Saturday, December 27, 2014

Transaction of the Day: 12/20/14 - 12/26/14

This was an abbreviated week transaction-wise because apparently the general managers of all 30 teams took off work from Christmas Eve through Boxing Day. Either that or the guy who updates's official transaction column is on vacation since there has been no activity since Wednesday 12/23/14. We'll see if things start to trickle in after the holiday weekend, but I'm not going to stress too much about it. All the hard-working baseball executives should spend the last few days of 2014 with families enjoying the holiday cheer, not scrounging around the free agent market trying to improve their teams. There's still plenty of time for that before next season starts - much to the chagrin of baseball fans everywhere.

This week will also probably be my last time doing this project for a little while, because as soon as the calendar flips over to the new year, I will be concentrating most of my attention to transferring my 2014 40-Man Rosters document into a new one for 2015. I know none of you have seen a full version of this document (most of the charts and lists I post are screenshots of specific parts of it), but this year I'm limiting the scope to three types of players: 1) anyone who played in the MLB in 2014, 2) anyone on a team's 40-Man Roster, and 3) anyone who was invited to Spring Training on a minor league deal. I'll still keep it up to date over the course of the season, but ignoring all the random minor league signings who somehow popped up in my database should hopefully make things a little more manageable. Who knows, maybe if I'm proud of the layout and the content, I'll even share the whole thing as an open source document somehow.

So now that you all have that to look forward to, let's get right into the player movement:

McGehee rejuvenated his career in Japan in 2013
Saturday 12/20/14
- Miami Marlins trade 3B Casey McGehee to San Francisco Giants for P Kendry Flores and P Luis M. Castillo

Believe it or not, this was not the day's only transaction involving an NL West team adding a third baseman from an eastern division team. About 500 miles south of San Francisco, the Padres continued their torrid offseason by bringing in former Red Sox prospect Will Middlebrooks in exchange for a song (i.e. backup catcher Ryan Hanigan, just recently acquired from the Rays in last week's Wil Myers deal). I chose to highlight the Giants' trade not only because McGehee outscored Middlebrooks by more than 5 times the fantasy points in 2014 (1,450 to 256), but also because it's the first (and so far only) addition made to a roster that won the World Series last year. (And also because it features a player who I referenced in last year's edition of my Players Added to the 40-Man Roster post.) A couple more moves will unfold later this week (see below), but it's not inconceivable that SF GM Brian Sabean might be content trotting out basically the same 88-win team that won it all last year. Granted Casey McGehee is a step down from Pablo Sandoval in many respects, whether or not you agree that the latter player was worth the 5 years / $95 million that the Red Sox are shelling out for his services, but the former player does fill the most significant hole in the lineup left by free agency. Check out the next two moves below and then we'll talk about what the overall trends look like.

Monday 12/22/14
- San Francisco Giants re-sign RP Sergio Romo

As is fairly typical of an offseason Sunday, no transactions were recorded on the 21st. And what's more, except for Romo's signing (which was first reported five days earlier by MLB Trade Rumors), the rest of the day's transactions involved sending player outright to Triple-A. San Francisco's bullpen already looked strong before this move, with Santiago Casilla having established himself as the team's Kyra Sedgwick down the stretch last year and the promise of a full season from Hunter Strickland. If former closer Romo's ego doesn't prevent him from excelling in a setup role (which it didn't during all those years he played second fiddle to Brian Wilson), then I can see him as a candidate for a solid performance.

Jake Peavy displays "a competitiveness...
that [he] can't hold back."
Tuesday 12/23/14
- San Francisco Giants re-sign SP Jake Peavy

Remember how the Giants bullpen was already looking strong? Well the Peavy signing allows either Yusmeiro Petit or Tim Lincecum to join that group as a super-long-relief option (providing Matt Cain can return to form, or even just health). Not to make everything about the A's, but it's interesting to compare and contrast the two Bay Area teams: both went 88-74 last year, enough to make the playoffs via a Wild Card spot, and both are run by a couple of the most respected general managers in the game right now. But it's there that the similarities end, especially in terms team-building philosophy. I mentioned that Casey McGehee is the only new player that the Giants have added this offseason; well, across the Bay Bridge, Billy Beane has already made a whopping 14 new additions to Oakland's 40-man roster and counting. And we're not even halfway through the offseason.

88 wins is a respectable baseball season in this age of parity. It's not guaranteed to get you to the playoffs, but for most cooler-headed GM's (i.e. Sabean) it's not a performance that requires you to dismantle your entire team and rebuild from the ground up. Actually, rebuild is the wrong word here, because of the connotation that it requires some period of non-contention before a team becomes relevant again: reassemble is probably the best way to describe what Beane is trying to do for the 2015 A's. He's definitely made his team younger and cheaper (the Billy Butler signing notwithstanding), but he's definitely leveraged most of the team's star power in order to do so. Whereas Brian Sabean has made his team more... similar to last year's team. Keep in mind though that the 2015 Giants look fairly similar to the 2012 Giants who also won the World Series. And both teams' pitching staffs look similar to the 2010 Giants, yet another group of world champs. So maybe Sabean's plan allows for some year-to-year inconsistency while setting the organization up for an overall decade of dominance, while Beane is content to reshuffle his deck whenever he grows tired of the current group of personnel. We'll see what happens as time goes on.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Transaction of the Day: 12/13/14 - 12/19/14

Even though I'm sure all 30 general managers were exhausted following a whirlwind winter meetings, there was actually a meaningful transaction over this past weekend. That's right, on Saturday the Twins finally landed the free agent pitching target they were considering since last offseason when Ervin Santana decided to take a one-year deal with the Braves to rebuild his value after declining a qualifying offer from Kansas City.

Monday 12/15/14
- Chicago Cubs sign SP Jon Lester

While we had heard that this was a done deal several days before it was confirmed on, this is an impactful enough move that it bears highlighting despite the fact that we all new it was coming. Pundits everywhere claimed that Lester's signing would jump start the pitching market, and in a sense they were right: since news broke that the former Boston ace came off the books, we've seen such "tier 2" guys such as A.J. Burnett, Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy, Edinson Volquez, Justin Masterson, and Brett Anderson sign with new teams, while Francisco Liriano and Jake Peavy re-upped with their 2014 clubs. True, the other two top free agent targets - Max Scherzer and James Shields - are still available, but their respective agents (Scott Boras and PSI Sports Management) will likely drag out their sagas for as long as possible.

In addition to reuniting Lester with his former employer in Boston (Theo Epstein), this signing also emphasizes a change in organizational philosophy for the Cubs, who are making some big moves with an eye to contend relatively soon. This is an easy shift to make, with such impact players as Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Arismendy Alcantara already in the majors and top prospects Kris Bryant and Addison Russell waiting in the wings. We'll just have to see if they can contend with the continuation of Pittsburgh's feel-good story and Cardinals continuing to play baseball "the right way."

Honorable Mentions: Arguably the top two infield options came off the board on the same day the Lester signing was announced. Chase Headley will return to the Yankees, the team with which he ended his 2014 campaign, pushing the highest paid steroid taker in baseball Alex Rodriguez to the full time DH role. And Jed Lowrie will return to the Astros, the team from which he was traded to the Athletics prior to 2013 (only now they're in a different league).

Tuesday 12/16/14
- Chicago White Sox sign LF Melky Cabrera

In the wake of big news from the north side of Chicago, the White Sox made yet another big splash, pulling in the top free agent outfielder left on the market. Melky's veteran switch-hitting bat will play well beside former Arizona prospect Adam Eaton and former Detroit prospect Avisail Garcia, and should push Dayan Viciedo into the same reserve role that he had to start 2014. His time with the Blue Jays has pretty much washed away any questions about his steroid-enhanced production, as it did with Nelson Cruz, but while I would still be a little worried, even midrange power will play better in US Cellular Field than whatever Toronto is calling their stadium these days. I don't know if this signing pushes Chicago ahead of the Tigers as AL Central favorites, but they're certainly better with Cabrera than without him.

