andrew McCutchen: 3
Yadier Molina: 3
Troy Tulowitzki: 2
Joey Votto: 2
Justin Upton: 1
Ryan Braun: 1
Matt Holliday: 1
Carlos Gonzalez: 1

Bryce Harper received a plurality of the votes, but by no means anything close to a majority, as our panel selected a wide and varied number of players as legitimate MVP candidates. And really, this feels pretty accurate to me, as the NL is home to a strong class of excellent players, with no very clear best player that stands above his peers. I don’t know that I’d buy into Ryan Braun ever receiving an MVP vote from the BBWAA again, but most of the rest of the names on the list are entirely reasonable selections.

Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw: 18
Adam Wainwright: 3
Jose Fernandez: 3
Madison Bumgarner: 3
Stephen Strasburg: 2
Zack Greinke: 1
Homer Bailey: 1

No toss-up here: Kershaw is the best, and everyone else is playing catch up. As with any award selection involving pitchers, you should always take the field over any individual player, but if forced to pick a player as the favorite, Kershaw is the guy.

Rookie of the Year

Billy Hamilton: 7
Gregory Polanco: 7
Archie Bradley: 7
Chris Owings: 5
Travis D’Arnaud: 3
Javier Baez: 1
Jameson Taillon: 1

A three way tie for first, with a pair of athletic outfielders and a power throwing pitcher all checking in as favorites. Like with the MVP, there is really no clear favorite here, allowing for any number of reasonable selections. Unlike with the MVP, a large consideration for the prediction has to be the date or arrival, as Polanco’s chances to win the award are basically tied to whether or not the Pirates keep him down long enough to avoid Super Two status. If he (or Bradley, for that matter) is up by the beginning of May, his chances increase dramatically.

For those interested, and for future mocking purposes, here is a table with each author’s selections.

Author West Central East Wild Card Wild Card MVP Cy Young Rookie
Alan Harrison Los Angeles St. Louis Atlanta Washington Pittsburgh Ramirez Wainwright Hamilton
Bill Petti Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Atlanta San Fran Posey Kershaw Polanco
Blake Murphy Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Cincinnati San Fran Tulowitzki Kershaw Bradley
Brad Johnson Los Angeles St. Louis Atlanta Colorado Washington Tulowitzki Kershaw Hamilton
Brett Talley Los Angeles St. Louis Washington San Diego Atlanta Braun Kershaw Polanco
Carson Cistulli Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Pittsburgh San Diego Posey Greinke Owings
Chris Cwik Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Atlanta Cincinnati Harper Kershaw Owings
Colin Zarzycki Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Pittsburgh Cincinnati Harper Kershaw Bradley
Dave Cameron Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Pittsburgh Atlanta Molina Kershaw Polanco
David G Temple Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Pittsburgh Atlanta Molina Fernandez Hamilton
David Laurila San Fran St. Louis Washington Los Angeles Cincinnati Posey Strasburg Hamilton
David Wiers Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Atlanta Cincinnati Upton Kershaw d’Arnaud
Eno Sarris Los Angeles Pittsburgh Washington St. Louis Atlanta Goldschmidt Kershaw Polanco
Howard Bender Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Pittsburgh Arizona Goldschmidt Bumgarner Bradley
Jason Collette Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Atlanta Milwaukee Harper Bailey Hamilton
Jeff Sullivan Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Pittsburgh San Fran Molina Kershaw Polanco
Jeff Zimmerman Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Arizona Cincinnati Ramirez Wainwright Bradley
Jeremy Blachman Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Cincinnati San Diego Holliday Kershaw Bradley
John Paschal Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Cincinnati Atlanta Votto Kershaw Hamilton
Karl de Vries Los Angeles St. Louis Atlanta Washington Pittsburgh McCutchen Kershaw Owings
Marc Hulet Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Pittsburgh San Fran Posey Strasburg d’Arnaud
Matt Klaassen Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Atlanta Pittsburgh McCutchen Fernandez d’Arnaud
Matt Yaspan Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Atlanta Cincinnati Harper Kershaw Taillon
Max Weinstein Los Angeles St. Louis Washington San Fran Atlanta Ramirez Kershaw Baez
Michael Barr Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Atlanta Pittsburgh Goldschmidt Wainwright Hamilton
Mike Bates Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Pittsburgh San Fran Gonzalez Fernandez Owings
Mike Petriello Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Atlanta Pittsburgh Goldschmidt Kershaw Polanco
Patrick Dubuque Los Angeles St. Louis Washington San Diego Atlanta McCutchen Kershaw Bradley
Paul Swydan Los Angeles St. Louis Washington San Diego Pittsburgh Votto Bumgarner Polanco
Wendy Thurm Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Atlanta San Fran Harper Bumgarner Bradley
Zach Sanders Los Angeles St. Louis Washington Cincinnati Atlanta Ramirez Kershaw Owings

