Monday, July 31, 2006

All hail Papi

Thank God for David Ortiz!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The 323 - Preseason All Americans

Quarterback: Brady Quinn, Sr. Notre Dame

While I have been accused of having a flair for the dramatic (perhaps evidenced by my preseason ranking of Auburn #1), this selection is as pedstrian as they come. By no means do I intend to denigrate Mr. Quinn with this statement. If anything, it should be viewed as laudatory, serving notice that he is so far superior to all other quarterbacks in the nation so as to remove all doubt as to the 1st team all America selection. Brady Quinn is a prototypical NFL quarterback. He has the size to stand in the pocket, the arm to make every throw, and the intelligence to know where, and perhaps more importantly when, to deliver the football. With two years directing an NFL style offense under the tutelage of Charlie Weis, we may be looking at the most NFL ready college quarterback since Peyton Manning.

NFL Comparison - Jim Kelly

Runner Up - Drew Stanton, Sr. Michigan State

Stanton is my favorite college QB. His toughness, mobility, and improvisation reminds me of Matt Hasselbeck. He thrives against the best competition, and revels in carrying his team.

Running Back: Adrien Peterson, Jr. Oklahoma

Another essential position, another obvious selection. To be perfectly blunt, Peterson is the most natural rusher I have ever seen. Every run of his is a work of art, whether it's a short burst up the middle, or Oklahoma's patented stretch sweep which he runs better than anyone this side of Larry Johnson. Peterson is so fluid on the field, and plays the game so effortlessly that even a football novice would recognize his greatness almost immediately. Sure Peterson has the size and the speed, but more importantly he has a seemingly preternatural understanding of the running back position. Not only does Peterson have the vision and patience to wait for a play to develop, but he has the instincts to delay his cut or slightly alter his route to the hole to give his blockers better angles on defenders. Despite his tremendous size (6'2'') and powerful build (220 lbs.), Peterson has the ability to never get hit squarely by a defender and avoid most of the punishment that shortens the careers of tall backs (see George, Eddie; Campbell, Earl). Should he enter the NFL draft after this season, he would most likely be the number one pick overall.

NFL Comparison - Eric Dickerson

Runner Up - Garrette Wolfe, Sr. Northern Illinois

With all due respect to the more talented backs like Marshawn Lynch, Steve Slaton, and Michael Bush, I have to give some love to the MAC and it's best (and perhaps littlest) player. Wolfe is a Warrick Dunn clone, though he does not catch as many passes as the Seminole great.

Wide Receivers: Dwayne Jarrett, Jr. USC; Jeff Samardzjia, Sr. Notre Dame

Assuming he is academically eligible to play, Jarrett might be the best overall offensvie player in the country not named Peterson. Jarrett is a massive target (6'5'') and as physical a receiver as there is in the country. His stature and production beg comparisons to former USC receiver Mike Williams, although Jarrett's production and work ethic in his two seasons for the men of Troy indicate that he is a far better NFL prospect. Though he has had some off the field issues this offseason, between the lines Jarrett is everything a coach could want and plays hard on every down (as evidenced by his excellence as a downfield blocker). It will be interesting to see how Jarrett performs without his partner in crime Matt Leinart, although he and alter-ego Steve Smith could make me look decent at QB.

NFL Comparison - Michael Irvine

Samardzjia is another huge target (6'5'', 220 lbs.) who is coming off a wildly productive 2005 season. Unlike Jarrett, Samardzjia was resigned to the bench for his first two seasons in South Bend before exploding as a junior. As such, he is not nearly as polished as Jarrett when it comes to route running and reading defensive backs. However, Samardzjia is just as physical going after the ball as Jarrett is, and may possess the best hands in all of college football. Because he lacks elite speed, Samardzjia is at his best against zone defenses and may open his NFL career as a slot reciever. However, the more he plays the more he will learn to use his size against smaller defensive backs in man coverage and truly become a complete reciever.

NFL Comparison - Cris Carter

Runner Up - Calvin Johnson, Jr. Georgia Tech

A better blend of size (6'4'', 235 lbs.) and speed (4.4) than either Jarrett or Samardzjia, Johnson just misses because he has not produced as consistently as either. That said, physically he projects as the best NFL prospect, although his inconsistency begs the question of whether he is more Terrell Owens, or JJ Stokes.

Tight End: Joe Newton, Sr. Oregon State

While Juniors Zach Miller (Arizona State) and Greg Olsen (Miami) get most of the attention, it is Newton who is the most complete TE in the nation. Newton was outstanding as a Sophomore catching 56 balls for 687 yards and 7 touchdowns, but seems to get lost in the shufle of promising tight ends because he missed all of last season with a leg injury. Newton is massive at 6'7'' and 260 lbs. He does not have great speed, but he catches everything thrown his way and is a better blocker than most tackles. Newton will never put up eye popping combine numbers like Vernon Davis or Tony Gonzalez, but he is the type of player that winning teams rely on.

NFL Comparison - Dave Casper

Runner up - Brian Leonard, Sr. Rutgers

Technically Leonard is a fullback, but he deserves mention on this all America team. A rugged runner with deceptive speed, Leonard contributes in every aspect of the game (blocking, running, and catching). He executes screen passes as well as anyong since Keith Byars.

Tackles: Joe Thomas, Sr. Wisconsin; Levi Jones, Sr. Penn State

Thomas is a prototypical left tackle with his 6'8'' frame, and long arms to keep defensive lineman away from his body. He is a shade over 300 pounds, but is not really an overpowering run blocker in the mold of an Anthony Munoz. Thomas has outstanding balance and footwork which helps him excel in pass protection, the most important trait for the man guarding the quarterback's blind side. A former defensive lineman, Thomas knows all the defensive techniques and pass rush moves, and he has the instincts to anticipate counter moves and defensive line stunts. Joe Thomas projects as a long term left tackle in the NFL.

NFL Comparison - Gary Zimmerman

Whereas Joe Thomas should be described as more of a technician, Levi Jones in an old school road paver at left tackle. At 6'5'' 330 lbs., Jones is one of the biggest and most powerful lineman in America. While he lacks Thomas' elite pass protection skills, Jones is a true mauler in the running game who can hold his own against the best pass rushers in the nation. As the lone returning starter along the offensive line, Jones will be asked to carry the load for the Nittany Lions this season. Jones projects as a capable left tackle in the NFL, though his size and lack of ideal footwork may cause him to struggle against the new bread of NFL speed rushing ends/linebackers. I would not be suprised to see Jones shift to the right tackle spot where he can used his power and nastiness to dominate in the running game.

NFL Comparison - Jon Runyan

Runner Up - Justin Blalock, Sr. Texas

Blalock is a bit overrated in my opinion, but still remains one of the top lineman in the nation. He is big and strong, but struggles in space like almost all recent Texas o-lineman (see Davis, Leonard; Williams, Mike). Blalock will most likely have to play guard in the NFL but projects similar to former Longhorn Leonard Davis.

Guards: Josh Beekman, Sr. Boston College; Mike Jones, Sr. Iowa

Like all BC lineman, Beekman is a poweful, nasty, and smart blocker. While many believe his permanent position is center, I love Beekman as a long term left guard in the NFL. While Beekman is an outstanding run blocker, what makes him a top flight prospect are his left tackle caliber pass protection skills. At 325 lbs., Beekman is strong enough to stalemate even the most powerful defensive tackles, and he possesses uncanny balance and footwork for a guard.

NFL Comparison - Chris Snee

Jones is not quite as powerful as Beekman (who is), but at 308 lbs. he is certainly no slouch. Jones' best attribute is his intelligence, as he lined up at both tackle spots for the Hawkeyes last season before settling at guard. While it is possible that Jones could play tackle in the NFL, he should be a dominant guard, capable of playing in any system. Look for Jones to start from day 1 in the NFL, as he has been the beneficiary of four years of coaching from one of the best offensive line coaches on the planet in Iowa head man Kirk Ferentz.

NFL Comparison - Mike Wahle

Runner Up - Ken Quarterman, Sr. Louisville

My favorite O-Lineman in the nation, Qarterman is dominant inside at 6'5'' and 336 lbs. Easily the best straight ahead run blocker in the nation, Quarterman projects as an NFL right guard in the mold of former Viking David Dixon.

Center: Dan Mozes, Sr. West Virginia

While there are no truly dominant centers in America this season, Mozes gets the nod based on his consistency and leadership. Mozes has been a four year starter for the mountaineers, and is excellent in space taking on quicker linebackers. At only 290 lbs. Mozes can struggle at times with more powerful defenders. While he has played some guard for Rich Rodriguez in the past, Mozes is much more suited for the center position where he can sift through at the point of attack and take on scraping linebackers.

NFL Comparison - Mark Stepnoski

Runner Up - Ryan Kalil, Sr. USC

Another veteran leader, Kalil is a technically sound center who does not possess incredible natural power or explosion. However, he has bulked up to 285 lbs. and his coaches love his wortk ethic and intelligence. He looks like a late round pick who could find himself as an NFL starter by the end of his rookie season. His profile fits that of a Dan Koppen type.

Defensive Ends: Gaines Adams, Sr. Clemson; Adam Carriker, Sr. Nebraska

At 6'3'' and 265 lbs. Adams is the prototypical college "tweener". Lucky for him, he plays on a loaded Clemson front seven, which allows the coaching staff to move him between end and linebacker (technically called the "bandit" position). Adams is a pure disrupter, posting 55 tackles and 9.5 sacks last season. His 15 tackles for a loss and 29 quarterback pressures in 2005 evidence his adept ability to play on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage. Because of his smallish frame and outstanding speed, Adams projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. Though he will need to learn to play more consistently in pass coverage, there is little doubt that he has the speed, quickness, and agility to develope into a top flight curl-flat defender.

NFL Comparison - Roosevelt Colvin

Though not blessed with the pure talent of Adams, Carriker is a far more complete defensive end, and one of the best all around defensive players in the nation. Not only is Carriker one of the best pass rushers in the Big 12 (9.5 sacks in 2005), but he is also stout against the run. Built like an offensive tackle, Carriker stands 6'6'' and 295 lbs. He is exceptional at leveraging his body and maintaining the outside by keeping offensive lineman off of him, making it almost impossible to run sweep plays to his side. Carriker owns a non-stop motor, which is typical of Nebraska defensive lineman. He projects as a dominant defensive end in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 system.

