Saturday, April 12, 2008

Al Central 2008 Predictions

Cleveland Indians - 87 wins
Detroit Tigers - 84 wins
Chicago White Sox - 74 wins
Minnesota Twins - 74 wins
Kansas City Royals - 69 wins

CLE: Two things should stand out to you. The first is that I only picked Cleveland to win 87 wins, despite the fact that they easily have the best pitching in the Central. The second is that I picked them to finish above Detroit. Of the two, I'm more likely to be wrong about the wins total. Although I don't like the offense from their corner outfielders, David Dellucci (.231 EqA - equivalent average) and Franklin Gutierrez (.261 EqA), and we're not sure how rookie Asdrubal (Assdribble) Cabrera (101 OPS+ - adjusted OPS - in 45 games last season), but overall, the Indians have a solid offense, at least solid enough to feast on the weak rotations in the AL Central. They back that up with a good staff, led by C.C. Sabathia 5.65 K/BB - strikouts to walks - ratio) and Fausto Carmona (.309 OBPA - on base percentage against), although there are concerns Carmona's arm may fall off since he more than doubled his innings totals last year (102 1/3 minor/major IP in 2006 to 230 regular/postseason IP in 2007). Rafael Betancourt is a beast in the bullpen (.208 OBPA, 9.1 K/9 - strikeouts per 9 innings, 8.89 K/BB in 79 1/3 IP), although he's probably unlikely to duplicate such great numbers. He did do really well as President of Venezuela, though. Oh wait, that was Rómulo Betancourt.

DET: Ov-er-rat-ed, clap clap clapclapclap. Not their offense, mind you. Their offense is huge. Curtis Granderson (.300 EqA), Miguel Cabrera (.321 EqA), Magglio Ordonez (.336), and Edgar Renteria (.297 EqA) all had monster years. While they may not all duplicate that this season, they'll still be good. In fact, the only truly weak hitters for Detroit are Ivan Rodriguez (.237 EqA) and Jacque Jones (.248 EqA), although maybe there's an argument for their defense. Not from me, of course, but from someone. Where the Tigers fall apart is in their pitching. Justin Verlander (.309 OBPA but only 2.73 K/BB) and Jeremy Bonderman (3.02 K/BB but .453 SLGA - slugging against) lead an otherwise unimpressive staff. Dontrelle Willis (1.60 WHIP - walks & hits per innings pitched, 1.68 K/BB) died a long time ago, and no one told him. Even the bullpen is unremarkable, topped off with Todd Jones (1.59 K/BB, 4.8 K/9), who kinda sucks.

CHI: The White Sox have an NL line-up, by which I mean one that isn't very good. Nick Swisher (127 OPS+), Jim Thome (150 OPS+), Paul Konerko (116 OPS+) and Jermaine Dye (105 OPS+) are basically the only ones that can hit. Every other regular starter put up an OPS+ lower than 100 last season, and remember, 100 is league average. As far as pitching goes, Javier Vazquez (.290 OBPA, 4.26 K/BB) put up the best numbers last year, and will probably be the staff leader this season, especially as Mark Buehrle (5.1 K/9) can't strike anyone out. Bobby Jenks (.242 OBPA, 4.31 K/BB) is a nice closer for a guy that could out-eat David Wells, and Octavio Dotel (12.0 K/9) has the potential to be a great set up, but it will probably be rare that the Sox even get a chance to hand them games.

MIN: The Twins have slightly better hitting than the ChiSox, but slightly worse pitching. The Twinkies should see continued production from Joe Mauer (117 OPS+) and Justin Morneau (121 OPS+), with some help from new addition Mike Lamb (.282 EqA). This is not a team that's going to walk a lot (Baseball Prospectus predicts them to put up a .325 OBP, worse than even Chicago), and that will hurt. It looks like Scott Baker will lead their rotation (.327 OBPA, 3.52 K/BB), but with Francisco Liriano a question mark after missing a year, the ball will fall to guys like Boof Bonser (.350 OBPA) and Livan Hernandez (1.14 K/BB). I like the bullpen with guys like Joe Nathan (9.7 K/9) and blogging legend Pat Neshek (4.05 K/BB), but like Chicago, it will be a rare day when Minnesota can hand them the ball to help preserve a win.