FanGraphs 2014 Staff Predictions: American League.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The 2014 Major League Baseball season kicks off for real on Monday — no, random days where the Dodgers play someone and it’s the only game of the day don’t count — and so, as a baseball site, we are compelled to offer our staff’s predictions for the upcoming season. We are compelled because you like to read our staff predictions, even though they are terrible. And boy are they terrible.

Among last year’s gems were things like Aaron Hicks, American League Rookie of the Year. Aaron Hicks did not get a single vote by any one voter on a Rookie of the Year ballot last year. We also had the Angels and Blue Jays making the playoffs. Predicting baseball is silly. Everyone is terrible at it, including us. But as long as you know that going in, it’s still kind of a fun exercise.

Okay, so, on to the picks. AL first, and then we’ll do the NL this afternoon.

Division Winners

West: Oakland (19), Anaheim (glasses.gif, Texas (4), Seattle (0), Houston (0)
Central: Detroit (21), Cleveland (glasses.gif, Kansas City (2), Minnesota (0), Chicago (0)
East: Boston (16), Tampa Bay (12), Baltimore (2), New York (1), Toronto (0)

The staff basically just goes with the status quo, with all three division winners from last year expected to repeat again in 2014. More than the consensus pick, though, I find the spread of the selections interesting. The A’s are considered nearly as strong a favorite as the Tigers, at least by the number of people selecting them as AL West champions, even though the forecasts on our site call that race a toss-up. The East was the only division where four teams got votes, but interestingly, the Blue Jays were not one of those four teams; apparently one bad season has convinced everyone on staff that we were truly and utterly wrong about them last year.

Wild Card Winners

Note: Consensus division winners are excluded, and the non-consensus winners have had their division title selections added to their Wild Card selections, so for the teams listed below, their placement is based upon their combined number of total predicted playoff appearances, either through WC or Divisional victory.

Tampa Bay (12 WC, 12 DIV)
Anaheim (4 WC, 8 DIV)
Cleveland (3 WC, 8 DIV)
Texas (4 WC, 4 DIV)
New York (7 WC, 1 DIV)
Kansas City (4 WC, 2 DIV)
Baltimore (2 WC, 2 DIV)
Seattle (1 WC, 0 DIV)

Total Predicted Playoff Appearances

This is the number of all authors who voted for each team to make the postseason, either through the division or the wild card.

Boston: 29
Oakland: 26
Detroit: 26
Tampa Bay: 24
Anaheim: 12
Cleveland: 11
Texas: 8
New York: 8
Kansas City: 6
Baltimore: 4
Seattle: 1
Toronto: 0
Minnesota: 0
Chicago: 0
Houston: 0

There’s pretty clearly a “big four”, in terms of the staff’s expectations of reaching the postseason. The Rays are easily seen as the best of the non-division winners, with the Angels, Indians, Rangers, and Yankees providing most of the competition for the second wild card spot. The Royals, Orioles, and Mariners aren’t considered hopeless, but are definitely not the favorites.


Mike Trout: 23
Miguel Cabrera: 2
Prince Fielder: 2
Evan Longoria: 2
Jason Kipnis: 2

Raise your hand if you expected Jason Kipnis to get two MVP votes from our staff. Me either. I like Kipnis, but I’ll take the under on him landing two first place votes in the final tally.

Cy Young

Yu Darvish: 9
Felix Hernandez: 6
Justin Verlander: 5
Chris Sale: 4
David Price: 4
Alex Cobb: 2
Max Scherzer: 1

The variety of pitchers you would expect, and Alex Cobb.

Rookie of the Year

Masahiro Tanaka: 12
Jose Abreu: 10
Xander Bogaerts: 7
Yordano Ventura: 2

We were very wrong about last year’s AL ROY, but I’ll be pretty surprised if one of these four doesn’t win the award. This seems like a very strong group of favorites.

For those interested, and for future mocking purposes, here is a table with each author’s selections.