NFL Comparison - Trevor Pryce

Runner Up - Quentin Moses, Sr. Georgia

The 6'4'' 250 lbs. Moses is the best pure pass rusher in the nation. However, his slight frame and tendency to get upfield make him somewhat of a liability against the run. He will probably be chosen too high in the NFL draft as he projects as another in the long line of one dimensional, speed rushing defensive ends such as Jevon Kearse, and Leonard Little.

Defensive Tackles: Quinn Pitcock, Sr. Ohio State; Brandon Mebane, Sr. California

Pitcock is not your typical Ohio State tackle. He doesn't rack up huge numbers like Ryan Pickett, or Dan Wilkinson, but he is every bit as valuable. In 2005 Pitcock consistently ate up 2 or even 3 blockers, allowing the Buckeyes' star studded linebacking corpse to run around and make plays. With AJ Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, and Anthony Schlegl all playing in the NFL, it would not be suprising to see Jim Tressel ask Pitcock to make more plays in the backfield (something he is more than capable of doing). At 6'3'' and 300 lbs., Pitcock is a true run stuffing tackle. He has adequate speed to play the 3-4 end in the NFL, but projects as more of a 1 technique tackle in a 4-3 defense.

NFL Comparison - Rod Coleman

Though he is bigger than Pitcock, Mebane is a protoype 3 technique, pentrating tackle. At 6'3'' and 306 lbs. with tremendous quickness, Mebane is built like a 3-4 defensive end. His 7 sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss in 2005 only serve to further emphasize Mebane's ability to wreak havoc in the opposing backfield. With a more talented California defense surrounding him in 2006, Mebane should be able to put up much more dominant numbers and establish himself as the premier pass rushing tackle in the country.

NFL Comparison - Kevin Williams

Runner Up - Jay Alford, Sr. Penn State

While I love his game, Alford just misses because of his slight size (only 6'2'', 280 lbs.). Alford is probably quicker than any other tackle in the country, and is an excellent pass rusher. Unless he makes the move to defensive end in the NFL, he projects as a situational pass rusher in the mold of Jarvis Green. Although the same thing was said about another 6'2'' 280 lbs. tackle coming out of college......John Randle.

Middle Linebacker: Patrick Willis, Sr. Mississippi

Willis flies under the radar since he plays for Ole' Miss., but he has proven to be one the best players in the entire SEC. Willis lacks elite speed and is a bit undersized for a middle linebacker at 6'2'' and 230 lbs. Still, he is a tackling machine and a ferocious hitter. Willis is outstanding at reading keys and anticipating the play. He plays under control so he rarely overpursues and is almost never out of position. Willis is a smart enough player that with time he could develop into an adequate pass defender, making him a 3 down linebacker in an NFL 4-3 scheme.

NFL Comparison - London Fletcher

Runner Up - HB Blades, Sr. Pittsburgh

Blades has been a highly productive linebacker at Pitt, twice earning all Big East honors. Blades started his career as a strong side outside linebacker, but shifted to middle in 2005. He has the speed and size to make all the plays, although his is not as polished as Willis. Blades projects as a strong side NFL linebacker in the mold of Jamie Sharper.

Outside Linebackers: Paul Posluszny, Sr. Penn State; Rufus Alexander, Sr. Oklahoma

Posluszny, the reigning Butkus Award winner, is flat out the best defensive player in America. He is blessed with the size (6'2'' 230 lbs.), speed (4.5), and smarts you want in your defensive leader. Had he not hurt his knee in last year's Orange Bowl, he would have been an early first round pick and should be a man among boys playing in the college game this season. The most impressive thing about Posluszny, though, is his ability to stay within the scheme and still make as many tackles as he does. Unlike former Nittany Lion Lavar Arrington, Posluszny never freelances, and always finds himself in the right position. He has great closing speed, and is the best backside pursuit linebacker I have seen.

NFL Comparison - Jesse Armstead

Physically, Alexander is similar to, perhaps even a step ahead of, Posluszny. At 6'3'', 230 lbs. he has the frame to add more weight should an NFL wish to move him to the strong side or into the middle. However, if I drafted him I would leave him on the weak side where his tremendous speed and instincts allow him to roam free and make plays in the backfield. The only area where Alexander's game is lacking is discipline. While he made a mind-boggline 17 tackles for a loss last season, Alexander can get caught out of position by patient runners. With so many zone blocking schemes in the NFL, Alexander is going to have to learn how to play the cutback better. He could learn a thing or two from Posluszny.

NFL Comparison - Takeo Spikes

Runner Up - Sam Oljabutu, Sr. Arkansas

At 5'9'' and 230 lbs., Oljabutu is a kamikaze on the football field. He is a ferocious hitter who plays with a chip on his shoulder. A great college player, he reminds me a lot of former Clemson standout Keith Adams who has carved out a niche for himself in the NFL as a special teams gunner and occasional nickel linebacker.

Cornerbacks: Antoine Cason, Jr. Arizona; Daymeion Hughes, Sr. California

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Cason is the second Stoops coached player on my preseason all America defense. Cason is not as high a profile player as Oklahoma's Rufus Alexander, but then again Mike Stoops is not as high profile a coach as his brother Bob. Though his teams have struggled record wise, Mike Stoops has quietly turned the University of Arizona into a very formidable opponent. Like his elder brother, Mike Stoops relies on a hard hitting, physical defense to torment the opposition. Cason fits that mold perfectly. A tremendous athlete, Cason is one of the few cornerbacks in America capable of playing both man-to-man coverage and zone. He has safety like tackling skills, racking up 120 stops in his first two seasons in Tuscon. Playing in the "air it out" Pac-10, Cason has had to develope quickly and projects as an NFL corner, ready to start from Day 1.

NFL Comparison - Antoine Winfield

Hughes is probably the most physically gifted cornerback in America. Blessed with outstanding size at 6'2'' and 180 lbs., Hughes has the athletic ability to dominate most opponents in man-to-man coverage. Though he can struggle in zone at times, there is no reason to think that Hughes cannot improve on his recognition skills will more time. You can teach a player to read coverages in a zone, you can't teach the kind of athletic ability Hughes sports. Though he is not as sure a tackler as Cason, Hughes never shies away from contact and is willing to come up in run support. If Hughes is drafted into the right NFL system, he could blossom into an absolute superstar lock-down corner.

NFL Comparison - Shawn Springs

Runner Up - Leon Hall, Sr. Michigan

Hall gets the nod because of his overall potential. At 5'11'' and 190 lbs. Hall is a compact corner in the mold of former Wolverines Ty Law and Marlin Jackson. While Hall has the potential to be the best cover corner in the country, he has yet to show that he can consistently play at a high level. How Hall harnesses his ability this season will determine whether he develops into a perennial all-pro like Ty Law, or a disappointment like Jackson.

Free Safety: Brandon Meriweather, Sr. Miami

I remember watching Miami-FSU early last season, and wondering who the Miami kid was who was flying all over the field making plays. I also remember wondering why the Seminols didn't go away from him. Well the player was Brandon Meriweather, and the reason they didn't go away from him was they couldn't. Technically a strong safety at Miami, Meriweather has the speed and instincts to play either safety spot. Meriweather may not be as flashy as former Hurricane Ed Reed, or as big of a hitter as Sean Taylor, but I prefer his game to either. Too often safety prospects are overrated because they make big interceptions like Reed, or big hits like Taylor. Meriweather is a steady safety, who may not make as many interceptions as Reed, but is far superior in deep coverage (Reed's highlight reel interceptions mask his shortcomings covering the deep pass). Similarly, Meriweather is not a 235 lbs. behemoth like Taylor, but he is a willing, sure tackler who knows his role as last line of defense. Overall, Meriweather is a technically sound safety who just makes plays.

NFL Comparison - Darren Sharper

Strong Safety: Tom Zbikowski, Sr. Notre Dame

While Zbikowski does not have the natural ability of some of the other defensive backs in the country, he more than makes up for it in leadership and toughness. A part time boxer, Zbikowski is easliy the best player on a weak Irish defense and probably the toughest player in the nation. While he can struggle in coverage at times, there is no denying that he is one of the surest tacklers in the nation and is never afraid to stick his nose into a fray. Like Meriweather, he is a smart player who uses his instincts and desire to make up for his less than adequate speed. Comparing him to John Lynch may be a bit generous, but Zbikowski is smart enough and tough enough to succeed as a cover 2 strong safety in the NFL.

NFL Comparison - the late Pat Tillman

Runner Up - Mike Griffin, Sr. Texas

Griffin earns the nod by a hair over LSU's LaRon Landry because of his versatility. Like former Longhorn great Mike Huff, Griffin can line up at either safety spot, corner, and can even cover the slot man in a nickel set. To think that the Longhorns had the trio of him, Huff, and Cedric Griffin in the same secondary last season is scary.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Predicting the future part 3 (picks 22-31)

Walter:

Fielder is a decent pickup here because of his power potential. I would like him better if he didn't strike out so much but I if he develops properly that should become less of a factor (as you said, walks often follow power). I like the McCann pick less. Its true that he is raking right now, but if you look at his minor league numbers it appears to be kind of a fluke. He never hit higher than .290 in the minors (and that was in single A), and struck out nearly twice as often as he walked. He does have some nice power potential as a catcher, as evidenced by his 15 HR season in high A ball, but to me he projects more as a Jason LaRue type (.250 average but some pop to hit 20 HR). We'll see though, overally he was the safest catching pick left (this analysis emphasizes the reasons for picking Mauer so early).

#22) - Stephen Drew
Age: 23
Position: SS

Despite the hype surrounding this kid, I absolutely love him college numbers. At Florida State, Drew absolutely destroyed the ACC (the best league in college baseball top to bottom) for two seasons posting OBP's of .457 and .458 while displaying some pretty solid power potential (33 HR in 2 seasons). The D-Backs have had nothing but praise for him as he has skyrocketed through their entire system in under a year. To me, Drew projects as a Michael Young type. He is going to hit for a high average (above .300) and provide some limited pop (maybe 20-25 HR) while playing adequate SS (he'll make the plays he gets to). The way my team is composed, I would not be shocked if Drew ended up as the leadoff hitter.