Honorable Mentions: The Dodgers bolstered their rotation behind Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu by signing Brandon McCarthy, who pumped up his value with a big second half of 2014 with the Yankees. The Royals replaced Billy Butler's production at DH with free agent Kendrys Morales, who will be able to play a full season thanks to his lack of qualifying offer stigma. And the Angels acquired OF/DH option Matt Joyce from the Rays for relief pitcher and former Olympian Kevin Jepsen.

Wednesday 12/17/14
- Miami Marlins sign LF/1B Michael Morse

For a team looking to surround its start player with strong win-now pieces, Garrett Jones is not your ideal first baseman. And for Florida native Michael Morse, fresh off a World Series title, going back to play in his home state seems like a good fit. Since the Marlins have three quality outfielders already, Morse's defensive range in the outfield is unlikely to be tested. He's shown that he's a fierce competitor who can benefit a club not only with his powerful bat but also with his infectious personality. Call me old fashioned, but intangibles are important, and I'll bet if the clubhouse in Miami is a fun place to play, the team will perform all the better.

Thursday 12/18/14
- Los Angeles Dodgers trade OF Matt Kemp and C Tim Federowicz to San Diego Padres for C Yasmani Grandal, P Joe Wieland, and P Zach Eflin

If you thought this trade looked out of place when it was first reported, I don't blame you. Of the five good outfielders the Dodgers could have inserted into their starting lineup, I'd say Kemp was not the first or even second most likely to be traded, given his monster salary and fan-favorite status in Los Angeles. And at the time he didn't look anything like the one piece San Diego needed to jump from the middle of the division into contention. Little did we know that new GM A.J. Preller was not even close to finished overhauling his roster.

Honorable Mentions: Both the A's and the Padres continued their fervent offseason activity with a swap of All-Star catcher Derek Norris (the last vestige of the Gio Gonzalez trade with the Nationals) for promising young righty pitchers Jesse Hahn (who made his debut last year in his only season with San Diego after being acquired from the Rays last offseason) and R.J. Alvarez (who was ranked six slots higher than his trade partner on his former team's organizational prospect list at #7).

Friday 12/19/14
- Tampa Bay Rays traded RF Wil Myers, C Ryan Hanigan, P Jose Castillo, and P Gerardo Reyes to San Diego Padres for C Rene Rivera, P Burch Smith, and IF Jake Bauers
- Washington Nationals traded OF Steven Souza Jr. and P Travis Ott to Tampa Bay Rays
- San Diego Padres trade P Joe Ross and PTBNL (IF Trea Turner) to Washington Nationals

I saw one pair of comments on the MLB Trade Rumors page for one of San Diego's myriad crazy deals that best describes how this offseason is going (and of course I now wish that I had taken a screen shot):

Commenter 1: This is madness.
Commenter 2: THIS IS PRELLER!

New Padres GM A.J. Preller has indeed led a 300-esque charge into the trade market this season, taking an unheralded mediocre team team and turning it into something relevant, at least for the headlines if not the actual baseball season. I wouldn't be surprised if the former Rangers executive and Cornell graduate conducts all his trades while wearing nothing but a loincloth and red cape. As you will see in the following paragraphs, there was a lot of activity to end this transactional week, but I picked this deal to highlight because of the convoluted nature of all the moving parts involved. The most interesting aspect of this deal might not even be the former Rookie of the Year changing hands, but that the majority of the commentary I've read about it names the Nationals as the biggest winners. That's because shortstop prospect Trea Turner won't even become eligible to be traded until June, hence the Player To Be Named Later tag. At first glance, this trade looks like a head-scratcher for the Rays, but I wouldn't blame them for scratching their heads a little after their entire front office jumped ship.

Honorable Mentions: Because acquiring two All-Star caliber outfielders in two days isn't enough, San Diego also orchestrated a blockbuster deal to acquire one year of Justin Upton's services from the Braves. All it cost them was two of their top 10 prospects going into 2014: middle infielder Jace Peterson (who could slot into second base next to Andrelton Simmons rather quickly) and injured pitcher Max Fried (who also was named a top 50 prospect by last offseason). Because what use is it hiring a new general manager if he's not going to empty your farm system for a shot to win now? Because it worked so well for Billy Beane last year...

Also, the Phillies decided to part ways with their face of the franchise shortstop Jimmy Rollins, shipping him to Los Angeles to complete the Dodgers' middle infield makeover. This deal was on the table for more than a week because the key piece that Philadelphia would to get in return - pitching prospect Zach Eflin - had yet to be acquired in the previous day's Matt Kemp trade. This marks the second time this offseason that the Dodgers have acquired a high ceiling young pitcher and then immediately traded him away for a middle infielder. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Transaction of the Day: 12/6/14 - 12/12/14

This past weekend, as was the weekend before, was a player movement dead space, with the only notable transaction being the deal that catcher Adam Moore (who played nine games for the Padres last year) signed to play in the Cleveland Indians' minor league system. It's always possible that more deals from that time period will make their way to's official transaction page between now and the foreseeable future - remember the screen shot from last week's post that showed just one transaction that weekend? Well, there's been a retcon of sorts. Nothing too exciting went down, but the point is that even in today's info-centric society, you can't trust everyone to always update their sources in real time.

But the good news is that the Winter Meetings happened this past week, and the moves made therein have officially and unofficially set the pace for the entire offseason. Let's take a look at them now:

Monday 12/8/14
- Oakland Athletics trade 1B/OF Brandon Moss to Cleveland Indians for 2B Joe Wendle

The fire sale in Oakland continues as a very versatile and very talented offensive force follows the best third baseman in the game out the door for a somewhat meager return. A lot was made of Moss's power outage in the second half of last year, but he has since had surgery to repair the problem, and he'll certainly offer more with the bat than Cleveland's other former Athletic first baseman/outfielder Nick Swisher. With Michael Brantley and Michael Bourn entrenched in 2/3 of the outfield and Carlos Santana showing that he's not in fact a third baseman, I could see Moss taking the brunt of the Tribe's time in right field with Swisher, David Murphy, and Ryan Raburn duking it out for DH at bats. (Assuming of course that Indians GM Chris Antonetti doesn't make another trade or free agent signing.)

When the Indians first came up in connection with Moss, as an A's fan I was hoping that the slightly more exciting middle infield prospect Jose Ramirez might be involved. The switch hitting Dominican shortstop (who made the big leagues in 2013 and exceeded his rookie limits last year) is two years younger than Wendle and ranked three spots better in's pre-2014 rankings of Indians prospects (8 to 11). But Oakland needs someone to play second base and the left-handed hitting Delaware native shows somewhat more promise than Eric Sogard, if not nearly the same level of personality. And rumor has it the A's have another deal in the works to acquire a shortstop...

Honorable mention today includes the Diamondbacks signing Yasmany Tomas to a six-year deal that could become a four-year deal if the Cuban slugger chooses to opt out after the 2018 season. It's a big move to be sure, given the recent success of such Cuban stars as Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig, and Yoenis Cespedes, but we in the transaction-obsessed world knew it had been completed since late November and I didn't feel right giving a spot in this illustrious feature to a piece of relatively old news.

Tuesday 12/9/14
- Oakland Athletics trade SP Jeff Samardzija and P Michael Ynoa to Chicago White Sox for 3B Marcus Semien, SP Chris Bassitt, C Josh Phegley, and IF Rangel Ravelo

Did I mention a fire sale? This move I understand more than the trades of Moss and Donaldson since the Shark has only one year left of his team control tank before he leaves for the open seas of free agency, where his prey will change from opposing batters to General Managers and team owners. And seeing as Oakland's return in this deal includes a promising catcher, I wouldn't be surprised if All-Star Derek Norris or concussion victim John Jaso are the next to fall victim to Billy Beane's trade-itis. We'll talk more about the White Sox in the next transaction, but it's difficult to evaluate what the A's are doing since they're clearly far from done tinkering with their roster. I understand dealing from a position of strength - namely power hitting and rotation depth - but now that both those strengths have become weaknesses, I don't see a clear direction. But that's why I write about baseball on the internet and Billy Beane and David Forst craft actual MLB rosters with real human beings.

