Saturday, March 31, 2012

AL All-Acquired Team 2012

With the end of another off-season comes the opportunity to evaluate another off-season.  And I'd like to start by looking at some of the best players who will be suiting up for different teams next season.  So with the help of's fantasy player rankings and the Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview issue here is a graphical representation of the AL All-Acquired Team for 2012.

The top-ranked player to be moved (in fact, the second-top-ranked player anywhere, according to is Albert Pujols, who became the Angels' new first baseman.  He's predicted to be the AL West's MVP by SI, even though he had career lows in 3 of the 4 major rate stats last year.  The scout that covers the Angels in the magazine seems to think signing Pujols assures them a spot in the playoffs, even giving them the chance to "win a World Series or two."  His new teammate C.J. Wilson is the third highest-ranked player on this roster at 51.  The left-handed converted closer was the Rangers' ace last season, but he'll pitch third in a strong Angels rotation led by Jered Weaver and Dan Haren.  (The SI scout pegs Wilson as the 4th best pitcher on the team, but I can't imagine either Ervin Santana or Jordan Walden ranked above him.)

The player ranked between the two best newest Angels will be the AL's DH: Prince Fielder (the AL Central's projected MVP).  Acquired by the Tigers when it became apparent that Victor Martinez would miss the whole season, he's primed to continue his upward trend hitting behind Miguel Cabrera, and also based on how good his bat speed has looked this spring.  Another DH candidate is the AL West's "Rookie to Watch" Jesus Montero.  Ideally Montero would catch for this squad, cuz he has no other spot in the lineup, but he apparently has big problems with his footwork behind the plate.  The AL's next-best hitter, 1B Carlos Pena, who returns to the Rays, also has no spot in the lineup, and will have to be content with sitting at third on the depth chart.

The AL's next-best pitcher was the centerpiece of the Montero trade, sophomore Michael Pineda.  For the sake of my fantasy team, I'm hoping he'll pick up where his dominant rookie campaign left off, but there's doubts as to whether his 260 lb. frame and inconsistent delivery can support his 96 mph fastball and nasty breaking ball.  His new teammate, Hiroki Kuroda, joins him in this All-Acquired rotation.  According to SI's scout, Kuroda has 5 strong pitches: a fastball at 92-93, a good hard cutter, a split, a curve, and a slider - in other words, if you're pitching as him in a PS3 videogame, you'd better be prepared to get familiar with the R1 button.

Between that set of teammates in the rotation is Japanese import - and the AL West's "Star on the Rise" - Rangers new ace Yu Darvish.  He's 6'5" and 215, but he throws an assortment of pitches in addition to throwing hard.  The guy who should be closing out a fair amount of victories for Darvish, Joe Nathan, joins him in this pitching staff, but the former Twin will play second fiddle in the bullpen to former Athletic Andrew Bailey.  The SI scout predicts that Bailey and new setup man Mark Melancon will do a good job replacing Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard (who moves to the rotation) for the Red Sox, but you can never be sure how playing in Boston's pressure-cooker of an environment will affect any player's performance.  Their third closer in the bullpen will be Sergio Santos, the second-year closer who moved from the White Sox to the Blue Jays, and who will hopefully rack up a few saves for my fantasy team.

The AL's entire starting outfield is linked to the Athletics in one way or another.  Josh Willingham signed with the Twins after proving he can hit a lot of home runs in the pitcher friendly Oakland Coliseum in 2011.  The A's traded with the Rockies for Seth Smith and signed Yoenis Cespedes out of Cuba (who has already contributed to the A's first win (and my first Fantasy home run) a couple days ago in Japan).  Guys like Jamey Carroll and Nick Punto have a chance to spend a lot of time all over this infield, especially given that their starting 3B is slated to spend 2012 DH'ing with the Orioles (although I have a feeling he might spend some significant time at the hot corner due to Mark Reynolds's shaky defense).

Overall, the rankings of the entire projected lineup as it might appear in the pages of SI's preview issue (9 position players including DH, 2 bench, 5 starting pitchers, and 2 relief pitchers) add up to 3537.  Lower numbers are better, since we're dealing with rankings, but I'll have no idea how this number compares to the NL team until I crunch some more numbers.  Until then, try to enjoy the next 4 baseball-less days that we have to endure after we got our first brief, sweet taste of MLB 2012.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Astrology Baseball: Earth Signs Bracket

Here it is, the final bracket!  If you recall the intro post, you'll know that this bracket contains the strongest team in the skies - the very last team on the list.  It's always good to save the best for last...