#23) - Yusmeiro Petit
Age: 21
Position: SP

I was almost scared away from this pick by his disastrous start to a AAA career (0-3, 9.20 ERA). But Petit is only 21 (even though it seems like he has been around forever) and has put up outstanding numbers at his other minor league stops. He had a similar run in AA where he struggled a bit during his fist few starts but settled down to put up numbers worthy of one of the top pitching prospects in the game. In his final 21 starts at the AA level Petit went 9-2 with an other worldly 130:18 K:BB ratio in 117 innings. Those numbers alone were enough to get me to take a chance on this kid.
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Donny:

I would jump on you because of the Petit pick, because I know you are feeling a little insecure about it right now, but to be honest, I almost took him in that round and I think it is a good decent pick. You just have to hope the scouts are wrong and he did not top out in AA.

Drew is a good pick, I would have taken him a lot earlier if I didn't already draft two shortstops. It may be rose coloured glasses but their certaintly seem to be a ton of great infield prospets on the left side of the infield. It will be very interesting to see how they pan out, especially since this is the first generation of prospects I feel I have a good grasp on.

#24) - Ervin Santana
Age: 23
Position: Starting Pitcher

#25) - Matt Kemp
Age: 21
Position: OF (LF)

Both have question marks, both putting up good seasons. Kemp was detroying AA, moved up to AAA and hit a bit, along with a cup of coffee. Used to be rated below Pence, but is younger and producing at a higher level, if striking out a bit more.

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Walter:

Two solid picks by you. Santana has been on my radar for a while because he has proved himself on the major league level. However, my hesitation with him was that what he had proved was that he was a solid middle of the rotation starter and not really an ace. Overall another solid/safe pick for your pitching staff (along with Liriano and Bonderman). I think the ironic thing is that you are making the safer selections and I am opting for younger guys like Hughes and Petit. Kemp is a similar pick. He was also on my radar but I just wasn't overwhelmed by his overall minor league numbers. He is not a patient hitter and strikes me as very streaky. I am trying to build my lineup to be tough outs top to bottom to really wear on a pitcher. Kemp definitely has the talent and is a great value for you at this spot in the draft, he just didn't really fit into what I am trying to do.

#26) - Dustin Pedroia
Age: 22
Position: 2B

As a converted SS at 2B, Pedroia gives me a third excellent defensive player up the middle (the weak link being Drew). While there are a ton of good middle infielders available (Weekes, Barfield, Cano, Kendrick), Pedroia is clearly the guy who my philosphy favors. Whereas the others strike me as free swinging singles hitters for the most part (especially Kendrick, who I think is the most overrated prospect in MLB), Pedroia is an on base machine (career .398 minor league OBP) who walks more than he strikes out. Pedroia has even shown some power at the AA level, blasting 8 HR and 19 doubles in only 256 AB's. He is never going to content for a batting crown, but he should perrenially be a leader in OBP for second baseman. I just love his approach at the plate (and I know Donny does as well).

#27) - Carlos Quentin
Age: 23 (just barely)
Position: OF

Ironic that my fourth OF may yet be the most polished hitter (even more so than Major Leaguers Sizemore and Hermida). Quentin can flat out rake, though he cannot play defense the way my three starters can. Still, at this point in the draft I can't pass up on a solid all around hitter like Quentin. His career minor league numbers say it all: .316 avg., .428 OBP, .534 SLG. That he blasted 21 HR in 136 games at AAA demonstrates that he has the power to drive the ball to all fields. Quentin doesn't possess the upside of guys like Delmon Young and Jeremy Hermida, but he should be a regular all-star for many years to come.
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Donny:

Pedroia and Quentin are both safe OBP guys. Your team is definitely going to have a tremendous ability to get on base. Whereas I picked a bunch of free swingers with power. I guess the difference here is that I know power translates from the minors, and doesn't go away, whereas some guys who get on base tons in the minors just can't do it against major
league pitching and *poof*, all of a sudden they are putting up 260/320/400 lines, which is not what you want. The downside of my guys may be that 320 OBP but they got the 500 slugging to go with it. On the other hand, I think at this point you have a bit more upside, because if enough of those guys do translate into the bigs, and a couple find power, which is certainly possible (although I am beginning to think it is less likely for those two).

If you take a look at the Arizona AAA team, something will stick out at you pertaining to Quintin, he is like 6th(!) on his team in HRs. He's got a 427 OBP to go with it, and 30 doubles, but his IsoPow is only 200 in a tremendous hitting environment. I really don't think the homer power is coming any time soon.

Not to be too negative, because I like both of them a lot, but notice to temper expectations.

Onto my picks:

#28) - Andy Marte
Age: 22
Position: 3B

I have no idea how many third basemen I have drafted so far, but you know what, it doesn't matter, they can all swing the bat. I have said it a million times, but I really think the Sox are going to regret the Coco trade. You just don't trade away guys who are one season away from being top 5 prospect material.
In fact it is a little shocking he has fallen this much.

#29) - Hanley Ramirez
Age: 22
Position: SS

Really, there is just a tremendous depth of talent at this position right now. The guy is young and producing at the major league level. Also had a power spike (9 HR!) which came out of nowhere. Guess the standard story, that he needed to be pushed, was right.

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Walter:

Some really good points by you about the draft so far. I think it is very intersting that we have both taken contrasting approaches to drafting our teams. I agree with what you are saying about guys losing the ability to get on base in the bigs, but I think most of the guys I have drafted don't fit into that category. I mean if a guy puts up .450 OBP's in college, then in low A, high A, AA, etc. you have to have faith that their approach is good enough to do it in the majors.

Two good picks by you, especially Marte. I cannot believe he fell this far and he might be the steal of the entire draft. The only thing I worry about with him is that we have been hearing how great he is for almost 5 seasons now. Why hasn't he gotten an opportunity to play in the majors? Is there something about him that we don't know? Plus he has been traded twice! Its just not the prototypical treatment a "can't miss" prospect gets. Hanley is a solid pick and will be a pretty good player (he fits right into your free swinging team) but I think you made an error by addressing backup infielders before addressing quality relief pitching.

#30) - Jonothan Broxton
Age: 22
Position: RP

A converted starter, Broxton has been lights out for the Dodgers this season as a setup man, so much that they believe he might be their opening day closer next season. Broxton is a huge man (6'4'' 280 lbs.) and has the stuff to match his size. He is a prototype reliever who has a dominating fastball-slider combination. Two other reasons he is a future dominant closer: (1) his control is better than you think - his career minor league ration was 3:1, and (2) he does not give up HR - he gave up only 12 in almost 300 minor league innings. Though he does not have Huston Street's poise and moxie, Broxton slides in nicely behind him.

#31) - Mike Pelfrey
Age: 22
Position: SP

Another young gun for my staff which I am falling in love with. It's not really possible to dominate more than Pelfrey did in the NCAA posting a 33-7 record over three seasons at Wichita State. There isn't much not to love about this kid. He has dominating stuff, strikes out about 5 times as many batters as he walks, and has looked pretty darn good in his two starts for the Mets this season. Plus he has the size to be a durable pitcher for a long time, and the length (6'7'') to not lose much on his fastball as he ages.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The 323 - Preseason College Football Top 10

As anyone who can read has no doubt already gleaned, both Donny and myself have an infatuation with baseball that borders on obsessive-compulsion. Sadly, I cannot even place baseball alone atop my list of vices that subsume my life, as our national pastime must share that mantel with our country's other great passion: football.

Both Donny and I played football together in high school, side by side in both the offensive and defensive trenches. Donny played for a year in college, while I have pursued a coaching career on the high school level for the past three seasons. In a word, there are few people in New England not named Belichick who know more about the game than I do. In the past 6 years have attended countless games, broken down days worth of game film, and have more blue books filled with offensive and defensive schemes than I know what to do with. If I may be as bold as I am arrogant, listen to what I have to say about the game. I know what I am talking about.

While I would never even dream of missing a Patriots game, as the title of this post indicates I love college football (323 references the number of wins for Bear Bryant, the greatest football coach of all time). What follows is my first attempt at a preseason top 10. However, it would be somewhat inaccurate to describe what follows as a true preseason poll as the teams are not ranked in order of skill, potential, or dominance, but rather in the order that I believe represents the likelihood each team possesses of making it to the championship game.

Methodology: So how did I come up with this rather unorthodox looking preseason top 10? And what does it mean? Well, as I explained earlier, the following poll lists the teams, in order, that possess the best chance of making it to the championship game. While many factors went into the equation that produced this list, essentially it can be boiled down to the reconciliation of a team's talent against its schedule.

Step #1 - I chose the 20 teams who are realistically in the discussion for the national championship this season. All of these teams came from the BCS conferences, because, frankly, as much as I love Fresno State, Boise State, and everyone from the MAC (by far my favorite college conference), those teams do not have a realistic opportunity to play for the BCS championship.

Step #2 - Based on a 12 game season, I flat out gave each of these 20 teams 8 wins over their 8 weakest opponents. This 8-0 record (7-0 for teams who only play 11 games) represents the best-case scenario for a team with national title aspirations. Basically, it assumes that each of these 20 teams is not going to lose a game that they are supposed to win. Now I concede that this is an imperfect science, but this list is all about comparative chances and not mathematical precision.

Step #3 - I determined the 4 most difficult opponents for each of the 20 teams based on four factors: (1) the strength of the opponent's returning players, (2) the strength of the opponent's recruiting class and/or transfers, (3) where the game is going to be played, and (4) any significant history between the two teams.

Step #4 - I made a list with each of the 20 teams in one column, and their 4 toughest opponents in an adjacent column. I then used process of elimination to divide the 20 teams into 4 categories: national title contenders who could realistically go undefeated, national title contenders despite the fact that they are likely to lose 1 game, teams that are likely to lose more than 1 game, and pretenders.

Step #5 - I arranged the teams in each category in the order which I believe best represents their preseason chances of going to the national championship game. This determination was based on the relative skill and talent of each team, and the relative difficulty of their 4 toughest games. Voila, a preseason top 10 that is likely to look different than any you have seen so far.

#1 - Auburn

Someone upstairs loves Auburn. The Tigers return a core group of players led by a potential All-SEC backfield comprising of Kenny Irons and Brandon Cox (one of the more underrated signal callers in the conference, if not the country). Though Auburn was hurt some by graduation and defection to the NFL, they return their two best offensive weapons, and their two best defensive players in converted safety Will Herring and CB David Irons.