Wednesday 12/10/14
- Chicago White Sox sign RP David Robertson

Continuing their strong push towards relevance, the White Sox have added a proven closer to replace the unexciting and unreliable committee that rose from the ashes of last offseason's trade of Addison Reed to the Diamondbacks. Chicago has now made a meaningful acquisition to supplement their starting pitching, relief pitching, and starting lineup, with Adam LaRoche replacing the now retired DH platoon of Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko. And we also shouldn't forget the waiver claim of Rob Brantly, a former starting catcher for Miami who will either light a fire under Tyler Flowers or threaten to eat into his playing time. I don't know if this club has added enough pieces to a mediocre core to compete with the rest of its division, but you have to give them props for trying.

Thursday 12/11/14
- Los Angeles Dodgers trade 2B Dee Gordon, SP Dan Haren, and SS Miguel Rojas to Miami Marlins for SP Andrew Heaney, RP Chris Hatcher, CF Enrique Hernandez, and C Austin Barnes
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim trade 2B Howie Kendrick to Los Angeles Dodgers for SP Andrew Heaney

December 11, 2014 is a day that will go down in transactional history as one of the most hectic exchanges of the whole 2015 offseason. In addition to the two-part blockbuster trade mentioned above, the 2014/2015 Rule 5 Draft took place, with more than 13 players involved. Not only that, but last Thursday also saw the Detroit Tigers acquire two All-Stars: Yoenis Cespedes to play LF and Alfredo Simon to start the games that would've been started by Rick Porcello, who went to Boston in the first deal. (The Reds got Eugenio Suarez, who is less of a shortstop of the future type than Jose Iglesias sans shin splints.) And not to ignore the free agency side of things, the Red Sox also brought in some help for Porcello in the form of Justin Masterson, a product of the Boston farm system and buy-low candidate who could bounce back in a big way.

But the deal above between the Dodgers and the Marlins and the Angels says so much about what a transaction can be. Breaking this down as if it were a straight three way trade, we'd see the Dodgers and Marlins getting pieces from each other, then the Dodgers getting something else from the Angels in exchange for something from the Marlins. So right away it seems like there is a piece missing: something going from the Angels to the Marlins. So we'll have to break down the deal further, and in real time. Two of those pieces were productive starting second basemen (Howie Kendrick and Dee Gordon), another was a top 30 prospect heading into 2014 (left handed pitcher Andrew Heaney), and one was a veteran starter who only wanted to pitch in southern California (Dan Haren). So one could reasonably believe that if Miami would rather have traded for Kendrick than Gordon, they could have done so, seeing as they possessed the only trade chip it would have required to obtain him... until they flipped the prospect to the Dodgers. Could it be that they liked that Gordon was available for two more years? But then why did they just acquire two pitchers that will be eligible for free agency after 2015 (not just Haren, but their other Thursday trade target Mat Latos will go into arbitration the final time this year)? Or was the Heaney for Kendrick deal not on the table when it was Kendrick going to Miami? Or did the new Dodgers tricksy front office just pull a fast one? It's an important reminder that you have to consider not just the personnel and financial elements to a trade, but also the timing in which it takes place.

Friday 12/12/14
- Arizona Diamondbacks trade SP Wade Miley to Boston Red Sox for SP Rubby De La Rosa, SP Allen Webster, and IF Raymel Flores

We finish out the week with yet another addition to Boston's 2015 rotation, only this one was acquired with young pitching depth rather than young outfield depth. Wade "Miley being" Miley completes a five-man group with Clay Buchholz the only one on the team to start last year. (Porcello, Masterson, and the midseason acquisition from the Cardinals Joe Kelly are the other three.) That's not to say that the above rotation will be the final product of the offseason; James Shields and Max Scherzer are still out there, and even without their most recently traded left fielder, GM Ben Cherrington still has such veterans to deal as Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, and Daniel Nava, not to mention young phenoms like Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, and (still) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Also this day, a couple of free agent pitchers from the so called second tier signed today: Francisco Liriano went back to the Pirates and Jason Hammel went back to the Cubs, by way of a half season with Oakland. Which brings us to Hammel's trade mate in Oakland, Jon Lester. You may not see his name in this post, because the deal has yet to be officially recognized by MLB (.com at least), but Lester agreeing to sign with the Cubs was the domino that will allow the remainder of this year's most exciting transactional action to happen. Look for the announcement and my commentary in next week's recap!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rule 5 Draft 2014/2015

Remember two weeks ago when a bunch of minor league players were called up to their major league clubs to protect them from eligibility in the Rule 5 Draft? As part of that process, many hundreds more players were left unprotected, 13 of which were selected in this morning's Rule 5 Draft. Again, even though the draft itself took place in the last days of 2014, I'm including 2015 in the title of my post because the roster moves in question here will affect the 2015 season. And unlike the 100+ players who were added to the 40-man roster in November, most of these 13 players should affect their 2015 teams since they have to stay on the 25-man roster all season or risk being returned to their former teams.

I won't try to make a lineup out of these guys since only five of them are position players, so instead let's focus on the ranked prospects as of last year. The only Rule 5 pick who made's top 100 going into 2014 was former Astros outfielder Delino DeShields. Despite the fact that Houston's GM doubted the son of the former Major Leaguer with the same name would be selected, DeShields Jr. will find himself playing on the opposite side of the Lone Star State in 2015. This transaction - representing the first player that the Rangers have added to their big league roster this offseason - will give Texas its fifth 2014 top 100 prospect, setting them up nicely to contend towards the end of Yu Darvish, Shin-Soo Choo, and Prince Fielder's massive contracts.

DeShields is one of three players lost by Houston - the others being pitchers David Rollins and Jandel Gustave - but not all three players ended up on the teams that drafted them (technically described as a waiver claim by It's common practice for a team to pick up a player in the Rule 5 Draft, which occurs in reverse order based on 2014 standings, then trade him to another team lower in the order that wouldn't normally have access to him. This is how the A's got ahold of power hitting 1B/OF type Mark Canha, the highest fantasy scoring player selected in this year's proceedings. It's currently unclear whether Canha will form part of a 1B platoon with Ike Davis, play some left field along with Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry, of whether he'll be flipped in another patented Billy Beane blockbuster trade.

Aside from DeShields, none of the people in this group are household names, even in my baseball-obsessed household. I had heard some rumors surrounding former Atlanta's former #6 ranked prospect J.R. Graham and former Mets starter Logan Verrett (he was joined in Baltimore by Jason Garcia via a trade with Houston, making them the only team to come away with two Rule 5 players) from the above link in Delino Jr.'s paragraph. Also Sean Gilmartin is no stranger to offseason moves, having been traded for Ryan Doumit a year ago next week. The most impressive pitcher, fantasy points-wise, is Daniel Winkler who put up very impressive numbers in Colorado's minor league system, although he managed just 12 starts last year and hasn't risen past the AA level despite being 24 years of age.

Now that we've taken a look at the players involved in this year's Rule 5 Draft, let's look back at last year's for the sake of comparison. Looking at the evidence, I might have overstated the impact that some of this year's Rule 5 crop might have on 2015. Of the nine players selected last year, five never even reached the majors, one of whom (Brian Moran) was unceremoniously returned from the Angels to the Mariners after the season. Adrian Nieto, the only position player to see time in 2015, spent the season as backup catcher for the White Sox, showing that there's some hope for Oscar Hernandez who was acquired to help fill the Miguel Montero-sized void in Arizona. Tommy Kahnle had the best 2014 season of any Rule 5 pick and he was merely a serviceable reliever for the Rockies. But major league ready talent is hard to find, and clubs will get it any way they can.