Capricorn Goats

Although Capricorn has the second-fewest points of all the teams, those points are so top-heavy that they actually have one of the stronger lineups we've seen.  Albert Pujols can anchor any offense, Michael Bourn is sure to score a lot of runs batting in front of him, and he's got some protection in his real-life former teammate Matt Holliday and power/speed threat Jeff Francoeur.  Victor Martinez would have solidified the lineup if he weren't in line to miss all of 2012, but Hanley Ramirez could easily replace that production if he can mount a successful bounceback season.  Cole Hamels leads a pitching staff that also includes Red Sox ace Jon Lester, Astros ace Wandy Rodriguez, Angels stalwart Ervin Santana, and young phenom Michael Pineda.  Francisco Rodriguez still presumably has talent to close games, despite the fact that he'll be spending 2012 racking up holds rather than saves.

Taurus Bulls

At first glance, you would think Taurus's strength is their pitching, what with Roy Halladay, Josh Beckett, and Chris Carpenter filling the 1-2-3 spots in the rotation.  But when you look at a lineup that includes Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton, Carlos Beltran, and Jayson Werth, you may be forced to change your tune.  After bounceback candidate Joakim Soria, the bullpen features a couple of former closers: Neftali Feliz, who's moving to the rotation, and Francisco Cordero, who will be setting up for the Blue Jays, despite his strong 2011.  They've also got a couple of breakout candidates in Matt Wieters and David Freese, and a very talented super-utility type in Emilio Bonifacio.  I'll cap off this Taurus profile with Weird Al's faux-roscope from his song "Your Horoscope For Today"
Taurus: You will never find true happiness - whatcha gonna do, cry about it?
The stars predict tomorrow you'll wake up, do a bunch of stuff, and then go back to sleep.

Virgo Maidens

It's no surprise that the sign with the most players also has the most total points scored.  Their outfield is absolutely sick, with two MVP runners-up in Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury, and Justin Upton who finished 4th in the NL voting.  They've also got a fair amount of power and speed in their 4th and 5th outfielders Chris Young and Brett Gardner.  1B Joey Votto could go toe-to-toe with any of the other three All-Star first basemen in the bracket, and having Gaby Sanchez backing him up isn't too shabby at all.  The middle infield has two solid starters and two solid backups: Neil Walker and Rickie Weeks at 2B, and Elvis Andrus and Alexei Ramirez at SS.  Weaknesses do exist at C and 3B where Rod Barajas /Nick Hundley and Ryan Roberts are the best choices, but overall there's more than enough offense to go around.

Cliff Lee is the staff ace, which means each of the three Earth Bracket starting staffs are led by a Phillies pitcher.  Dan Haren could be an ace on most clubs and David Price started the All-Star game just one year ago.  Gio Gonzalez's presence means the rotation will have more lefties than righties - a rare advantage indeed.  They do have a slight weakness in the back-end of the bullpen with untested closer Ryan Madson, but he'll have plenty of support in lefties Antonio Bastardo and Sean Marshall, and Matt Capps, the Twins closer, will also be in the reliever mix.  To close out this esteemed project of mine, I once again leave you with what Weird Al has to say about the Virgo sign:
All Virgos are extremely friendly and intelligent - except for you.
Expect a big surprise today, when you wind up with your head impaled upon a stick.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tape-Delay Blogging Spring Training: A's vs. Brewers

Obviously live-blogging is the gold standard of our business here, but sometimes circumstances conspire against us and we can't be present for the actual event. In this case, the circumstances of having to be at work all day and the tendency of Spring Training games to occur in the middle of the afternoon conspired to force me to watch the A's first televised game of the year from the safety and comfort of my DVR.  But no matter - watching the proceedings a few hours after they actually happened won't affect my ability to analyze what they might mean for the outlook on the A's regular season.

Top 1st Inning

Except, even if I had sat down with the MLB Network to watch the broadcast, I still wouldn't have been watching the game live.  When we started getting a feed of the game - 17 minutes past the scheduled broadcast time - I looked down at the lower crawl during Jemile Weeks's leadoff at-bat, and saw that the A's led the Brewers 1-0... in the bottom of the 5th inning!  Well, this isn't right... and what's more, I'll probably miss the end of the game due to the delay.  I know the the outcomes of Spring Training games aren't that important, but I'm gonna have to do something to avoid watching the game in the future.

Bottom 1st Inning

OK, I've obscured the crawl by stacking up all my videogames in front of the TV and leaning the box of my newly-acquired LEGO Batcave (the 2012 version - no they did not release the Lost Sets of 2006) in front of the screen.  And how funny is this: the brother of the A's leadoff hitter is now leading off for the Brewers!  Rickie Weeks recently missed a lot of time due to an ankle injury, which the announcers described as, "About as bad of a sprain as you can get without breaking the bone in your ankle."  Ouch.  I've had more than a few ankle sprains in my career, and I know how that feels.  What I don't need, though, is to SEE how it feels - so I have to duck for cover as we're shown brutal replay after replay.  I couldn't watch.  I felt like Nicolas Cage in The Wicker Man: "WHY IS IT SPRAINED!? WHY IS IT SPRAINED WHY IS IT SPRAINED!!!?!??!?!"  I'm glad I didn't look.  Here's what I heard though:
"It looked bad, and it was bad."
Ouch.  But after Weeks the Elder gets on base, he's picked off, gets into a rundown, and is tagged out in a spectacular diving play by his younger brother.  Classic.