What vaults this team into the top spot, though, is a schedule that has seemingly been touched by the hand of God. Of their 4 toughest opponents, the three best teams (LSU, Florida, and Georgia) have to travel to Auburn, and the games are spread out with at least two weeks in between each of these contests. The only difficult road game Auburn has this season will be the finale against Alabama in the Iron Bowl. While this game is always a war, this is not the magical Alabama team of last year. Auburn has the talent to dominate the Crimson Tide, and will be especially amped for the game if they enter it 11-0. Two games to watch out for: the opener against a strong Washington State team (although after losing the opener a season ago, my money is on Auburn demolishing the Cougars), and their Oct. 7 date with Arkansas (who is an SEC sleeper) which has the look of an obvious trap game the week before Florida comes to town. Tommy Tubberville has proven that he is one of the best in the business, and I say he has his troops ready each week.

#2 - Louisville

Another surprising selection, but perhaps they shouldn't be given their talent, conference, and schedule this season. Assuming star QB Brian Brohm is healthy, the Cardinals boast three of the best at their positions in all of college football in Brohm, RB Michael Bush, and most importantly head coach Bobby Petrino (who is, along with Dan Hawkins and Rich Rodriguez, one of the finest offensive minds in the college game today). Though the defense is not star studded, they always seem to get their explosive offense the ball just enough to win.

Like Auburn, Louisville has an amazingly favorable schedule. Of their four toughest games, only two are on the road: at Syracuse (a very poor team whose presence on the list of Lousiville's toughest games speaks to the decline of the Big East), and at Pittsburgh (who is maddeningly inconsistent). Home dates against clearly the two best teams they play all season, Miami (Sept. 16) and West Virginia (Nov. 2), will determine if Lousiville takes the next step towards becoming a national power. Louisville played inspired football at the Orange Bowl last season, serving notice that they would not be intimidated by Miami. The smart money is on Brohm and Co. taking care of Miami in Kentucky, setting the stage for a battle of unbeatens, and a possible spot in the national title game, when a very strong West Virginia team comes to town Nov. 2. Louisville gets the nod playing on its home turf.

#3 - USC

While it seems almost impossible to rank USC so high based on the amount of talent they lost to the NFL draft, it is even more impossible to think about how much talent they still have on this team. They still boast the best receiving duo in the nation in Dwayne Jarrett (who looks like a #1 overall pick if ever I saw one), and Steve Smith. The much-maligned defense should be much stronger this year with double digit sack man Lawrence Jackson, and as young and talented a LB corpse as there is in the country led by super Soph Rey Maualuga. While the loss of all of their backfield could potentially derail this dynasty, both John David Booty and Matt Sanchez were former #1 overall recruits (!!!!), so they clearly have the ability to succeed. The development of whichever one wins the starting QB battle will determine just how far USC falls this season (if at all).

Thanks to what appears to be a loaded Pac-10 this year, USC's schedule is by no means easy (road games at much improved Arizona, Washington State and Stanford will be a chore). It is, however, favorable in that their the two toughest opponents, Notre Dame and California, have to travel to the land of Troy. Even though ND and Cal represent two of the most offensively talented teams in the country, I have to believe that USC will be favored to win both of them based on their defensive superiority. Their other two toughest games, Nebraska at home and at UCLA, are tremendous steps down in terms of competition. Though I loved what Nebraska was able to do in the second half of last season, they are not ready to step on the field with the athletes USC can throw at them quite yet. Ditto for UCLA who appears to be heading backwards already, after a surprising 2005 season (although BYU transfer Ben Olson may be the most highly sought after QB by NFL teams by the end of the season). One other game that USC needs to watch out for: their opener at Arkansas. Houston Nutt is a fantastic coach and I think Arkansas could be a real sleeper in the SEC. Given that USC will be traveling across the country, and playing their first game in three seasons without Matt Leinart, it could have the making for an early season shocker.

#4 - West Virginia

A second Big East team in the top 4, how can that be? Well, it's easy. If the chips fall as they should and Louisville holds serve against Miami, they will meet on Nov. 2 for the Big East title and a shot at a national championship. While West Virginia's schedule is a joke, their team is far from one. RB Steve Slaton and QB Pat White form an explosive backfield, both capable of taking it to the house from anywhere on the field. Head coach Rich Rodriguez has installed the perfect offense for these two playmakers, and they should be even better with another year under their belts. The real question is going to be whether White can throw the ball more consistently if teams stack the line against Slaton. Sadly, save for their games against Louisville and maybe Pittsburgh, it won't matter.

There is no doubt that WVA has the easiest road to the BCS of any contending team. That said, its not as if there aren't landmines along the way (hence their #4 ranking). Aside from their trip to Louisville (where they will not be favored), WVA has to travel over 200 miles north to play a much improved UConn team (with a great coach who will be ready for them) and travel to Pittsburgh for their rivalry game known as "The Backyard Brawl." While WVA will be favored in both, the Mountaineers aren't balanced enough on either side of the ball to overcome a sub par performance on the road.

#5 - Notre Dame

While fifth might seem awful low for Notre Dame, to be honest I was hesitant to even rank them this high. Yes 2005 was a wonderful season for Notre Dame. And yes Charlie Weis is a great coach who has seemed to turn this program around. And yes they have the best offense on paper in the country. But for all the ballyhoo surrounding Notre Dame's "resurrection" last year, I find it interesting that they only beat one team of consequence the entire season (Michigan). In fact, Notre Dame received more accolades for almost beating USC than they did for any single win the entire season. I just wonder how well they will fare with a much tougher 2006 schedule.

All that said, the Irish offense is stacked. Brady Quinn is hands down the best QB in the country, and Jeff Samardzjia has transformed himself from a third or fourth college wideout into a top 10 NFL pick. Though they lost Marice Stovall to the NFL, many believe that his replacement, Rhema McKnight (who was actually starting over Samardzjia before getting hurt last season), may actually be a better natural receiver. While there is no arguing that the offense will put up world class numbers, I fail to see any improvement in a defense that was consistently outclassed last season, especially in the secondary. Safety Tom Zbikowski is a great player, but he is at his best near the line of scrimmage making tackles. The bottom line is that the Irish defense doesn't have anyone that can cover. They were torched last season by mediocre passing offenses such as Michigan State (44 pts), Ohio State (34 pts), and Stanford (31 pts). At some point, this defense is going to need to make some plays and I am not certain they can consistently do it.

As I referenced earlier, the Irish schedule is significantly more difficult this year. Two of their four toughest games require trips to teams that beat them last season (Michigan State and USC). While Notre Dame will probably be favored against the Spartans, Michigan State always seems to play up to (and down to) the level of their opponents. When the Irish travel to East Lansing they will be coming off a brutal opening schedule which includes home games against their other 2 toughest opponents: Penn State and Michigan (though they get both of them at home), and a season opening trip to Georgia Tech (who happen to have the best WR in the country not playing for the Irish in Calvin Johnson to test their secondary early and often). Add creative Michigan State QB Drew Stanton to the mix and that game has the makings of a potential shocker early in the season. If the Irish somehow manage to get through their early schedule without a loss, their finale at USC still looms. I cannot foresee any circumstances where Notre Dame would be favored in that game, although if they are playing for an undefeated season and a chance at the national title I wouldn't bet against them. Overall, Notre Dame just has too many difficult road games to be considered as a team likely to go undefeated.

#6 - Ohio State

Ohio State is in a nearly identical situation to Notre Dame. They possess all the talent in the world, but have as tough a schedule as you can find. Offensively, the Buckeyes look imposing. Troy Smith became a bonafide heisman contender last season, and Ted Ginn Jr. finally realized that he plays for a division 1A powerhouse. That said, 5 games does not a career make, and neither Smith nor Ginn have the pedigree that guys like Quinn and Samardzjia have. This could be troubling for Ohio State because they will need those guys to be dominant every game. The defense was decimated by graduation, especially to the LB corpse. OSU should be typically strong up front with all world DT Quinn Pitcock, but it has been four years since they played a game without AJ Hawk, and the OSU LB corpse is the most reconstructed unit in the nation. The defense could struggle early.

Like Notre Dame, Ohio State's schedule is murderous. Three of their four toughest games are on the road, including a trip to defending national champion Texas in the second week of the season (at Iowa and at Michigan State being the others). Its true that some guy named Vince Young is gone to the NFL, but Austin is a tough place to play no matter who they are trotting out there, and I would be shocked if OSU was not at least a field goal underdog in that game. The Buckeyes do catch a break, though, getting Michigan at home, but that's one of those rivalry games and it wouldn't be the first time that an undermanned Michigan team ruined Ohio State's season in the last game. Ohio State, like ND, has the ability to win each of those tough road games individually, however it’s hard to imagine that they could play all three without slipping up along the way.

#7 - Oklahoma

How quickly people forget just how good Adrian Peterson is. Taking absolutely nothing away from Brady Quinn, or Troy Smith, or Marshawn Lynch, Peterson is by far the most talented offensive player in the country. He alone is enough to carry Oklahoma into the top 10. However, Oklahoma is set up for a very nice bounce back season. QB Rhett Bhomar improved steadily over the course of last season, and Peterson's presence should do nothing but aid his development into a top flight college starter. But, aside from Peterson, the offense is not the strength of Oklahoma. Bob Stoops is an old school defensive coach and his 2006 defense may be his best since Oklahoma won the national title. Seniors Rufus Alexander and Larry Birdine are all America caliber players who should consistently dominate for the Sooners. Add CJ Ah You, Zach Latimer, and DJ Wolfe, and you can get the picture that this will not be a fun team to face in 2006.

While the personnel may be in place for another title run in 2006, the schedule is not. All four of the Sooners' toughest games are away from Norman: at Oregon, at Texas A & M, at Oklahoma State, and in Dallas against Texas. That's the bad news. The good news is that, but for Texas, none of these teams should be in the top 25 by the end of the season. Oregon should prove the toughest test, but the Sooners were able to beat them in the Holiday Bowl last season and have only gotten better. After being embarrassed in the Red River Shooutout last season, and then watching the UT band play "The Eyes of Texas" while Vince Young held the national title trophy, Oklahoma should be burning for their showdown with Texas in 2006. Adrian Peterson wasn't healthy for the game last season, if he is in 2006, the Sooners will probably be favored.