One way that teams have been acquiring major league talent at a record pace is during the Winter Meetings going on now. As anyone who even remotely follows the Hot Stove League knows, the action is almost too feverish to keep up, so tune in this weekend for my weekly transactions update feature, which I'm very excited to continue given all the moves and signings going on. Until then, keep watching the transaction column!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Transaction of the Day: 11/29/14 - 12/5/14

When MLB Trade Rumors publishes their Week In Review series - a great weekly summary of all the notable transactional news that's going on during the offseason - the site does so on a Saturday to Friday schedule. So that's what I'll do with this new feature that I had been thinking about for a while but never implemented until now. Who knows, this might be the only time it's implemented ever, but you gotta try, right? So what I'm doing is looking back at this past week, looking at every day in that week, and giving my thoughts about a particular transaction or roster move that otherwise stood out above the rest of the moves made that day. And just maybe we'll have some fun along the way.

Saturday 11/29/14
Detroit Tigers sign P Rafael Dolis

By rights, this is not a transaction that should even be noted in the record books, although the player does appear in my 2014 40 Man Roster database. The Capricorn out of the Dominican Republic was invited to Spring Training by the world champion San Francisco Giants in the 2014 Offseason, but was subsequently released before he saw any big league action. It only appears on this list because it was the last official transaction made in the final two days of November. However, going back just one day, as you can see, gives us access to one of the most impactful moves of the 2015 Offseason so far, Billy Beane's trade of Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays. For reasons involving my health, I choose to reserve judgment on this one at this time, so let's press on into the month of December.

Monday 12/1/14
Pittsburgh Pirates acquire 2B Sean Rodriguez from the Rays

Not a lot of movement occurred on this date, and this quick snap trade for a utility player with power was the only transaction involving major league ready talent. The fact that it cost the Pirates only a PTBNL and an underperforming former prospect (first baseman Gaby Sanchez was DFA's to create roster space) makes it a model of efficiency as well. I'm even more excited about Rodriguez, given the 2014 breakout of the other guy on his team with true utility skills: new everyday third baseman Josh Harrison.

Tuesday 12/2/14
List Of Non-Tendered Players, 2015 Offseason

Tuesday was the deadline for teams to offer (tender) a contract to their arbitration eligible players, thus many players were deemed expendable that day. Because I'm a sucker for a good list, I've linked to MLBTR's comprehensive one. But here are a few standouts: Former MVP vote recipient Kris Medlen and fellow Braves pitcher Brandon Beachy. Former 50 game suspension recipient Everth Cabrera and other former starters Justin Smoak, Juan Francisco, and Eric Young. Several of these players were brought back to their old clubs via minor league deals, but those are transactions for another day.

Wednesday 12/3/14
Atlanta Braves sign RF Nick Markakis

As the saying goes, you have to replace Jason Heyward somehow. And the Braves found their replacement in the form of a veteran contact hitting right fielder with a good, if not exactly deserved, defensive reputation. Much and more has been said about the Glen Cove, NY native's perceived and real defensive value, but more importantly, this move says a lot about the Atlanta's plan re: being competitive in the near future. Trading a potential star like Heyward almost always signals a rebuilding effort, and that coupled with trade rumors circling around the wrong Upton to want to get rid of would seem to confirm the thought. But the four year, $44 million deal given to Markakis seems like a win-now move. Maybe they'll make a run at Jon Lester and try to unseat the Nationals in 2015.

Honorable mentions from this day: Torii Hunter for returning to Minnesota to potentially end his career with his original club. And the Braves again for betting on the chance that dethroned closer Jim Johnson's star hasn't completely fallen.

Thursday 12/4/14
Seattle Mariners sign DH Nelson Cruz

After the free agent outfielder market was set with Markakis, the Cancer astrology team's star slugger (and another victim of a 50 game suspension) blew it wide open, signing for the same four years as the former Orioles starter, but for $18 million more total dollars. This move fills a very deep hole in Seattle's lineup with a player who could very well be a late-blooming offensive wizard, or he could be another Baltimore one-season wonder (cf. Chris Davis and his disaster that was 2014). Cruz almost certainly definitely won't be worth the money during the later years of this deal, but at least now Robinson Cano has some right handed protection in the lineup.

Friday 12/5/14
New York Yankees sign RP Andrew Miller

Lots of action took place in New York today, and by lots of action, I mean two actions. The second, chronologically speaking, was the third high profile four year deal announced in three days. This one happened to be the largest ever contract given to a non-closer reliever, and it seems unlikely that Miller, who has exactly one season of at least +1 WAR under his belt, will be asked to be David Robertson's successor for the illustrious Yankees' ninth inning. On the financial side, since Miller was by far the best left handed relief option on the market, it makes sense that he signed his deal before even such established closers as Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and the aforementioned Robertson.

The other action involved trading for Derek Jeter's replacement at shortstop, Didi Gregorius, one of the coolest names in the sport, from the Diamondbacks. This was a good move for Arizona to deal from a position of excess, since they already have Chris Owings and Cliff Pennington capable of manning short. New York gave up a back end of the rotation starting pitcher, which means we can't rule GM Brian Cashman out from making a big splash on the free agent pitching market. Will Max Scherzer be this year's Masahiro Tanaka? Only time will tell!

By next week, we'll see if I'm still up to continuing this feature, but for now, I'd say this was a pretty eventful week in baseball for a week where there were no baseball games. Who knows how the market will develop as the offseason goes on!?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thoughts About The Walking Dead Midnale

I started watching The Walking Dead in January of 2013 when I was on hiatus and looking for a show to get into. This was during the Season 3 midseason break, so the first two seasons were available on Netflix. I was blown away by the stark efficiency of the six-episode first season, but then felt like it struggled to maintain its consistency over twice as many episodes in Season 2. After feeling like I had to binge-watch three episodes in order to experience one episode's worth of content, I wasn't too eager to get caught up to watch in real time, so I waited until the next year when the next season was available for instant streaming.

I enjoyed the escapades in the prison well enough and The Governor is obviously a franchise-defining character, but afterwards I kind of lost interest. Until I discovered Ozzy Man Reviews on YouTube. I've been obsessed with this channel recently, so I figure I'll just keep plugging it as much as possible until my obsession passes. After memorizing the brilliant comedic overdub "Eddie Stark: Australian Dad" and burning through his Game of Thrones reviews, I noticed that there were also links to Walking Dead, Season 5 episodes. Season 5? What happened to Season 4? Oh, that's right, it was sitting there in my Netflix queueub, or list, and I hadn't been watching it.

Needless to say, if I wanted Ozzy's latest works to make sense, I would have to power through some episodes and fast. So at a whirlwind pace I sped through the group's final days at the prison, the Governor's brief solo campaign and subsequent failure to grow or change as a character, and some ripping crosscutting between storylines as our various heroes make their ways towards Terminus. I laughed along with Team Flat Top/Mullet, cried along with Carol and Tyreese and those two girls who just didn't get it, and held my breath in anticipation when Daryl lost track of Beth and fell in with the wrong crowd. Top it all off with a season finale for the ages - complete with a cliffhanger rife with overconfidence - and Season 4 was in the books. Then once I used AMC's streaming service to get caught up on Season 5, it was time to start watching with my friends on Sunday nights, when the episodes actually air (shocking, I know).

In the last two half-seasons before the Season 5 midnale (the word I've coined (I think) to describe the last episode before AMC's patented midseason break), Rick and the gang have neutralized, with extreme prejudice, two hostile groups of humans: Daryl's lie-hating merry band of outlaws and the nasty cannibals at Terminus. In the cold open, it immediately looks like Rick will continue his murderous streak with Dawn's group of corrupt cops when he rear-ends Bob 2 as he goes on his morning jog. After misquoting a lyric from a song off Taylor Swift's new album ("All you had to do was STOP!"), Rick puts Bob 2 out of his misery, proving beyond any doubt that he has no qualms about executing people he sees to be a threat.

I learned that when you watch TV live in real time, you gain insights about the program that you don't get through streaming alone. For example, when the promo for a given night's Talking Dead advertises the presence of a "mystery guest," you can be pretty sure that a character is going to die in that night's episode, and that the mystery guest will be whichever actor played said unfortunate character. Those of us who had unwittingly seen spoilers thankfully kept their mouths shut, but we were all pretty sure that the big death would be someone more important than Bob 2 or the random cop who enjoys shoving old people - even though it was pretty appropriate that he was killed when Beth shoved him into an open elevator shaft. You live by the shove, you die by the shove.