Author West Central East Wild Card Wild Card MVP Young Rookie
Alan Harrison Oakland Detroit Baltimore Boston Texas Cabrera Verlander Bogaerts
Bill Petti Oakland Detroit Boston Tampa Bay Anaheim Trout Darvish Tanaka
Blake Murphy Oakland Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Cleveland Trout Sale Ventura
Brad Johnson Anaheim Kansas City Boston Oakland Detroit Trout Price Abreu
Brett Talley Oakland Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Cleveland Trout Sale Abreu
Carson Cistulli Anaheim Detroit Boston Tampa Bay Cleveland Trout Cobb Bogaerts
Chris Cwik Oakland Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Anaheim Trout Darvish Abreu
Colin Zarzycki Texas Detroit Boston Tampa Bay New York Trout Verlander Tanaka
Dave Cameron Anaheim Detroit Boston Tampa Bay New York Trout Hernandez Tanaka
David G Temple Oakland Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Anaheim Longoria Price Bogaerts
David Laurila Oakland Detroit Tampa Bay Kansas City Baltimore Trout Verlander Bogaerts
David Wiers Oakland Detroit Boston Tampa Bay Texas Trout Hernandez Abreu
Eno Sarris Oakland Cleveland Tampa Bay Boston Kansas City Kipnis Price Abreu
Howard Bender Texas Cleveland New York Boston Kansas City Trout Darvish Abreu
Jason Collette Anaheim Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Oakland Trout Cobb Abreu
Jeff Sullivan Anaheim Detroit Boston Tampa Bay Oakland Trout Darvish Tanaka
Jeff Zimmerman Anaheim Detroit Boston Oakland Kansas City Cabrera Verlander Abreu
Jeremy Blachman Oakland Cleveland Tampa Bay Boston Anaheim Trout Sale Tanaka
John Paschal Texas Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Oakland Fielder Darvish Tanaka
Karl de Vries Oakland Cleveland Tampa Bay Boston New York Longoria Darvish Bogaerts
Marc Hulet Oakland Cleveland Boston New York Detroit Trout Scherzer Tanaka
Matt Klaassen Oakland Detroit Boston Tampa Bay New York Fielder Hernandez Tanaka
Matt Yaspan Texas Cleveland Baltimore Tampa Bay Oakland Kipnis Price Tanaka
Max Weinstein Oakland Kansas City Boston Tampa Bay Detroit Trout Darvish Abreu
Michael Barr Oakland Detroit Boston Tampa Bay Seattle Trout Verlander Tanaka
Mike Bates Anaheim Detroit Boston Tampa Bay Baltimore Trout Sale Tanaka
Mike Petriello Oakland Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Texas Trout Darvish Abreu
Patrick Dubuque Anaheim Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Oakland Trout Hernandez Bogaerts
Paul Swydan Oakland Cleveland Boston Texas Detroit Trout Hernandez Bogaerts
Wendy Thurm Oakland Cleveland Boston New York Detroit Trout Hernandez Ventura
Zach Sanders Oakland Detroit Boston Tampa Bay New York Trout Darvish Tanaka
post #20647 of 78800
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by DMan14 View Post

don baylor broke his leg trying to catch ceremonial first pitch from vlad guerrero sick.gif

It was crazy mean.gif reading up on his multiple myeloma too this morning, it's amazing he actually made it back this far.
post #20648 of 78800

Feel bad for Don Baylor.



And how is there not daytime baseball on the 2nd day of the season? Annoying.

post #20649 of 78800

the blatant disrespect of this bachata dj taking a selfie with the leader of the free world mean.gif

i hate these beard pullin , gimmick having clowns ... if it ain't kevin millar now it's jonny gomes to be the mascot moron mean.gif

america needs the yanks back in the white house happy.gif
Yanks Knicks Jets
Yanks Knicks Jets
post #20650 of 78800
Ryan Braun getting applauded is lame as hell....he pulled a lance armstrong by vilifying and costing people their jobs over a lie mean.gif
post #20651 of 78800
I've never booed a guy for PEDs! I rooted for Bonds all those years that would make me a hypocrite. laugh.gif

Plus I don't care if they use it I want to be entertained
post #20652 of 78800
You don't get what I was saying.
post #20653 of 78800
It wasn't in response to you. I'm just saying
post #20654 of 78800
Puig pimp.gif
Philadelphia Eagles | Michigan State Spartans | Detroit Tigers
Philadelphia Eagles | Michigan State Spartans | Detroit Tigers
post #20655 of 78800
What happened to Kennedy, anyway?
post #20656 of 78800
Baseball is back!!!