#8 - Miami

If it's possible, I think Miami is being a little bit underrated this season. Though they may not have some of the explosive athletes on offense as in years past, Miami has as much talent as any team in America. The Hurricane's season will really come down to 2 things: (i) how healthy is Tyrone Moss, and (2) whether Kyle Wright can develop into a more consistent player. If Moss is healthy he gives the Canes the offensive gamebreaker they lacked last season, and instantly becomes one of the top 5 backs in the country. As for Wright, he showed a lot of promise in his first season as a starter. He has a live arm, and showed he can be productive at times. In WR Ryan Moore, and "the next big thing" TE Greg Olsen, Wright has plenty of options. As usual, though, the strength of Miami will be their defense. They have the best set of safeties in the country in Brandon Meriweather (who I absolutely love as a football player) and Kenny Phillips. Add NFL quality lineman Baraka Atkins and Bryan Pata, and Canes should give up very few points once again.

Playing in the ACC, Miami has a very tough schedule, and that was before they signed on the play Louisville at Louisville. The good thing for Miami is that aside from their trip to Kentucky, they get Boston College, Florida State and Virginia Tech all at home, and should be favored in all three games. If Miami can somehow beat Louisville (which it's clear I don't think is going to happen), they will have the opportunity to hold serve at the Orange Bowl and play for a national title.

#9 - FSU

Like Miami, Florida State will get the opportunity to prove that the reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. Unfortunately, since both teams' opportunity comes when they meet at the Orange Bowl on Sept. 4, only one will be able to prove the pundits wrong. To me, FSU looks like Miami's doppelganger. They are loaded on offense (whereas Miami is loaded on defense), but inexperienced on defense (whereas Miami is inexperienced on offense). Personally, I believe in Sophomore Drew Weatherford. He has the chops to be an excellent college passer, but more importantly he has the teammates. RB Lorenzo Booker steps into the lead role for the departed Leon Washington and should be as good running the ball while also adding something to the passing game. Weatherford also finds himself throwing to perhaps the most talented trio of WR in the nation in Greg Carr, Chris Davis and De'Cody Fagg. On the flip side, the FSU defense was hit hard by graduation. Losing Brod Bunkley, Ernie Sims, AJ Nicholson, and Antonio Cromartie represents an extreme exodus of talent. LB Buster Davis is a stud, as is DT Andre Fluellen. But for the most part, FSU will be relying on guys like Freshman Myron Rolle and Sophomore Tony Carter to get the ball back.

Florida State catches a break in that they play their toughest game of the year in week 1 at Miami. This gives them an opportunity to get extra preparation (which will be critical for the young players). Also, even if they lose, it gives the team ample time to climb back into the BCS picture. Outside of that game, the schedule is very favorable as FSU gets Clemson, BC and Florida all in Tallahassee.

#10 - California

It pains me to put Cal so low on this list because I have so much respect for Jeff Tedford, and I truly believe they are the most talented offense in the country (even more so than Notre Dame). RB Marshawn Lynch is the best back in the country not named Peterson, and Justin Forsett may also be in the top 5. QB Nate Longshore is unproven, but come on, we all know there is no better QB guru in the world than Tedford (See Rodgers, Aaron; Harrington, Joey; Smith, Akili). Add last season's #1 overall recruit Desean Jackson and Cal has an offense to rival anyone's.

That said, they have a very difficult schedule. As I have said already, I believe the Pac-10 is the most difficult conference in the nation this year, top to bottom. So much so that games against Arizona State, and at Washington State don't even make their top 4 toughest games. I may be giving Arizona too much credit, but I believe playing at Arizona is one of Cal's toughest games, although they should be favored going into Tuscon. Cal should also be favored when they travel across the country to play Tennessee, although the next easy game at Knoxville will be the first. I sincerely hope that Cal can somehow navigate their Pac-10 season undefeated until Nov. 11 when they head to USC as the last team to beat the Trojans on their turf. If both teams enter that game undefeated, the winner could find themselves playing for a national title.

Just Missed:

Clemson - I love this team to be a big time sleeper this season. They have top 10 talent but road games at BC, Florida State and Virginia Tech are just too much to overcome.

Nebraska - Again, I love what Bill Callahan has done, and they should take the weak Big 12 North. However they look like they are a year away, especially with games at USC, at Oklahoma State, and at Texas A & M.

Georgia - Will probably start the season 8-0, raising hopes in Athens, before dropping at least 2 of their last 4 which includes visits from Florida and Georgia Tech, and a trip to Auburn.

Michigan - Talented team, but I would be surprised if they didn't drop at least two of their three road games at Notre Dame, Penn St., and Ohio State.

Not Even Close:


Texas - Possibly the toughest 4 games of anyone in the country: Ohio State at home, Oklahoma in Dallas, at Nebraska, and at Texas Tech. And losing VY hurts a little bit too.

LSU - At Auburn, at Florida, and at Tennessee. They also didn't do themselves any favors by scheduling the always tough Pat Hill coached Fresno State Bulldogs.

Florida - At Auburn, at Florida State, at Georgia, and LSU at home. For a soft team to begin with this looks like way too much to overcome. Seeing as they also go to Tennessee, and get Alabama and South Carolina in Gainesville, this looks like a 6-5 team to me.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Predicting the future part 2 (picks 12-21)

Donny:

Well, I went through the same thought process, and was about to pull the trigger on Kazmir, but then I looked at his break out year in comparison to Bonderman's and I came to some obvious conclusions. Bonderman strikes out less guys, but 119/35 in 125 IP is just better than 125/45 in 115 IP. So what, he Ks fewer guys. He walks less and 8.6 K/9 aint too shabby anyway, and remember dominance is more about relative strike out ability (K/BB) than ability to strike guys out (K/9). If you consider that Kazmir walk more guys and thus probably faces more batters, I bet their K rates are closer than you would think at first. I’m not bashing Kaz just saying when you consider the difference in experience, history and yes age (which I think is good for Bonderman because he is closer to being out of the period where young pitchers break down) then Bonderman is the choice.

Wood has some K issues, but they are getting better and he is the number one power prospect in the game, and he plays shortstop, so I think I will let passable SS defence slide especially when you see…

#12) Jose Reyes
Age: 23
Position: Shortstop (potentially moving Wood to 2B)

Ok I am going to pull a bait and switch and move Wood to 2B and stick Reyes in at SS. There is a very high likelihood that his current 350/500 hitting is a fluke, but you never know, guys who make it to the majors very young, well there is usually a reason. Add in his statistically great defence and this is a risky pick I am willing to take.

#13) Jered Weaver
Age: 23
Starting pitcher

Ok this could end up looking pretty stupid down the line, but I think this might be a guy who the scouts just missed on. They said he was an extreme fly ball pitcher, but, hey keep him out of Chicago and maybe he might just make it. Weaver had comparable stats to Prior in college, but played in a weaker conference, and now he is looking like a latter day Prior in a brief stint in the majors. Speaking of upside, I am going to take him here, which would have seemed extremely high in the offseason, on the hope that he is going to fullfill his brothers promise.

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Walter:

Two interesting picks by you. Reyes was a guy I had my eye on for later in the draft. The best word I can think of to describe Reyes' game is dynamic. He definitely passes the Walter "my two eyes" test because of his speed and abilitiy to just make things happen on the field. That said, he doesn't hit for any power, and is more of a singles hitter than anything else. He belongs at the top of an order, but he strikes out too much and walks to little to leadoff. He is an incredibly talented player but would not fit into what I want in a baseball team (or you, I am surprised you picked him to start for your team at SS). Oh and he is marvelous defensively. Wood can move to 2B but you are looking at a team very weak defensively up the middle (outside of Reyes).

Weaver is a real interesting pick. He reminds me a lot of his brother who I always thought had a chance to be a perrenial all star. The problem with Jeff, though, was that his stuff just wasn't good enough. Once guys got used to his herky-jerky motion he became eminently hittable. I could see that happening to Jered also, although his delivery is a bit more deceptive than big brother and his stuff is a little better. You've got to be encouraged by his college numbers though. True he didn't play in the Pac-10 like Prior, but he put up a 10:1 K:BB ratio his senior year which is impressive at any level. Risky pick, but an interesting one.

#14) - Daric Barton
Age: 20
Position: 1B

Another real risky pick because of his age (I guess I'm no longer gravitating towards guys who have proved it on the ML level huh?) but I am absolutely in love with his numbers. In 4 full minor league seasons he has never put up an OBP less than .410. He has shown unbelievable plate discipline while walking over 30 times more than he has struck out in his minor league career.....And he is only 20 years old. I know that his power is going to come along slowly, but he is going to hit a ton of doubles and get on base enough that it will be worth it. Even still, it's a bit risky taking a 20 year old 1B who projects to only about 25 HR per season.

#15) - Delmon Young
Age: 20
Position: OF

Unbelievable potential here (especially power) despite not having the type of numbers the other hitters I have chosen have. Plus he's a total asshole but whatever. Delmon had one of the finest 1st seasons in pro ball ever hitting .320 with 25 HR and 115 RBI in 131 games for Tampa's single A affiliate. I am a bit worried about his strikeout rate but his raw power potential is just too high to ignore. He is a potential triple crown candidate and projects to the next level as an Alberte Belle type. I would not be surprised to see him put up a 50 HR-50 2B season at some point in his career........Although I also wouldn't be shocked if he were out of baseball before he turned 32 (like Belle). Still Alberte Belle was the offensive force in baseball for almost 8 years. Delmon Young has the potential to dominate this league and my team could definitely use someone to produce some runs behind all my high OBP guys.

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Donny:

How can I be weak up the middle when I only have 2 out of the four picked?

As for your picks, I understand the Barton pick, but I cannot agree with it. Aside from being too high, I am not convinced his HR power will magically appear. Remember walks follow power, not the other way around.

Ok quickly, my next two...

#16) - Chris Young
Age: 22
Position: CF

You were right I needed some help up the middle, and I think I go a way to fixing it here. Prototypical power/speed guy in the minors right now, and whose upside is Cameron without the strikeouts. I'll take it. He is hitting well in Tuscon right now, but then again, so is everyone so it is hard to distinguish how good he has been.