We didn't keep a tally or put any money on our guesses of who would bite the farm, but the popular consensus seemed to be Carol. She never really became part of the group again after Rick exiled her and she's had plenty of character development in the recent episodes so we'd be sure to feel the emotional sting of her departure. Plus apparently she dies really early in the comics so she's been living on borrowed time for multiple seasons. My vote was for Daryl - just something about how he said "Everyone goes home" when agreeing with Tyreese's plan in the last episode made it seem like he would be the one to not go home. Some folks objected that people would stop watching if they got rid of such a popular character, but my line of thinking was that Game of Thrones wouldn't hesitate. But then again Game of Thrones doesn't formulaic-ly kill off characters every half season.

A few people suggested Beth, but that's just because they were getting kind of sick of her constant sing alongs and weird misplaced eyebrow scars. It became fairly predictable that #RIPBeth was going to be a thing as the episode progressed since she was the main character with whom we spent the most time. And then there was that pair of scissors she slipped into her cast. It's like Anton Chekov's old rule: if you introduce a pair of scissors in the first act, someone's gonna get shot in the face in the third act. It was emotional, if not terribly shocking, that Beth took a bullet in that exchange with Dawn. My biggest disappointment was that she biffed her chance to stab the latest antagonist at point blank range. Part of me thinks she would have been more successful if she forgot the scissors and used her teeth like Rick did last season.

The middle of Season 5 seems like it got wrapped up in a nice little package. The team is back together, with a couple of new members, and they're all set to commence wandering aimlessly without Eugene's mission to keep them going. The only unresolved issue is the return of Morgan from the pilot (if you watched till the end of the credits), but what do we have to look forward to there other than another reunion? I'll still tune in next season because I've committed four and a half seasons and now it's an excuse for me to be social. I just don't know what I'll be expecting.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

All-Selected Team 2015

Did you ever get the feeling of blog-related deja vu, as if you're reading something on the internet that you've read before? Well, if you were reading this very blog a year ago tomorrow, that feeling would be justified. Because that's when I published my overview of players who were added to their teams' 40 man rosters during the 2013-14 offseason. Sadly, the first player featured in that article was the late Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals, a tragic reminder of the effect that loss - both personal and professional - can have both on and off the field. With that in mind, let me just start this year's article off with a concept: the All-Selected Team 2015.

The name of this team comes from the official name of the transaction: to select a player's contract, i.e. add them to the 40-man roster. Teams do a lot of selecting in late November because of the Rule 5 Draft, which I explained thusly last year:

there are a couple of important stipulations: 1) Any player taken in the Rule 5 Draft has to remain on his new team's active (i.e. 25-man) roster for the entirety of the upcoming season or risk being returned to his original team. 2) Only players NOT on a team's expanded (i.e. 40-man) roster are eligible to be drafted in the proceedings. It's this second stipulation that led to more than 100 players being added to their team's respective 40-man rosters prior to last week's November 20 deadline to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.
In point of fact, this year (called the 2015 offseason, because it affects 2015 season) there were 104 players called up (i.e. had their contracts selected) since the conclusion of the 2014 World Series, most occurring on or around November 20, 2014. Coincidence? The truth is out there! Keep watching the skiis!

But first, watch this full lineup projection of the most impressive minor league players from this year's All-Selected pool.

Granted, viewing players in this light is a bit one-sided, prospect-wise, since a lot of the monster numbers come from the lower levels of the minors, and it's generally the more seasoned players who immediately make an impact on their teams' rosters. For example, the pack leader in terms of minor league swp - Washington middle infielder Wilmer Difo - put up his video game numbers (14 HR, 49 SB, .315 AVG) in Class A South Atlantic League at age 22. Let's just say it will be a while before Ian Desmond has to worry about his job. Not far behind Difo in points per game (but two years behind him in age and two levels his senior in minor league progression) Jose Peraza has the makings of a prototypical contact-and-speed leadoff hitter (.339 AVG, 60 SB, only 2 HR) and his presence at the top of the Braves farm makes a 2017 rebuild not seem so bad.

Joc Pederson is the Dodgers outfielder that everyone is talking about, but the organization's #15 prospect Scott Schebler has steadily dominated advanced A and AA in two consecutive seasons, showing tremendous skill with the bat and fine athleticism (each season featured an OPS over .900 and double digits in each type of extra base hit plus stolen bases). The runner-up in total min swp, Brandon Drury showed good traditional power (23 HR, 42 2B) and could give fellow rookie Jake Lamb (who Drury trailed by just one place on the organizational prospect list going into 2014) a run for his money for the Diamondbacks' third base job. The All-Selected team's leader in home runs (Renato Nunez with 29) has shown some promise, but third base and DH are two spots the Oakland Athletics have pretty well covered with fan favorite Josh Donaldson and newly signed country breakfast enthusiast Billy Butler.

The only member of the All-Selected team to make an appearance on's top 100 prospects list going into 2014 was Marlins lefty starter Justin Nicolino, and when the hype corresponds to the production, there's a better chance for major league talent to emerge. Interestingly enough, of the 13 other 2014 top 100 prospects among all 104 players called up this offseason, Nicolino's 81 was the lowest. Of the three players in the top 20 - Twins infielder Miguel Sano (4), Mets starter Noah Syndergaard (11), and Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon (16), only Syndie managed to get on the field in 2014 due to injuries (I'm unofficially shortening that now in the event he becomes a star. I'm also considering Syndo or the Syndicate). Going back to the stats, keep in mind that the only one of the top five starting pitchers on this list made it as high as AAA, and that's unranked Tyler Wilson of the Orioles. The most advanced newly-selected pitchers that I could see having the best opportunity to thrive in 2015 are Alex Meyer, who pitched decently in AAA for the Twins, A.J. Cole, who could get a spot in Washington's rotation if they trade a big name pitcher as is kind of expected, and Eduardo Rodriguez, who hasn't pitched above AA, but Boston may have spent all its resources on its offense, and they didn't acquire Rodriguez from the Orioles for nothing (except they kind of did acquire him in exchange for nothing, giving up only a half season before free agency - same with Yoenis Cespedes... what I mean is they didn't acquire him for the PURPOSE of nothing).

The moral of the story is, I don't know which of these players are going to make the most impact in the major leagues next season or even many seasons from now. More than half of the players called up (58) appeared on their team's top 20 prospect list prior to 2014, so most of these are names that people are aware of. Perhaps if we look back to a similar type of lineup, taking players from the 2014 All-Selected pool but using their actual 2014 MLB production, it will tell us what we might expect.

This team actually had standouts at most positions. First the rotation: Arguably no rookie had more impressive 2014 production than NL Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom, who got all the first place votes except for the 4 that went to Billy Hamilton. Jesse Hahn seems to have flashed ace potential in San Diego at times (he was averaging 79 points per game at the All-Star Break). And both Tyler Matzek and Shane Greene have developed into solid workhorses. Aaron Barrett spent the majority of the year in Washington's bullpen, Pedro Baez was asked to shoulder some high-leverage innings for the Dodgers, and San Francisco's world championship run would have looked very different without Hunter Strickland's nasty fastball/slider combo.

Not to imply that deGrom had any competition for his RoY hardware, but Arizona leadoff hitter Ender "Wiggin" Inciarte has to at least be in the conversation. He should also be in the following conversation: where will he play in the outfield given the addition of the Cuban sensation Yasmany Tomas and the presence of Mark Trumbo and A.J. Pollock. Gregory Polanco has looked like he could be a star in Pittsburgh. The story of Kennys Vargas reminds me a little of a young, switch-hitting David Ortiz, which is kind of scary. Arismendy Alcantara will still be eligible at 2B next year, which fantasy owners should know, because he'll likely play more center field with all the former A's prospects clogging up the Cubs' infield picture. Speaking of infield, Detroit's Eugenio Suarez was one half of a starting shortstop for a playoff team.