Top 2nd Inning

Manny did not appear wearing the
Green & Gold in this afternoon's game.
Naturally, neither Manny Ramirez nor Yoenis Cespedes are in the lineup.  We do get to see Chris Carter at first, who looks like he can hit.  He's hit in a lot in the minors, and he just cranked a double down the line, but overall he's still at least 3rd on the depth chart, dependent on Daric Barton's cortisone status.  Josh Donaldson however, who just struck out against Yovani Gallardo, dosen't look like he can hit.  Part of that is that he still has to adapt to being a third baseman as opposed to a catcher - now that he's the A's only hope at 3B after Scott Sizemore's barf-o-rific injury. INFIELD MELTDOWN!

Bottom 3rd Inning

But Tommy Milone (née Tom Milone, acquired from the Nationals in the deal for All-Star Gio Gonzalez) sure looks like he can pitch!  Just wrung up Rickie Weeks on a great inside pitch.  He's just gone three innings, and if he keeps it up at this pace, he'll be a lock for the rotation (not that he wasn't already, due to the A's trading away all their major league pitchers during the off-season).

Top 4th Inning

And Seth Smith looks like he can hit!  He just stroked a double, breaking up the monotony of the interview with Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez.  The former closer's eyes are as red as the devil's rear end... which he claims is due to wearing "orange contacts"... I'd like to see if he can make the Vampire-Setup-Man-look work.

Bottom 5th Inning

Well, here we are, bottom of the 5th, and sure enough the A's lead the Brewers 1-0.  Jemile Weeks has the only RBI in the game, once again outdoing his brother.  Another thing about listening to the Brewers broadcast is that it's hard to tell who's who on the A's, as the announcers usually focus on the players and storylines of the home team.

Top 6th Inning

Eric Sogard, sporting the regular, non-sports glasses, just got a nice hit, maybe instilling a backup hope at 3B for Donaldson (who hasn't looked good today, despite reaching on an error that extended the inning, allowing Sogard to hit).  A's pack on some more runs the cheap way...

Top 7th Inning

Watching the interview with former-prospect Mat Gamel was not as fun as watching Interview with the Vampire-Setup-Man.  I've seen people be camera-shy before, but I'd be worried that he might be a victim of sunstroke the way he was just seemingly unable to string a sentence together.  A man of few words should be able to hit though, so we'll see how he does taking over as the Brewers new first baseman.  Even though there's clearly no replacing Prince Fielder, the youngest player to hit 50 home runs.

Top 8th Inning

With the Milwaukee broadcast, you also get the announcers doing their best Michigan J. Frog impressions.  And here I was thinking I couldn't possibly find a more irritating announcer than Hawk Harrelson.

Top 9th Inning

Wes Simmons, another possible third string hope at 3B, picks up another hit.  He was a sub, and I have no idea where we are in the batting order.  So I have no idea who just got the two base-hits following Timmons, cuz the damn Milwaukee broadcasters won't interrupt their damn Interview with Ed Sedar, whoever that is.  And he's not even dressed like a Vampire, although he is wearing sunglasses, presumably to protect against the sparkle.  It's fun to see the A's score runs, but it would be even more fun to know who's scoring them.

Bottom 9th Inning

Someone who for sure isn't scoring any runs is Josh Donaldson, who played the whole game and just struck out for the multipleth time.  He hit decently in the minors as a catcher, so I see no reason why he shouldn't hit well in the majors as a third baseman...

Aaand that's the end of our broadcast, with lefty Jerry Blevins completing the shutout of the Brewers.  I've always had a nice feeling about Blevins, ever since I got his autograph in my copy of the Hardball Times 2011.  He laughed that he wouldn't like to have to look at all those numbers.  Well, that's fine, as long as he keeps doin stuff on the field that we nerds can turn into numbers.  The more numbers, the better you are at Fantasy Baseball, of all types.  Which promises to be an upcoming subject of this blog, as fun as Astrology might have been...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Astrology Baseball: Fire Signs Bracket

Due to the excitement surrounding the recent Academy Awards (congratulations to The Artist, a well-deserved choice for Best Picture), I wasn't able to finish this project before the start of Spring Training.   But between the excitement of sorting through season-ending injuries and competitions for all 30 5th starter spots, there should be plenty of time to check out the final two Astrology Baseball brackets, the first of which appears below.