KCR: The Royals have gotten some good press, huh? That's nice. Who do you like in their line-up? Jose Guillen (.280 EqA)? Okay, I'll give you him. Who else? Billy Butler (105 OPS+)? Yeah, he has potential. One more. Mark Grudzielanek (100 OPS+)? Eh. Yeah, the offense is weak. I like the pitching a little more. Gil Meche (.314 OBPA, 2.52 K/BB) will probably drop off, as might dreamboat Brian Bannister (.302 OBPA, 1.75 K/9), but Zach Greinke (7.8 K/9) has some upside, and Joakim Soria (9.8 K/9, 3.95 K/BB) would be a great closer on a team that could give him save chances. Soria won't get many opportunities on this team, though.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Are you kidding me, Hillary?

This is me in Scranton [1950], where my father was raised and my grandfather worked in the lice[?] mill. Every August, we'd pile into the car and head to our cottage on lake Winola. There was no heat or indoor shower, just the joy of family.
I'm sorry your summer house wasn't perfect, Hillary. You're just like the working class. The Scranton Canoe Club, which has been around for nearly 100 years is right on Lake Winola. If you'd like to join, the membership fee is a mere $500.

That Hillary Clinton, a blue collar gal from a blue collar family.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

AL East 2008 Predictions

New York Yankees - 93 wins
Boston Red Sox - 92 wins
Toronto Blue Jays - 87 wins
Tampa Bay Rays - 82 wins
Baltimore Orioles - 68 wins

NYY: I was fully ready to pick Boston to finish first, but as I went over the numbers, I just couldn't concede that the Yankees couldn't finish on top. First of all, their lineup, although older, is still lethal. This is a team that consistently puts up high OBP (on base percentage), OPS+ (adjusted on base plus slugging), HR (home runs) and EqA (equivalent average) numbers. Even if Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez do not match their seasons last year, which is likely, the Yankees still have enough offense to lead the league in runs (PECOTA predicts the Yankees to score close to 900 runs, which is almost a million runs). Where the Yankees have a problem is with their pitching. Their rotation, without Joba Chamberlain, all sport low K/BB (strikeout per walks ratio). The bullpen has some solid contributors, including the aging Mariano Rivera, but games may turn on players like Kyle Farnsworth, who has a decent K/9 (strikeout per 9 innings ratio) rate offset by a poor BB/9 (walks per 9 innings ratio) showing. I think, though, that the staff's OBPA (on base percentage against) percentage, strikeout ratios, walk ratios, etc., are just good enough to create enough win opportunities for the offense.

BOS: Boston's offense is just slightly behind New York's, another team capable of walks and bombs. The Sox lineup is pretty tough, but while Dustin Pedroia may well be the real deal, I'm not as sure about Jacoby Ellsbury. Between Coco Crisp and Ellsbury, I wonder if the Sox are going to get much offense out of center field. Boston makes up for a slightly worse offense with a slightly better pitching situation. With the exception of Tim Wakefield, their rotation features a higher K/9 rate and a lower OBPA. After Josh Beckett, however, the staff runs into problems with walks. Their bullpen is fairly impressive, from Jonathan Papelbon to Hideki Okajima to Manny Delcarmen. If Papelbon has enough in his arsenel to be a starter, though, then he is being wasted in the bullpen, and the Sox are losing wins (I just blew your mind).

TOR: Toronto is falling out of favor with some, and their average offense certainly does little to inspire. Adding David Eckstein (93 OPS+, .266 EqA in '07) and Scott Rolen (89 OPS+, .256 EqA) didn't help. If Vernon Wells (.240 EqA) doesn't turn around, then the lineup is really shakey. However, the Jays sport one of the best rotations in all of baseball. This is a team with stellar OBPA and K/BB numbers on the mound throughout the game. Starters like Roy Halladay and Shaun Marcum can shut down teams, with guys like Jeremy Accardo and Scott Downs taking over at the end. Jesus Murphy, it's hard not to be excited a-boat these pitching neels if you're a Toronto fan, eh? If they actually had some bats besides Alex Rios and Frank Thomas, the Blue Jays would be a legitimate contender for first place in the division, even above the Yankees and Red Sox. But they don't, so it's third place.