These are some of the dynamic new players we enjoyed last year. Will this year's crop be at all similar? Find out in: the 2015 Baseball Season!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thoughts About The Walking Dead and Magic

Sometimes when you're experiencing any form of entertainment, you experience something that instantly reminds you of another form of entertainment. They can be similar types, for example when you hear Hans Zimmer's haunting music from Interstellar, you might recall an amped up version of Philip Glass's haunting music from Koyaanisqatsi. Or fundamentally different types, like when the imagery from an episode of Game of Thrones recalls imagery from the popular trading card game Magic: The Gathering (or vice versa). But other times, the similarities go beyond just imagery, penetrating deep down to the subject matter itself. For example, when I (finally) watched the season finale for Season 4 of The Walking Dead last night, one of the early climactic moments of the show brought to mind a specific Magic card, a black card, from the Mirrodin block. I don't like to give away spoilers, but it's been more than seven months since the episode (entitled "A") first aired on AMC, so I have no qualms about giving away the card I'm talking about. I even went through the trouble of using MTG Cardsmith to create an alternate art reprint that could easily go into a Walking Dead themed expansion set (marketing hint).

I've said it before and I'll say it again (probably): The scene where Rick zombies-up and tears the throat out of his would-be Deliverance-esque assaulter with his fucken teeth was one of the more satisfying moments in the series so far. It was not only the pure gore factor, though that was not unimpressive, but also the philosophical and tactical implications of using the strategy. We've seen countless walkers take out humans by biting them in the throat, so it obviously works, even with decayed teeth and undead jaw muscles. But it requires you to abandon your humanity, to become like your common enemy in order to best destroy a fellow living creature.

The parallel to the Magic card Go for the Throat (if not to its vampiric art by David Rapoza), in that it doesn't work against artifact creatures, is shocking: not that constructs or golems exist in the Walking Dead universe, but if they did, Rick would never have been able to effectively execute the same move against them. Come to think of it, the move wouldn't have worked on a walker either. Or a dragon or a hydra or an elephant, which are just some of the standard creature types that a Go for the Throat reprint would be able to target. So maybe the card is a little overpowered when taken out of context of the show, but the flavor is just too spot on to ignore.

Another reason that scene is so powerful is because it tells the story of how Rick, a high level series regular (to use a Dungeons and Dragons term) was able to transform a situation where he was on his knees, at gunpoint and surrounded, to an absolute bloodbath in his team's favor. Rick ends the season in a similar way to how he started that scene: trapped inside a train car, surrounded by armed foes. But this time his team's a little bit bigger and he is fully in control of his confidence that this show cannot exist without him. As someone who is about to dive into Season 5, however possible, I hope that Rick's confidence extends not just to his survival, but also to the entertainment value of his existence. Because we've seen first hand what can happen to the pace of this show when all the regulars are bound up together in an enclosed space. And this time the group doesn't even have their weapons to help them.

At least Cutty and Carol are still on the loose, so we'll have a B Story to cut back to. Or maybe they'll pull a Book 4 of A Song of Ice and Fire (only nine years late on that one) and leave out half the characters entirely. Who can know? All I can say is that I'm especially excited for this new season of Walking Dead, not only to find out what happens, but because Ozzy Man is doing episode reviews on YouTube, and it was only his brilliant comedy dub Eddie Stark: Australian Dad that got me through a long and arduous baseball postseason.

Monday, November 10, 2014

SWP 2014, part 3: The Winning Teams

Every year, with only 10 playoff spots, there are bound to be some good teams that accumulate winning records, but that don't make it into the postseason tournament. Let's take a look at the five teams with winning records who were left out of the October party.

Seattle Mariners
Lineup: 7/9
Rotation: 3/5
Bullpen: 2/2

The Mariners defied a lot of expectations this year, mostly because their actual team was very different than their projected team, which was named just 11th best in the league. Actually, both the discrepancies between the actual 2014 roster and Sports Illustrated projections (Corey Hart and Justin Smoak) show up in my SWP project in a bench capacity. The SI folks thought that Hart would actually be healthy enough to play right field with Smoak at first, Logan Morrison the DH, and Michael Saunders patrolling center field. As you can see by the ^'s on the lineup at left, Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik replaced his underperforming parts by shifting some positions around and making some timely trades. Kendrys Morales and Austin Jackson ended up also underperforming, but as it happens, any team with a 3,000 point all-star has a pretty good chance of doing well. You can't fault SI for missing the two pitchers they did because Roenis Elias was a rookie and Chris Young ended up winning the comeback player of the year award (read: nobody could see his resurgent season coming). Also because James Paxton and Taijuan Walker would have been rotation mainstays had they been healthy enough for the whole year. I took a bit of liberty giving SI a 2/2 in the relief pitcher department since Tom Wilhelmsen actually had more points than Danny Farquhar, but he pitched in fewer games and would have had fewer innings if he wasn't called upon to make two spot starts late in the year.

Cleveland Indians
Lineup: 9/9
Rotation: 3/5
Bullpen: 2/2

Take a good look: the Cleveland Indians lineup is what total, 100% lineup predictive success looks like. The batting order is a little different, Swisher and Santana swapped projected positions, and nobody saw Michael Brantley coming ( projected him to hit 8 home runs and hit .280) but all the pieces are there. The pitching was also a bit of a mess due to Justin Masterson's injury issues (which eventually got him traded to a playoff team, yet left off the playoff roster) and Zach McAllister's ineffectiveness: both pitchers still show up on the SWP project because they eclipsed 10 starts and 60 innings, but neither were in the top five. Another player no one saw coming: Corey Kluber, who could very well steal the AL Cy Young award from King Felix just for novelty's sake, because as you can see, the more experienced pitcher clearly had the better numbers. The bullpen situation is very similar to San Francisco's in that both projected relievers served as the closer at some point in the season, but while Sergio Romo was simply demoted, John Axford was demoted and traded to the Pirates.

New York Yankees
Lineup: 7/9
Rotation: 2/5
Bullpen: 1/2

Seven out of nine is actually a pretty decent ratio, especially when both discrepancies show up on the bench. Basically Carlos Beltran was supposed to start in right field with Alfonso Soriano the DH and Ichiro on the bench, but Soriano was eventually granted his release, Beltran wasn't healthy enough to stick in the outfield full time, so Ichiro had to step up. Kelly Johnson was supposed to hold it down at third base in A-Rod's absence, but he had to spend significant time at first when Mark Teixeira went down, opening the door for rookie Yangervis Solarte, who was eventually traded for another third baseman who doesn't show up here: Chase Headley of the Padres, now a free agent. The pitching is a different story. You can't blame SI too much for missing everyone but the two Japanese starters (Kuroda and Tanaka) since this rotation was veritably ravaged by injuries. CC Sabathia was supposed to be the staff ace before his season ended in early May. Ivan Nova succumbed to the Tommy John epidemic after just four starts. Michael Pineda did technically qualify as a starter by my standards, but he wasn't anywhere near the top five. If they re-sign Kuroda and McCarthy (who thrived after being traded to New York), if Pineda has a good deal more luck with injuries than he's had for his whole career, and if Masahiro Tanaka's torn elbow ligament miraculously doesn't continue to tear, the Yankees should be alright next year. But that is indeed a lot of if's. Another piece they'll have to replace is their #1 relief pitcher David Robertson, who will test the free agent waters. Projected RP2 Matt Thornton was already shipped out to Washington after the deadline last year.

Toronto Blue Jays
Lineup: 8/9
Rotation: 3/5
Bullpen: 1/2

The top four out of the five non-playoff teams with winning records are from the AL. I wonder if this means we'll finally see some consistency across the leagues with the DH rule. The only missed projection for the offense was at second base, where rookie Ryan Goins was in fact given the job to start the year (with Brett Lawrie at third) but who ended up spending most of the season in the minors. Lawrie did in fact play most of his games at third, but he did qualify at second, so I shifted him over on my list to make room for the more offensively talented Juan Francisco (who I definitely streamed into my fantasy lineup during his hot first half). In the rotation, Drew Hutchison and rookie Marcus Stroman were the ones SI didn't predict, placing reliever Esmil Rogers and oft-injured Brandon Morrow in their places. I myself thought that Todd Redmond would blossom into a starter, but instead he served as their top setup man, beating out projected RP2 Steve Delabar, who only managed 30 innings on the year.