#17) - Justin Verlander
Age: 23
Position: Starting pitcher

I am not convinced he is going to be as good as this, especially when the lack of strikeouts catch up with him. But according to scouts, and you, he definitely has the stuff to convert it into Ks. Look for him to wear down a little as he extends his innings count.

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Walter:

Two good picks by you. One note on Barton though, I admit that he is very young and its a risky pick, but his upside is 2006 Bobby Abreu. Whether he develops power or not Barton should be a .400 OBP machine.

Good pick with Chris Young, although could be a bit early. I think Mike Cameron without the K's is a good comparison, but I guess I'm not certain if that is a good thing. There are still OF's with far more upside. You do realize Delmon Young was picked with the preceeding selection. As for Verlander I agree with everything you said. His stuff is wicked nasty but he is gonna dip a lot in the 2nd half. If Verlander becomes a dominant pitcher it will be by striking guys out (which he is definitely capable of doing) not by doing what he has so far.

#18 - Jeremy Hermida
Age: 22
Position: RF

Prototypical Walter pick. High OBP, tons of walks, not a ton of HR power. Anyone who can walk 100 times in the minors is OK by me. 255 career minor league walks in under 400 games works for me. Right now he could be a 20 HR guy but I doubt he will develop more power than that. I project Hermida as a Brian Giles type right now, but he has the skills to develop a bit more power and better defense.

#19 - Huston Street
Age: 22
Position: Relief pitcher

By far the best under 23 closer in the game. With all due respect to Craig Hansen, Huston Street is the only guy who has proven he can consistenty close the door in the ninth inning. Though he hit a rough patch earlier this season, he has rebounded nicely and I don't think there is any cause for concern. Owns a career MLB WHIP under 1, ERA at 2.18, and a sterling 111:35 K:BB ratio. Two concerns that I do have, though, are (1) he doesn't have truly dominating stuff, and (2) he is an extreme fly ball pitcher. That said, in his ML career he has almost struck out a batter per inning. As for being a fly ball pitcher, that is the MO of most closers (when was the last time you saw a sinkerballer close out a game), and if he stays in the spacious Oakland Coliseum being a flyball pitcher will actually help him. Bottom line is that Street is a top 10 MLB closer right now and he is only 22 years old (that's 3 years younger than Papelbon for those of you paying attention). When he retires we might be talking about him as the greatest closer ever.

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Donny:

good pick on Street, proven young pitcher. People at work are being suspicious so I will keep this brief.

#20) - Prince Fielder
Age: 22
Position: 1B

Ok I know you aren't supposed to pick firstbasemen this high, and that you can basically make a first basemen out of anyone else, but I going with the 'take the best player available' in this part of the draft.

#21) - Brian McCann
Age: 22
Position: Catcher

Well, if I cannot get the defense of Mauer, I will go for the bat of McCann, reports on defense have been positive and you can't argue with his .408 OBP .555 SLG line thus far.

Hot to Trot?..........not

Is it time for the Red Sox to trade Trot Nixon? The mere utterance of this question is often perceived as sacrilegious by most Red Sox fans who worship the longtime right fielder. Trot Nixon has endeared himself to an entire generation of Sox fans with his hard-nosed performance and blue-collar approach to the game since he came up to the big club in what seems like a lifetime ago. He was a leader on Boston's first championship team in nearly a century, and has vocally commanded the clubhouse since the departure of Mo Vaughn. Boston, as blue collar a city as one will find, has been lucky to have Trot Nixon, and Trot, himself, should be proud that he was able to win over the fans in a city where baseball is paramount to family, friends, and often times, God.

That said, there comes a time when even such a perfect match runs its course, and parting ways becomes more beneficial to one side than continuing the relationship. While it may sound strange to argue that a team considered by many as a World Series favorite should be a "seller" at the upcoming trade deadline, it is my contention that the Red Sox are in the unique position of being able to improve their team for both the present and the future by trading away a single player now.

Trot's Impending Free Agency

Although I could, and would, contend that the Red Sox should trade Trot Nixon regardless of his contract situation, the fact that he is a free agent at the end of this year certainly weighs heavily in favor of a move. Currently Nixon makes 7.5 million per season, which is about market value for a player of his skill set. However, entering the unrestricted free agent market, Nixon stands to make at least that much money over the next 3-4 seasons. As I will discuss later, his overall performance has declined to the point where he is no longer worth this money. However, there are plenty of teams out there who would gladly pony up that kind of cash for a player with Nixon's demeanor and credentials. The Tigers are a team that immediately comes to mind because not only would Nixon improve their team, but he is a likeable player who ownership could easily market to the blue collar city of Detroit. The point is that if the Sox let Nixon go to free agency, there inevitably be a team willing to give him more money than they are, and they risk losing him for nothing.

Trot's Aforementioned Decline in Production

On it's face value, Nixon appears to be having one of his finer statistical seasons in 2006. His line of .302 (avg), .405 (OBP), and .435 (SLG) appears to illustrate a fairly productive player. In fact I was surprised when I contemplated his stat line, because I have watched every game this season and always felt that Trot was underperforming. When I delved deeper into the statistics, I discovered that my gut was right, and that his stats are incredibly misleading.

First and foremost, Trot Nixon's stats do have a weak link in his low slugging percentage so it seems prudent to start here. A .435 slugging percentage is below average for a corner outfielder and falls way below Nixon's career percentage of .484. Even more horrifying was the revelation that since 2003 (Nixon's career season) his slugging percentage has dropped in each successive year including 2006. This trend evidences the fact that Nixon has lost a substantial portion of his power and is becoming purely a singles hitter (if he hasn't already). Along these same lines, it is worth noting Nixon's sharp decline in extra base hits. This season only 26 of his hits have been for extra bases, with only 6 of them being HR. This means that in his 285 AB's in 2006, only roughly 9% of them end in an extra base hit. For a point of comparison, the trio of Aaron Rowand (10%), Juan Uribe (9.8%), and Orlando Cabrera (9.7%) are all outperforming Trot while playing more defensively demanding positions. Nixon's numbers would be even worse if he didn't play in one of the best hitter's parks in baseball. In fact, Fenway Park has saved Nixon as he is hitting .375 (avg), .430 (OBP), and .483 (SLG) at home, as compared to .267, .392, and .406 on the road. If not for Fenway, Trot might find his OPS under .800 on the season.

While that speaks to his power drain, what about his ability to get on base? It's true that Nixon has a very robust OBP this season, thanks in large part to an impressive 47:36 BB:K ratio. Even on the road he has gotten on based nearly 40% of the time. While these facts are indisputable, there are certain quirks contained in them that reduce Trot's overall value. While OBP is a critical statistic (the critical statistic in my opinion), there are several factors that determine whether a high OBP turns into run production. The most important factor is the situation in which the player gets on base (obviously a man reaching base with 0 outs has a better opportunity to score than a man reaching base with 2 outs). Given Trot's superb OBP numbers, one would expect that he would be an ideal player to lead off an inning for the Red Sox. However, in that situation Nixon's OBP drops by nearly 20 points (to .388), and his already borderline SLG percentage drops to an anemic .345. While .388 is still an outstanding OBP, these stats indicate that Nixon has been at his worst when put in the best position to get on base and score (0 outs). His .345 SLG indicates that when he does get on base, its only to first base, which drastically reduces the chance for run production (a leadoff double, for example, can score on two consecutive outs whereas a leadoff single/walk requires at least one hit to score). Really, Nixon has put up most of his numbers in the worst possible situation: nobody on and 1 or 2 outs (the chances of scoring in this situation are extremely low because it requires additional hits without making outs). In that situation Nixon's numbers appear Ruthian: .372 (avg), .462 (OBP), and .525 (SLG). While I do not intend to take anything away from these fantastic numbers, they do serve to skew his overall stats and lead an observer to believe he has been better and creating runs than he has in reality.

The Presence of Wily Mo Pena

While the previous arguments serve to lay a rather convincing foundation, the presence of Wily Mo Pena on the Red Sox roster should be the determinative factor. The Red Sox invested quite a bit in Wily Mo (trading away Bronson Arroyo), and I doubt they did so for him to be a 4th OF. Given the landscape of the Red Sox OF, right field appears to be the only spot available for Wily Mo to get regular AB's in the near future (Manny isn't going anywhere, and the Sox paid handsomely to acquire Crisp as well). While many fans may agree that Wily Mo's presence, more than anything, should be the determining factor in the Sox not resigning Nixon at the end of the season, why should the Sox wait? Taking into account the previous arguments documenting Nixon's offensive deficiencies, I contend that the Red Sox would be a better team right now with Wily Mo in the lineup than with Trot. In limited action this season, Wily Mo has put up a line of .330 (avg), .382 (OBP), and .496, besting Trot in every category except OBP. If we look at Wily Mo's splits, inserting him into the lineup looks even better. Trot is so clueless against left handed pitching that I need not waste words comparing the two in that situation. However, Wily Mo annihilates Nixon even against right-handers. Wily Mo has put up an other-worldly line of .412, .447, and .618 against right handed pitching this season, as compared with Nixon's .332, .425, .467. While Pena clearly would not maintain those numbers over a full season, they indicate enough of an ability to at least approximate Nixon's numbers while besting him in other areas (power, against lefties, etc.). Situationally Pena has proven Trot's superior as well hitting .409, .480, and .500 leading off an inning. He has even obliterated Trot's numbers with nobody on and 1 or 2 outs (not that it matters) by putting up a line of .375, .412, and .688 while scoring 3 runs (1 more than Nixon) in half of the at bats.

So given all of this evidence, the million dollar question becomes (1) whether Theo could get value for Trot, and (2) whether he'd have the guts to trade away one of the team's most popular home grown players. While the first question remains unanswered, Theo proved he has the proverbial cajones to pull the trigger on this exact move by trading away the equally revered and home grown Nomar Garciaparra while his team was on its way towards winning its first World Series since 1918. If the value is there, Theo should be listening.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Predicting the future part 1 (picks 1-11)

Next up, Fantasy Draft!

Well, ok. Not so much. Walter and I are going to try to assemble a team based on guys 23 and under. Here are the rules:

-25 players, one for every roster spot.

-Snake draft.

-Must pick one of every position and 4 pitchers before you are allowed to pick another person at the same position (so for example, you can't pick two second basemen before you pick one of everything else).