TBR: The Bay Rays are a popular pick for third place in the division, but their offense is a little overrated, and so I call bullshit. The lineup is slightly above average. Guys like Dioner Navarro (70 OPS+) help balance out hitters like B.J. Upton (136 OPS+), and basically the team looks like Akinori Iwamura (105 OPS+) - good, but not great (also, male...they all look like men). Their pitching is also a little overrated. James Shields is a guy that's going to put up good K/BB and OBPA numbers (maybe even better than '07's 5.11, .285). Scott Kazmir, slightly less so ('07: 2.69, .331). After that? Awful. Andrew Sonnanstine may work as a decent third, but they have no fourth or fifth starters of any good value. The bullpen is a bit better than one would expect. There's potential to make a good run, but I can't see them sustaining anything for the entire season.

BAL: The Orioles are putrid. After Nick Markakis (121 OPS+) and Brian Roberts (112 OPS+), the punch in the offense comes from Kevin Millar (106 OPS+) and Luke Scott (119 OPS+, with a probable dropoff in '08). When Aubrey Huff (103 OPS+) is your DH, you know you have problems. The hitting looks pretty good, though, when compared with how dreadful the pitching is. This is the worst rotation in the AL, even worse than Texas'. Jeremy Guthrie is the best starter on the team (.300 OBPA and 2.62 K/BB), and everything else is downhill. I mean...there's just so much awfulness. Daniel Cabrera? Too many walks, and not a high enough K/9 to make up for it. Loewen? His OBPA last year approached .400 in a little over 30 innings pitched, but even the year before, he had a WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 1.54 in 112 1/3 innings. I...I can't go on. I'm sorry, Baltimore. In this division where the Sox and Yanks will knock the shit out of your pitching and the Jays will shut you down time and time again, you're just not going to get many wins. Your team blows.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

On my blade, you dance into eternity

Part of my job is to keep you people up to date on what's hip on the Internet. It's roughly 0.09% of my job, so I do it rarely. However, Muxtape has been brought to my attention twice in one week, once via message board and once via email from one man barbershop quartet Nathan Smart, so I figure I better pass it along to you before it's too late. Although the aesthetic appeal of the site went out of style around 1995, the functionality of it is timeless. I made a mix for you to listen to, a collection of out of print, rare, and independent metal songs from the 80s, 90s and 00s. It's only 52 minutes and 52 seconds long, so that leaves you over seven minutes to stop for a bathroom break and snack before the next hour begins.

And you best count your hours while you have them, for I will soon begin my annual baseball predictions week. I already determined outcomes a few days ago, but I've just been somewhat lazy in getting around to posting them. I just want you to be aware, gentle reader, that Detroit's pitiful start and Pedro's ruptured muscle tendon were not factors in my predictions. The results of the first few games of the season will not sway me. Like the machine that turned a young boy into Tom Hanks in Big (1988), I take my sorcery very seriously.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bombs of the home run and nuclear variety

Usually, watching Pirates vs Marlins when you're not a fan of either team is what can roughly be described as "a bad idea." However, while switching between that and Mariners-Orioles (not exactly an upgrade), I was rewarded with a fantastic(ly hilarious) home run call by FSN Pittsburgh's Lanny Frattare. In honor of such a magnificent call, I made a YTMND page.

In other news, I thought this CNN headline was funny: Bush, Putin disagree on missile defense. Really? I can't recall the U.S. and Russia ever disagreeing on missile defense.

It's actually interesting what news agencies chose to title this story, which boils down to the U.S. and Russia being far apart on America's missile defense program, which (if functional) would basically shoot rusty Soviet nukes out of the sky and into Canada whenever Russia (or China or North Korea) attack us. The International Herald Tribune and the L.A. Times both wrote in their headlines that Bush and Putin "Agree to Disagree," which is a nicer and technically accurate way of describing the talks. Reuters was less coy, bluntly saying "Bush, Putin disagree on missile defense," but the AFP ran with the somewhat (very) misleading "Bush, Putin bury hatchet over anti-missile defence." The New York Times led with "Bush and Putin Remain Apart on U.S. Missile Defense Plan," while the New Zealand Herald went with the lighter "Bush and Putin show strong bond despite rows." You'd think New Zealand would care a little more, but I find that those in the Southern Hemisphere are just waiting for us Northerners to annihilate ourselves. Interestingly, the AP manages to do one better than the Herald, coming from out of left field with "Bush, Putin exchange light-hearted quips." They're just a couple of crazy guys!