Milwaukee Brewers
Lineup: 8/8
Rotation: 4/5
Bullpen: 1/2

Finally a non-playoff NL team with a winning record! The Brewers improved over their 2013 showing, but were eclipsed in a strong Central division by the Cardinals and the Pirates (although they did finish well ahead of the disappointing Reds). Their offense was clicking on all cylinders with the superhuman feats of Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy making up for Ryan Braun's regression to a non-performance enhanced statistical realm. The pitching was also remarkably consistent, with the only wrong guess being Marco Estrada, who was in fact a starter for a lot of the year before he was demoted to the bullpen. SI apparently didn't get the memo that projected closer Jim Henderson had lost his job to projected RP2 Francisco Rodriguez before this magazine was published - but neither did I, if you check my projected lineups on the subject.

Atlanta Braves
Lineup: 7/8
Rotation: 4/5
Bullpen: 1/2

Alright, I know I said there were only five non-playoff winning teams, and that's true, but the Braves and the Mets tied for second place in the NL East division, and they would have made it to .500 with two more wins apiece, and there are two leagues, no matter how one-sided the talent level might be, so I've decided analyzing a couple of bonus teams. Hooray! The only discrepancy in the lineup is at second base, where SI incorrectly assumed that opening day starter Dan Uggla would be the starter beyond July, where he was unceremoniously dumped and later signed (and dumped) by the Giants. Aaron Harang was a late signing, so it makes sense that he wouldn't appear in this issue, but you're going to laugh when you see that SI predicted Freddy Garcia to do significant fill-in work for the injured Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen. Bullpens are super hard to predict, so I don't fault SI at all for assuming fireballing former closer Jordan Walden would serve as the primary setup man rather than David Carpenter. I would fault them if they somehow left out Craig Kimbrel as the guy for whom they'd be setting up.

New York Mets
Lineup: 6/8
Rotation: 4/5
Bullpen: 0/2

The Mets did overperform in order to achieve such a decent winning percentage, but in the grand scheme of things, they finished about where expected: SI has them ranked 12th in the NL... with just the Phillies, Marlins, and Cubs behind them, two of whom they did beat in their division. The offensive discrepancies exist mostly due to trades: SI thought that Ike Davis would beat Lucas Duda for the first base job, and I guess he ostensibly did until he was traded to the Pirates giving Duda the job by default. While Chris Young does show up on my list in the "NL DH" spot (read: most-used bench guy), he didn't get a chance to eclipse the speedy Juan Lagares in center field due to his trade to the Yankees. The only pitcher missing from SI's projected rotation is rookie Jacob deGrom, as they thought Japanese veteran Daisuke Matsuzaka would be the primary fill-in for Matt Harvey. On a side note, this rotation is going to be absolutely terrifying when Harvey returns from his Tommy John procedure. Projected closer Bobby Parnell missed basically the whole season due to injury and Vic Black underperformed, causing swingman Jenrry Mejia and little-known reliever Jeuris Familia to take over closing duties, with Carlos Torres quietly serving as one of the most capable long relievers in the league.

There were many more teams who took the field in 2014, but none of them performed all that impressively. If there are teams any that anyone would like to see in greater detail, let me know in the comments section or shout out on Twitter @Hunter_S_Batman and perhaps I'll factor them into a future post. Until then, keep your eyes (but not your hands) on the Hot Stove and try to stay warm through the offseason!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

SWP 2014, part 2: The Rest of the Playoffs

Having analyzed the final four teams last post, it's time to take a look at the other six teams who made the postseason, comparing their aggregate 2014 lineups to the projected lineups from this year's Sports Illustrated preview issue. Again, this is not to pick on SI for the roster spots that they got wrong - since it's no fun to be petty and they're pretty accurate overall - but rather just to have a benchmark for comparison to track some of the interesting changes that took place throughout the season.

Los Angeles Angels
Lineup: 8/9
Rotation: 4/5
Bullpen: 1/2

Much like Kansas City, the Angels had a plan offensively and they stuck with it, making this team very easy to predict. The only batter that the folks at SI got wrong wasn't even a position player, as they thought veteran Raul Ibanez would hold down the DH spot. Even with youngster C.J. Cron getting the most time here, DH was still the weakest link for this team with guys like Efren Navarro and Brennan Boesch getting far too many at-bats there. Although to be fair, they didn't stop the team from winning the most games in baseball (despite being ranked 9th in the league by SI). SI wasn't wrong by assuming that Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs would occupy the 4th and 5th spots of the rotation, and it's unclear that Matt Shoemaker would have gotten a shot had Skaggs not gone down with an injury. The same is true for putting Ernesto Frieri as the projected closer, as he did indeed start the season in that role, but lost it fairly quickly and was later shipped to Pittsburgh for their ex-closer Jason Grilli. You'll notice that Huston Street's name is in italics here - that's because he failed to reach 40 innings with the Angels, but I left him in because of his important role and ludicrously high swp/g totals.

Washington Nationals
Lineup: 7/8
Rotation: 4/5
Bullpen: 2/2

I could very easily haven given the SI crew an 8/8 here, since Ryan Zimmerman (projected as the starting 3B with Rendon at 2B, where he did also qualify), but I decided to ding them since Zim a) missed a lot of time due to injury and b) had to effectively abandon third base for left field. I could also have dinged SI in the relief pitcher department since they named Tyler Clippard as the RP2 - the job that technically went to Drew Storen points-wise - but that's only because he won the closer's job towards the end of the season, whereas Clippard was consistently a quality setup man. Keep in mind this team that was supposed to win the World Series, according to the cover of the magazine, and they did do exceptionally well this year, so it makes sense that their projections were mostly accurate. The only one that was just unabashedly wrong was assuming that Taylor Jordan would hold down the fifth starter spot over Tanner Roark, but maybe the SI analysts weren't paying attention at the end of 2013.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Lineup: 7/8
Rotation: 5/5
Bullpen: 1/2

SI pegged the Dodgers as the best team in the NL this year, and they were very good, and they put their team together pretty much as SI predicted. The only discrepancy was at second base where Cuban import (and 2014 minor leaguer) Alex Guerrero was projected to start, leaving All-Star Dee Gordon on the bench. Josh Beckett succumbed to an injury that effectively ended his career (he retired at season's end), but he did serve as the team's fifth starter when active. I feel bad giving SI a wrong answer in the bullpen since Brian Wilson was utilized as an RP2 setup man type even through the playoffs, despite his complete ineffectiveness, but there were just so many pitchers in this curiously weak bullpen who did better than the Beard that I just couldn't justify giving it to him.

Detroit Tigers
Lineup: 7/9
Rotation: 5/5
Bullpen: 2/2

Again, this team mostly stuck to the plan except for where injuries and trades were concerned. Before the breakout of J.D. Martinez caused Austin Jackson to be expendable, Jackson/Rajai Davis was the CF/LF plan as projected. Jackson actually had more games in CF, but I gave the nod to Rajai since he logged more overall games in the outfield. Detroit was left scrambling at shortstop when Jose Iglesias went down for the year with shin splints and projected starter Alex Gonzalez did get a handful of games towards the beginning of the season, but it was a Suarez/Romine combo for the vast majority of the year. In terms of innings pitched for the starters, SI got one thru five correct, even though David Price was obviously a much higher upside pitcher after he was acquired from the Rays in the biggest three-team blockbuster of the year. Even though Al Alburquerque wasn't the second-most-used relief pitcher (remember how Joba Chamberlain in key sitiuations basically cost them any shot they might have had at winning the ALDS?), he did score the most points of all Tigers setup men, so I consider that a correct prediction for SI.