Got a yanks/pirates WS.

DJNY frown.gif
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
post #20657 of 78800
wrong thread roll.gif
Edited by Nawzlew - 4/1/14 at 6:31pm
post #20658 of 78800
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

It wasn't in response to you. I'm just saying

Edit: CC lol
Edited by Mr Marcus - 4/1/14 at 4:33pm
post #20659 of 78800
At this point in his career, CC Sabathia is not unlike Barry Zito.
post #20660 of 78800
Go ahead and hand the World Series trophy to the Astros!
post #20661 of 78800
World Series or not, they are well on their way to making me money two opening days in a row. Hope they can hold on.
post #20662 of 78800
I just met Bobby Bonilla outside my job laugh.gif

"Make your move"
Yanks Knicks Jets
Yanks Knicks Jets
post #20663 of 78800
@hankschulman: Remember last year how the #dbacks refused to allow Dodger fans to sit in the home-plate box in view of the CF cameras? … #SFGiants

@hankschulman: #dbacks did it again tonight with a group of 20 #sfgiants fans who rented the box. They were moved to a box beyond the dugout. #amateurhour

@hankschulman: #dbacks prez Derrick Hall is one of the classiest guys I know. I don’t understand how his club can be so low-class. #amateurhour.

What a joke. Two things about this.....

1) how are teams allowed to get away with this?

2) The Diamondbacks organization has the nerve to call the Dodgers classless for jumping in their pool and then they pull this crap?(cant believe I just semi-defended the Dodgers)
post #20664 of 78800
Agree that's asinine by them

From Smith to Friedman, we know what's up

Official Member of the Steeler Nation

From Smith to Friedman, we know what's up

Official Member of the Steeler Nation
post #20665 of 78800
Matt Albers should give some weight to CC.
New York Yankees | New York Jets
New York Yankees | New York Jets
post #20666 of 78800
Originally Posted by dland24 View Post

@hankschulman: Remember last year how the #dbacks refused to allow Dodger fans to sit in the home-plate box in view of the CF cameras? … #SFGiants

@hankschulman: #dbacks did it again tonight with a group of 20 #sfgiants fans who rented the box. They were moved to a box beyond the dugout. #amateurhour

@hankschulman: #dbacks prez Derrick Hall is one of the classiest guys I know. I don’t understand how his club can be so low-class. #amateurhour.

What a joke. Two things about this.....

1) how are teams allowed to get away with this?

2) The Diamondbacks organization has the nerve to call the Dodgers classless for jumping in their pool and then they pull this crap?(cant believe I just semi-defended the Dodgers)
I hope the dodgers pee in their pool again this year
post #20667 of 78800
Originally Posted by mr jordan04 View Post

Originally Posted by dland24 View Post

@hankschulman: Remember last year how the #dbacks refused to allow Dodger fans to sit in the home-plate box in view of the CF cameras? … #SFGiants

@hankschulman: #dbacks did it again tonight with a group of 20 #sfgiants fans who rented the box. They were moved to a box beyond the dugout. #amateurhour

@hankschulman: #dbacks prez Derrick Hall is one of the classiest guys I know. I don’t understand how his club can be so low-class. #amateurhour.

What a joke. Two things about this.....

1) how are teams allowed to get away with this?

2) The Diamondbacks organization has the nerve to call the Dodgers classless for jumping in their pool and then they pull this crap?(cant believe I just semi-defended the Dodgers)
I hope the Giants pee in their pool again this year
post #20668 of 78800
“@kengurnick: Brian Wilson placed on DL. Elbow problems. Nerve irritation.”

post #20669 of 78800
Sabathia and Ellsbury today pimp.gif
When S&T has that moment of clarity: "...we're grasping at straws talking about Spygate, Deflategate, the system, French kissing relatives, UGGs, Trump, etc." - @trey ohh five
When S&T has that moment of clarity: "...we're grasping at straws talking about Spygate, Deflategate, the system, French kissing relatives, UGGs, Trump, etc." - @trey ohh five
post #20670 of 78800
Originally Posted by DeadsetAce View Post

Sabathia and Ellsbury today pimp.gif




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NikeTalk › NikeTalk Forums › The Lounge › Sports & Training › 2016 MLB thread. THE CUBS HAVE BROKEN THE CURSE! Chicago Cubs are your 2016 World Series champions.