Aries as a team has the second-highest total swp; what else would you expect from a group of headstrong, impulsive, forward-thinking pioneers of advanced thought?  Most of these points come from the offense, which is led by 1B powerhouses Miguel Cabrera and Mark Teixeira.  Cabrera, the less defensively talented of the two, will serve as the DH, despite his potential move back to 3B in 2012 - there's absolutely no way anyone is pushing Adrian Beltre off the hot corner for any reason.  Their corner outfield consists of Hunter Pence and Jay Bruce, which creates a logjam for such talented hitters as Michael Morse, Billy Butler, Corey Hart, and Michael Cuddyer.  Carlos Santana, 2011's highest-scoring catcher, is behind the plate, but his supremacy will likely be challenged in years to come by superstars-when-healthy Joe Mauer and Buster Posey.  They've also got Starlin Castro, Aaron Hill, and Cameron Maybin up the middle.

Felix Hernandez is a legitimate ace, Justin Masterson enjoyed very good success in Cleveland last year, and Jeremy Hellickson won the AL Rookie of the Year award.  A pair of innings-eaters who changed teams in the off-season round out the rotation: Mark Buehrle and Jeremy Guthrie.  While the rotation does not quite match the brilliance of the starting lineup, the bullpen is quite possibly the best of any team throughout the constellations.  They've got a pair of 2,000 point closers in John Axford and Jose Valverde, plus veteran stalwart Kyle Farsworth, All-Star setup man David Robertson, and a lefty with closer potential Chris Sale.  Excellence in two out of three positional tiers ain't bad...


The Leo team has potential to be good, but very few players reached that potential in 2011 (I'm looking at you Dustin Pedroia, one of the game's premiere second baseman, and Drew Storen, who thankfully for my fantasy team blossomed into an elite closer last year).  I'm firmly convinced that Melky Cabrera's breakout season was a fluke, but he's got two great centerfielders backing him up in B.J. Upton and Adam Jones (with Colby Rasmus hoping to come into his own).  Jones is joined by two of his fellow Orioles teammates J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds, who will move over to 1B a) where his iron glove will do less damage and b) to open up a spot for 3B Pablo Sandoval, who had a nice season despite missing some time due to injuries.  In a perfectly healthy world, Sandoval would be at 1B and superstar Alex Rodriguez would man the hot corner, but unlike Big Panda, A-Rod's injury-plagued season was not so nice.

Joining Rodriguez on the list of players who didn't live up to their past greatness are Todd Helton (getting old), Carl Crawford (first year of a huge contract meltdown), Juan Pierre (although he'd be good to provide some speed on the bench, and Grady Sizemore (chronically injured).  Players who have yet to live up to promised future greatness include Jason Heyward (terrible sophomore slump), Mike Trout (last year's #1 prospect), and Madison Bumgarner - who was pretty darn good last year, but I've heard the term "Cy Young contender" bandied about in reference to him, and he's gonna need to live up to those predictions if he's going to headline this Leo pitching staff.  In this world with only 12 teams of around 80 players each, Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison profile as more 4-5 starters rather than 2-3, and the rest of the starting crop consists of promising pitchers yet to make their mark (Max Scherzer, Chad Billingsley) and fading veterans (Randy Wolf, Brett Myers).


Sagittarius has the least total swp of any team in this project... and that's even with a couple of the best starters in the game right now: a resurgent James Shields and breakout ace Ian Kennedy.  On the back end they're anchored by future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera.  (Despite his legendary status, he is actually the 4th highest-scoring closer in the bracket... even with 2,001 swp!)  Just like the Leo team, Sagittarius features a triplet of teammates anchoring their offense: Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley of the Phillies.  Both Utley and 3B David Wright are superstars when healthy, but both had ridiculously subpar seasons in 2011.  Other notable players include another future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate, and member of the Oscar-nominated "Moneyball Draft" Nick Swisher in RF (even though the film skipped over that entire aspect of the A's 2002 season...).

Seven of the nine players in the starting lineup were the worst in the bracket in terms of swp - Rollins and Victorino finished second at SS and CF respectively.  By contrast, four out of the five pitchers in the starting rotation were best in the bracket: the aforementioned Shields and Kennedy are joined at the top by the Shaun Marcum (acquired by the Brewers last off-season) and Mat Latos (acquired by the Reds this offseason).  The surprisingly competent Philip Humber, who finished second, rounds out the rotation.  Backing up Rivera in the bullpen is new Phillies star closer Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox reliever attempting to make the jump to the rotation Alfredo Aceves, and a couple of veterans with a combined 30 seasons under their belts (Octavio Dotel and LaTroy Hawkins).

Only one more bracket to go: the Earth Signs.  Then it'll be time to focus on Spring Training and the upcoming season!