-You may pick a player at a given defensive position and 'move' him down to a position which is lower on the defensive spectrum. I guess this in a way violates the previous rule, but only if you say 'ok, this dude cannot play CF ever again, he is now a left fielder".

The general rule is that the defensive spectrum is as follows:
C-SS-CF-2B-3B-RF-LF-1B-DH

With the exceptions that Catchers can only be converted into 3B and below, and CF can only be converted into 3B and below due to the disjoint in specializations.

Them's the breaks.

Hopefully this will be somewhat interesting to people who understand baseball, while allowing ample opportunity for Walter and myself to make snide comments regarding each others genetic stock, upbringing, and general wealth as human beings. Finally, an always popular side-benefit is our prognostications will be preserved in the digital amber which in retrospect will should provide enlightening. Plus, we are both a little bored at the moment.

A random number generator placed me, Donny, with the first pick...


#1) - Francisco Liriano
Age: 22
Position: Starting pitcher

May be a surprising pick if you are a fan of King Felix that if I went for pitching I would pick this guy, but given the season he is putting up, how can you turn down Johan p.2? I can't, and so I will take Francisco Liriano and his 1.94 ERA, 10.15 K/9, and 4.43 K/BB ratios all in 102 IP. Sure he might be the latest flash in the pan, but I think he is for real, and we in the Donny War Room cannot think of a better player to base a franchise around.

_____________________________
Walter:

#2) – Joe Mauer
Age: 23
Position: Catcher

This must be a surprising pick for you as I have been hesitant on him all season. The bottom line on this pick is that there is poor depth at the position of catcher in the under 23 universe. The disparity between Mauer's upside and his next closest competitor (probably McCann or Martin) is greater than at any other position. Mauer's .380 average this season evidences what a good hitter he can be to all fields. Though he hasn't shown much power that it usually the last aspect of a player's game to develope. Mauer is such a good hitter, I have contended on several occasions that the Twins may be forced to move him to First Base despite his defense. Which brings us to defense. Mauer has one of the strongest arms in baseball right now, and while his footwork needs a lot of work (which is strange since he was a highly touted high school QB) you can teach footwork....you can't teach the kind of arm strength the kid has.

#3) - King Felix
Age: 20
Position: Starting pitcher

Though his performance has been worrisome at times this season, he still has some peripherals which are outstanding for a rookie pitcher: he is averaging nearly a strikeout an inning, he has struck out three times as many batters as he has walked, and although his HR totals are up he still has a respectable 2.21 GB:FB ratio. While Liriano has supplanted him as the best young pitcher in baseball, King Felix still has the stuff to be the clear #2 dog. Plus it is vital to remember that Felix is only 20 years old. In two seasons he may be equaling or outperforming what the 22 year Liriano is doing now.

_____________________________
Donny:

Man, you completely ruined my draft by doing that, I was seriously considering picking Mauer with the #1 pick, I even wrote out the post of when I drafted him. However, I was upset until I realized there is a clear response to your gamesmanship. We both were thinking that we could wait on the two best hitters because they play the same position and so we could hold on until the other guy picked one of them to pick the other.

I am speaking of course of:

#4) - David Wright
Age: 23
Position: 3B

#5) - Miguel Cabrera
Age: 23
Position: 3B CONVERTED to RF

Well, I hope you like apples.

Inextricably linked in the real world, now forever joined in the bizarre two-team universe we are creating. It is just a shame some of the value got ruined by having to move Cabrera to RF. Really, you can have Mauer and his unbelievable OBP out of catcher, because I just picked up more power than you could cobble together in the next 5 rounds. Looking forward, I am of the opinion that the guys with pure power develop the best, so it nice to have two guys with power, patience and pure hitting ability. Not to mention they both steal enough bases to be somewhat of a power-speed threat.

Plus I have problems with all of the pitchers remaining.

_____________________________
Walter:

Nice job. You are correct that I was waiting and assuming I would be able to get one of those two guys later on in the draft. That said, 3B and OF are BY FAR the deepest talent pools of under 23 players. Wright and Cabrera are the best of the bunch, but I think you are undervaluing the remaining guys a little if you think that nobody else can approach their production. You neglected to mention that David Wright plays gold glove defense at third base. Overall, those two guys are the best hitters in the entire draft and its hard to criticize you taking them both so early. That said, I think there is enough talent at 3B and OF to go around. Evidenced by.............

#6) - Alex Gordon
Age: 22
Position: 3B

I believe Alex Gordon to be the best pure hitting prospect in all of baseball. Though he hasn't done it on the major league level yet, he has dominated every level of comeptition he has played at from college ball to AA this season. He is also developing power at the tender age of 22, something that cannot be said about many prospects. He has 13 HR in 316 AA at bats this season and owns a sparkling 49:68 K:BB ratio (it is worth noting that in his college career he owned a carrer 139:106 ratio). Gordon looks like a perrenial 1.000 OPS guy to me.

#7 - Grady Sizemore
Age: 23
Position: CF

I tend to gravitate towards players who have proven themselves already and Sizemore has done just that. What I like best about Sizemore is his versatility. He can hit anywhere in the order, although I would like to see him get on base a bit more and strike out less if he was going to stick in the ledoff spot. I project Sizemore as a middle of the order type guy, capable of going 30-30 every season (let's think of him as ARod lite). Plus his superb outfield defense gives me 2 perrenial gold glovers up the middle.

_____________________________
Donny:

Couple quick points. I find it ironic you say you gravitate towards players who have proven themselves at the major league level after drafting a minor leaguer. Secondly, you are 100% right that there is unbelievable depth at the 3b position right now in the young guys. Off the top of my head I would put it at Wright, Cabrera, Gordon, Upton (now a 3B) Zimmerman, Marte, Encarnacion, Stewart, Laroche…ok, we better move on before I start regretting my picks. I have to console myself with two guys who are absolute locks to produce for the foreseeable future, and as you said and I forgot to mention, one of them plays GG quality defense at the hot corner.

Ok, I can move on now. By the way, good pick on Sizemore he was next under my eye, but you definitely overdrafted Gordon as a response to me picking those two. If the depth at 3B is bad for my picking the top 2 it is really bad for you picking him that high. No way I pick another 3B and convert him this early.

#8) - Brandon Wood
Age: 21
Position: Shortstop

I guess if I am building the best power hitting team I might as well go all the way. His defense is projected to be above average and dude hit 100 extra base hits last year. Sure it was in two levels of A-ball, but look at what he is producing in AA right now .384/571 with 20 homers and 34 doubles. So basically he is almost on pace to do it again. He has the potential to be the best power hitting shortstop not name Alex ever in the modern era. I’ll take it.

#9) - Jeremy Bonderman
Age: 23
Position: Starting pitcher

I know there are plenty of pitchers with a bit higher upside, but I will take the guy coming out of the injury nexes who seems ready to be a sturdy excellent pitcher going forward. Thing is even if you compare him to some of the other young pitchers making waves in the MLB who get a lot more press, Bonderman’s peripherals are right their with them. Plus you always have the potential that a guy with that much experience will be able to gain more baseball smarts just from exposure.


I disagree with you that I picked Gordon too high. He is projected as a third baseman and with all the depth the Royals have at first base (e.g. Huber) I think he will be given every opportunity to stay there. I did not think that you drafted either Wright or Cabrera too high, I just thought it was odd you drafted both of them with so much depth at the position. All that said I think Gordon projects much better to the ML level than Zimmerman or Marte for that matter. Zimmerman projects as a 20 HR guy with a lot of doubles and Marte nobody can quite get a handle on. I see Gordon as a David Wright clone (without the glove): .330, 30 HR, 110 RBI, .400 OBP, .950 OPS. Now of course Gordon has yet to prove it on the ML level (and Wright has) but he has the power, stroke, and batting eye to be a high OPS major leager for a long time.

__________________________
Walter:

As for your picks, I have to say I question both. I was very high on Wood last year but the more I read about him, the more I think he may have peaked in the minor leagues. First of all, he does not project as a SS, and if he does his defense is only adequate. Also, he hits for a ton of power but he strikes out a ton. His K's will keep him from ever posting a high average or OBP. I am thinking like .270, .350 for Wood. He will hit some homers though. You are right when you say Bonderman is a "safe" pick. We know what he has (and it's damn good), but I'm not sure there aren't some other guys out there who project better.

#10) - Philip Hughes
Age: 20
Position: Starting pitcher

It's a bit of a risk and I hate to do it and choose a Yankee, but I cannot pass on the best pitching prospect in the minor leagues. I haven't seen him throw so he doesn't pass the Walter "my own two eyes" test, but his numbers are flat our ridiculous. His career minor league numbers are 9-1 with a ridiculous 101-20 K:BB ratio. He is only 20 and is already dominating high A ball. I know it is risky to pick such a young guy so early, but his upside is unbelievable.

#11) - Kazmir
Age: 22
Position: Starting pitcher

A guy who has gone from the dog house to one of my favorite players in baseball in less than a year. Previously I was worried about his control because he walked a lot of batters in his first ML season. However, this year he has proved that he can harness his unbeleivable stuff while posting a ratio of 129:45. Moreover, his minor league ratios were very respectable at a career mark of 283 K's to 93 BB's. I have completely turned around on this guy and now believe he projects as an ace for years to come. In many ways this pick is similar to your Bonderman pick. They are very similar pitchers. However, I would rank Kazmir ahead of Bonderman for 2 reasons (1) he is younger, and (2) he is lefthanded. Other than that I think they are very similar.

Lebowski Urban Achievers (NL Awards)

Ok now for my rundown of the NL:

1) “Whereas what do we have hear? A bunch of fig-eaters wearing towels on their heads trying to find reverse on a Soviet tank. This is not a worthy adversary.”

Excusing the racist undertones of Walter’s outburst, can you really think of a better quote to apply to what is going on with the NL at the moment? I mean, it’s basically: take a random Sox player, move to the NL, add water and *poof* you got a league leader. As I post, Pedro and Nomar are followed by Freddy Sanchez , Edgar Renteria, Hanley Ramirez, Arroyo and Tom Gordon as former Sox players lighting up the NL. I mean, Pedro and Nomar, sure, both make sense, but the rest of these guys were decent but unspectacular in the AL or B/B+ grade prospects.