Oakland Athletics
Lineup: 7/9
Rotation: 3/5
Bullpen: 0/2

Pandemonium is the best way to describe how this A's roster was put together throughout the season. The batting order predictions were actually quite accurate: SI had John Jaso behind the plate (which was his primary position until a concussion ended his season) with Derek Norris on the bench and *shudder* Daric Barton listed as the primary DH. And although I listed Alberto Callaspo at second base ahead of Eric Sogard, that was really just a ploy to get more offensive prowess into the starting 9 (although I justify my decision because Callaspo played a bunch of games at other positions as well). In the rotation, three out of five is pretty generous, considering Tommy Milone only barely sneaks by Jon Lester into the top five (by innings pitched) when the traded lefty was not nearly as impactful as the acquired lefty. Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir were the only other two starters correctly projected to be in the rotation: the other two spots went to Dan Straily (who did start the season there, but was subsequently traded) and A.J. Griffin (obviously before it was learned that his injuries would keep him out for the season). The two projected relievers did qualify for inclusion on my swp list, but at the very bottom of the barrel, as Jim Johnson lost his closer's job almost immediately and Ryan Cook wasn't used nearly as much as high leverage setup men Luke Gregerson or Dan Otero. Oh well, you can't get them all right!

Pittsburgh Pirates
Lineup: 6/8
Rotation: 4/5
Bullpen: 1/2

As is the case with most teams that did surprisingly better than anticipated, some of the key players came out of nowhere. Or in this case, the Mets, as Ike Davis was acquired early in the season as the left-handed (read: primary) part of a first base platoon with Gaby Sanchez, the SI projected starter. Jose Tabata was projected to start in right field, but he was demoted early on, leaving two lefties - Travis Snider and Gregory Polanco - to take charge of the role. But the main story here that nobody saw coming was Josh Harrison, a projected bench player who very nearly won the batting title while filling in at both corner outfield spots and third base, making July 8th birthdays everywhere proud. The one starting pitcher SI got wrong was Wandy Rodriguez, in that they thought he would play a role on this team commensurate with the salary Pittsburgh was paying him, when that was in fact not the case. Jason Grilli did start the season in the closer role but obviously flamed out rather quick (see the Angels section above), ceding the job to his primary setup man Mark Melancon, so having those two as the top projected relievers was not an unreasonable pick at all.

Of the 20 teams who didn't make the playoffs, five managed to finish above .500 on the season. I'll probably continue this feature with those teams next time, and then see what happens from there.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

SWP 2014, part 1: The Final Four

Well, another baseball season is officially in the books and the San Francisco Giants are officially making a habit of winning the championship every even-numbered year. While it would have been nice to see some new blood hoist the trophy over their heads this year, it is slightly gratifying that at least half of my prediction came true: the Giants did indeed win, but they by no means trounced their opposition, as the Royals battled till the bitter end and it was only the double-MVP-worthy awesomeness of the MadBum that put them down. So I'd like to congratulate San Francisco on an exciting, hard-fought World Series and a well-deserved victory. You made a lot of fans everywhere very happy.

So now, with a few days left before the free agent feeding frenzy begins, it seems like a good time to look back on the season that was in an overall big picture type way. And as it happens, I just finished my age-old SWP lineups project that I've done for the past decade and a half. This differs from the projected playoff lineups I posted in that those had the current lineup that I thought was most likely to play in the tournament, whereas the SWP project shows the overall composition of a team over the course of the whole year. Plus it comes with a cool team logo.

I use the same fantasy point system that I have been using since the start of this blog, which is called SWP after the Small World fantasy client where I first saw it implemented. This was a format without draft or auction - rather each player had a dollar value attached to them and each team owner had a salary cap with which to build their team. I don't remember the exact year I started playing, but one of my earliest memories was windmill slamming Ichiro Suzuki as a rookie for cheap and feeling really great about it.

The documents have evolved over the years - they started with just the lineup listed in positional order, rotation, and bullpen listed by games played. But as my favorite website started putting up more information such as batting orders, my lists reflected that as well. I also added bench players and adopted a somewhat complex qualifying system (shown at right) mostly to determine which pitchers fit in which category. Suffice it to say, any batter that logged more than 200 at bats and any pitcher with 40 innings/appearances are now represented.

Based on their most recent football preview, Sports Illustrated's projected lineups may be a thing of the past, but thankfully we still have them from the 2014 baseball preview to serve as a point of comparison. So as I go through the teams (starting in playoff finish order and then we'll see where it goes from there) I'll be keeping a running total of what SI got right, not to maliciously point out errors, but as a way to keep track of what unforeseen changes took place over the course of the season.

San Francisco Giants
Lineup: 7/8
Rotation: 5/5
Bullpen: 2/2

As you can't see, cuz I'm not posting pics of the projections, SI predicted the makeup of the world champions impressively well. The only discrepancy stems from their optimism that veteran Marco Scutaro would return from his injuries to play a significant role for this club, which of course he did not, allowing rookie Joe Panik to lock down this spot, possibly for years to come. While they technically did predict the team's top 5 starters listed in terms of innings pitched, Matt Cain was absent for most of the second half with injuries and Tim Lincecum was a non-factor pitching out of the bullpen. There is of course no way they could have predicted the acquisition of Jake Peavy, who actually equalled the production of Bumgarner in his brief sample size. Both the too two relievers listed ended up serving as the closer for part of this year, so that has to feel gratifying.

Kansas City Royals
Lineup: 9/9
Rotation: 4/5
Bullpen: 1/2

Turns out both participants in this year's World Series were pretty easy to predict. The folks at SI got the Royals offense down even to the batting order... that is until manager Ned Yost went rogue and switched things up late in the final month. The only thing they got wrong was assuming Bruce Chen would stick as the fifth starter, a job he ceded to Danny Duffy early on. I know that bullpens are hard to predict (which is probably why SI hedges their bets by only naming two relievers) but it is worth noting that there was no mention of Wade Davis in the magazine, making his historical season all the more impressive.

St. Louis Cardinals
Lineup: 8/8
Rotation: 4/5
Bullpen: 2/2

The only offensive player SI missed for the Cardinals was Jon Jay, who curiously didn't show up at all in the preview article, not even on the bench, despite the fact that he ended up leading the team in outfield appearances. There was again of course no way for them to predict that projected #5 starter Joe Kelly would have been traded for actual #5 starter John Lackey. There was also no reason to predict the emergence of Pat Neshek as an All-Star middle reliever, which they didn't, but I gave them a perfect bullpen score because their projected setup man Seth Maness logged more innings.

Baltimore Orioles
Lineup: 6/9
Rotation: 5/5
Bullpen: 1/2

The Orioles definitely went through some changes as the 2014 season progressed, which resulted in some wonky predictions. To be fair, Matt Wieters and Jemile Weeks did start the season at catcher and second base, respectively. But Wieters saw his season end due to injury before the All-Star Break and Weeks was demoted to the minors and found himself traded for a relief pitcher for the second time this year. Projected left fielder David Lough did log a lot of games in the field, but mostly as a defensive replacement. While a run prevented is technically worth as much as a run scored, this team was all about the long ball, so more often than not, LF at bats went to home run threats like Nelson Cruz (when not DH-ing), Delmon Young, and Steve Pearce (when not filling in for Chris Davis at first, or indeed pushing him over to third base).

The rotation situation is similar to the Giants, with the non-factor being utterly disappointing Ubaldo Jimenez, but unlike in San Francisco, his replacement Kevin Gausman did not come via trade but rather through the prospect pipeline. As with the offense, SI's bullpen projections match how Baltimore filled out the card at the start of the season, but while Darren O'Day remained a top flight setup man, they did not project that Tommy Hunter would lose the closer job to lefty Zach Britton. (And neither did I, based on my fantasy draft. That's why you never pay for saves...)

So that's the first round of charts. Next will be the rest of the playoff teams and then depending on how exciting the hot stove season gets, I'll likely continue with the rest of the teams.