It’s getting silly. The way Pedro manages to throw 200+ IP these days is by keeping the velocity low and using movement and location. The Pedro of old would beat you first with velocity, and then when you were dialled in for the heat, he would drop a silly curve or a backward bending changeup on your knees. But now Pedro, when healthy can just cruz through seven innings no problem, facing pitchers and bottom of the order hitters who would be in AAA for a decent AL team.

Now take Bronson Arroyo, currently tearing through the NL. Let’s look at his peripherals from over at FraGraphs.
  • link


  • Ok the first thing to notice is I haven't figure out links yet. Besides that, what does it tell you? Well the only differences between Bronson this year and Bronson last year are a spike in K rate and that he is leaving much more men on base. The increase in strikeouts was a given, to ballpark it, you can basically automatically assume that a guy going from the NL to the AL will add about 1.5 K/9IP. The LOB% implies a couple things, one is, his ERA is due for a bit of a rise.

    For a different perspective, take the two guys the Sox got coming from the Marlins over the last two years. One was supposed to replace Pedro the other was compared often to Roger. I might never trust an NL starting pitcher again. That’s how good they are. I think of the NL as a good suburb, nice place to raise the kids, you know they can hang out in the yard and the world won’t challenge them much. To make it, they eventually have to grow up and move out on their own into the real world of the big city, or they could stay at home forever, like that buddy of yours from high school.


    2) “So if you could just write me a check for ten percent of a million dollars... five grand...”

    To the Cincinatti Reds, who botched a move to get ten cents on the dollar. Seriously, selling two of the brightest young position players in baseball for middle relief, and this is all you could get. I cannot understate how bad I think this deal is. I don’t even think the usual ‘traded for a bucket of balls’ jibe here is appropriate. Remember that movie Sandlot, where the kids play baseball in the beat up field, and every once and while someone hits one into the next-door yard, and the beast of a dog has basically eaten the ball? Or maybe I am thinking of Beethoven. Anyway, I feel like if you took the all the baseballs that were used in those scenes, all eaten with dog drool all over them, take them, put em in a burlap bag, and THAT is the bucket of balls that Austin Kearns and co were traded for. Did you ever think major league GMs would make so many trades that, were they to occur in fantasy baseball, would be vetoed without a peep from the gallery?

    For some perspective, Kearns is currently 4th in the NL in VORP for Right Fielders, hitting .274/.351/.492. Oh and he can play good CF as well. The worst part about the whole thing is I wouldn’t shut up in the off-season about the Sox going after Kearns instead of Coco. I like Coco, but in a couple years it will be obvious that Kearns is the superior player, and they would not have to give up future All-Star Andy Marte to get him.


    3) “Am I wrong?”
    “No you're not wrong.”
    “Am I wrong?”
    “You're not wrong Walter. You're just an asshole.”

    This one is for you Mr. Bonds.

    Thing is part of me feels bad for Barry, I mean, how would you feel if you cheated in the same way as everyone else, but because you were so much better to begin with, you got nailed to the cross for doing it because it turned you into Babe Ruth with a big forhead? It stinks the way the guy has been scapegoat. But you know what? We don’t care anymore. We don’t care that you cheated, and you obviously did, we don’t care about chasing records and we certainly don’t care that you cry on TV. Why, cause when you are a year away from retirement and mired in a PED scandal, we might see through your puerile attempts to change the image you earned over decades in baseball. Sure the media is presumptuous and they can make people seem worse than they are, but when they try to lynch genuinely nice guys, the truth always comes out. You, Barry, are a jerk, and I just don’t care anymore.

    Oh and by the way, thanks for almost single-handed killing my fantasy baseball season. I can’t describe how frustrating it is to see these weekly stat line:
    3 games, 4 walks, 2 hits and maybe a homer for a line of 430/480


    4) “By the way, do you think that you could give me that $20,000 in cash? My concern is, and I have to, uh, check with my accountant, that this might bump me into a higher, uh, tax bracket.”

    It seems like, baring the A’s, that the Florida Marlins are the only ones who understand how playing the game as a cheap team is supposed to work. Think about it this way, when you get any general manager simulator, be it football, baseball, whatever, what is the first thing you always do? I immediately sell all the old decent players for young guys with potential. Too many teams try to contend by being mediocre and hoping for a miracle. Maybe because it is easier to play .450 ball and say ‘it wasn’t our year’ than the blow it up and make a real run, but it doesn’t make it any less forgivable. I can only commend the Florida Marlins for their moves in the offseason. They understood that the team wasn’t going anywhere as currently comprised and sold everything in the cupboard that would be stale or gone by the next time they were competitive. Quick review:

    - Beckett and Lowell for Haley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and Jesus Delgado
    -Lowell looked dead and Beckett was gone after 2006, in the process they net a contender for Rookie of the Year in Hanley, albeit bolstered by an unreasonably hot start, and a pitching prospect who was in the same league as Lester and Papelbon this time last year.

    -Carlos Delgado moved to the Mets for Yusmerio Petit and Mike Jacobs.
    -Jacobs is currently exceeding most projections and looks like a great bet to be a decent cost-effective middle of the order hitter for a couple seasons and Petit’s got lots of potential. Oh yeah, and all they gave up was a guy signed to a free agent contact less than 12 months prior for full value.

    -Sold Lo Duca, Castillo and Pierre for a slew of young guys with upside. Clearing space for the young guys to play and getting some potential value down the line.

    Just textbook all around, I probably couldn’t do better in Baseball Mogul 2006. And now they are surprising all the mainstream media idiots by being in contention for the Wild Card.


    5) [On video] “You must be about ready to fix the cable?”
    “Lord. You can imagine where it goes from here.”
    “He fixes the cable?”

    Where is Soriano going? Big question? Not to me. I don’t know about you but I see only one outcome from Sorianos’ resurgence and inevitable trade. And when the Yankees buy the rest of his season from the Nats for Tabata or Phillips, I for one will be enthused. Can you know the last time the Yankees acquired a corner outfielder mid season and it worked out well for them? Yeah, me either. I fondly remember them getting the Rondell White’s and Raul Mondesi’s of the world and watching them turn in Tony Clark-esque performances. I remember when it seemed like everything the Yankees touched turned to gold, especially in the pitching department, but they have been totally inept at finding decent corner bats at the trading deadline. This maybe because of their well-known tendency to empty the farm for anything resembling a live body during the trading deadline and maybe because it has gotten very difficult to break rookies in at Yankee Stadium, either way, it makes me happy.

    Soriano is the type of player who was figured out in the AL: don’t pitch him anything to hit, and he will swing his way into a 310 OBP. When I predicted his demise in RFK, I forgot the paucity of legitimate baseball in the NL, which is not a mistake I will make again. I welcome his return and inevitable choke in big games against superior pitching.


    6) “Are you employed, sir?”
    “Employed?”
    “You don't go out looking for a job dressed like that? On a weekday?”
    “Is this a... what day is this?”

    To the Braves, who showed up for the season without their usual game face on. It took a long time, but it seems the Braves run atop the division is finally dead (counting from 1995 mind you, les go espos!). The only question remaining is whether they are going to take it lying down or are they going to fight for the wild card. You have to hand it to everyone over their in Atl….well actually, I have to do no such thing. Let me be the first to say: The king is dead, the king is dead. Good riddance, and take your southern racist chop with you.

    Last month I was about to agree that the Tomahawk Chop has no bigoted undertones, but then I got distracted by the reflection from the confederate flags in the back window of your pickup trucks. As a completely tangential aside, I’ll believe racism in the south is dead when that flag stops appearing on state buildings, when Rove can’t sink a persons campaign with push polling on an adopted black baby, and when George Allen has no more political career.


    7) “Darkness warshed over the Dude - darker'n a black steer's tookus on a moonless prairie night. There was no bottom.”

    Terrible time to be a Phillies fan. For the first time in recent memory the Braves don’t have the division sown up, and the Mets finally realize how to spend money and are going to walk away with it. At least they are going to make the right move and blow it up. If they do a good job of it, they could get competitive right as the Mets success cycle winds down. They have a decent core of kind of position player although Howard (26) Utley (27), Burrell (29), Rowand (28) and Rollins (27) are surprisingly up-their in age and all pretty much as good as they are going to get, not that there is anything wrong with that. The pitching side of things is a little younger but thinner with Myers (25) and Hamels (22) really the only two guys who you could consider ‘building around’. Basically, looking forward, the team is Howard, Utley, Burrell, Rollins, Myers and Hamels. Not a bad core, but as we can see now, if you just fill in the rest of the team with your average major league baseball talen, well, it doesn’t get you to the playoffs, which as I keep stressing, is the end goal in all this.

    The Phillies are in one of those bad middle places where their core isn’t getting any younger, but not yet old and they have significant holes, especially with their pitching. So what do you do, well, if it were me, I would sell anything of value not bolted down and over the age of 27. Sell Gordon, sell Abreu, sell the mascot if he is getting on there, but due to the horizon we are looking for the best they can hope for is to find someone willing to give up guys close to the majors or in the majors. Similar logic to why depleted farm systems might want to draft college players applies here.

    9) “You have got to buck up, man. You cannot drag this negative energy in to the tournament!”
    “F**k the tournament... F**k YOU, Walter!”

    “F**k the tournament? All right, I can see you don't want to be cheered up here, Dude. Come on Donny, let's go get us a lane.”

    Unfortunately, this one goes to my man Brad Lidge. Not since BJ Kim has a closer had such a bad hangover from getting rocked for a couple of bombs in the playoffs. Sure part of it may just be he randomly got control problems, baseball is a gruelling sport, especially for pitchers. But part of me thinks he just hasn’t gotten over being abused by the aforementioned coolest player in baseball like he was throwing wiffle balls. Then to top it off, Podsednik hit his only homer of the season off Lidge in the World Series. That’s humiliating, I mean, not as pathetic as dropping a 3-0 lead in a league championship series or anything, but definitely notable.


    9) “The Dude Abides”
    Coolest line in the movie goes to the most-chill superstar in the league, Albert Pujols.
    What could I possibly right about this guy.
    Best pure hitter in baseball in terms of power, average and patience? Check.
    Begs comparisons to Joe D and Teddy Ballgame incessantly? Check.
    Most disturbing loss of hair in a 26 year old? Check. Best name to get women to randomly look up from a fashion magazine and say “heyyyyy, his name is Poo-Holes! That’s great!”….Unfortunately, check.

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