My Official Unofficial MLB Hall of Fame Ballot for 2014

If you’re a baseball fan then in the past month you’ve probably read at least 20 hypothetical Hall of Fame ballots from people who don’t actually get to submit Hall of Fame ballots. If you’ve made it past the first sentence then you’re about to read mine. This post is a pretty simple undertaking; it is a list of who I would vote for if I were a member of the BBWAA and submitted a ballot for the Hall of Fame. As any non-BBWAA writer I’m limited to hypothetically voting for 10 eligible players. Were it not for that limit I would probably vote for 14 players, but my hands are tied by the rules. I’m writing this post so that I may establish my own standards for enshrinement. After all, every voter and fan has their own standards, and mine aren’t as simple as regarding every player who accumulates 500 home runs, 3,000 hits, 300 wins or 60 career Wins Above Replacement as a Hall of Famer. I’ll explain my thinking as I go along. My Ten:

Greg Maddux- 5008.1 IP, 132 ERA+, 355-227, 3371 K, 113.9 fWAR
I really can’t imagine anyone keeping Greg Maddux out of their personal Hall of Fame. Whether you prefer longevity or peak, dependability or dominance, Maddux fits the bill. He threw 25 years’ worth of 200 inning seasons and was 32 percent better than a league average pitcher over that time. From 1992 to 2002 his ERA+ was 171 over 2576.1 innings. Feel free to read that sentence again. At the very least we’re talking about a top-10 starting pitcher of all time and a guy who was the best pitcher in the game for much of the 1990s. While he won’t be the first unanimous selection he is a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Barry Bonds- 12,606 PA, 173 wRC+, 762 HR, 514 SB, 1996 RBI, 164.1 fWAR
Roger Clemens- 4916.2 IP, 143 ERA+, 354-184, 4872 K, 139.5 fWAR
Whether or not you’re willing to vote for these two solely depends on whether or not you’re willing to send supposed steroid users to Cooperstown. If you are then both Bonds and Clemens are Hall of Famers to you. And if you’re a self-righteous guardian of baseball’s integrity even though it has been tarnished at every point throughout the game’s history then you’re probably not going to vote for these two. On numbers alone there simply isn’t a case to be made to keep either of these greats out. Bonds may be the best hitter who ever lived and Clemens is his pitching equivalent. In my mind, there are exactly two choices for voters regarding the steroid era. You have the option of either blacklisting every player who played between, say, 1993 and 2005 from Cooperstown, or you can acknowledge that those years happened and induct the best players from that era. Bonds and Clemens are on my ballot because I don’t believe that a museum- which is what the Hall of Fame is- is meant to abridge and revise history in order to paint a rose-tinted image of the past. Museums are meant to preserve history and present periods of time as they were, not as we wish they were. Does this outlook reward cheating? Perhaps. But at least it doesn’t pretend the Hall is something it’s not or prohibit from induction, without evidence of guilt, rewarding candidates such as…

…Jeff Bagwell- 9431 PA, 149 wRC+,449 HR, 202 SB, 1529 RBI, 80.3 fWAR
…Mike Piazza- 7745 PA, 140 wRC+, 427 HR, 1335 RBI, 63.6 fWAR
These are two guys who, while obviously not on the same level as Bonds or Clemens, clearly have the merits for Cooperstown. Piazza is, without a doubt, the greatest hitting catcher of all time. Bagwell was probably underrated in his day but that shouldn’t prevent us from appreciating what a force he was. Since 1990, only 8 men have a higher wRC+ than Bagwell. Their names? Barry Bonds, Mike Trout, Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Frank Thomas, Manny Ramirez, and Miguel Cabrera. He ranks 7th all-time in fWAR among first basemen, ahead of Rod Carew, Eddie Murray, Willie McCovey, Harmon Killebrew, Wille Stargell, Johnny Mize…you get the picture. Neither had the longest of careers but both were absolutely dominant for an entire decade, which, for me, is enough. You can draw your line where you will, but if a guy is on the short list for best player in the game for 10 whole years then he’s earned my hypothetical vote. Unfortunately, both could fall short this year. They both received a shade under 60% of the vote in 2013, and expecting a boost to the necessary 75% in a year with the most loaded ballot in recent memory requires more optimism than I currently have. Maybe the voters will eventually learn to look past Piazza’s bacne or Bagwell’s lack of classic milestones but I wouldn’t expect to see these two deserving men enshrined in 2014.

Tom Glavine- 4413.1 IP, 305-203, 118 ERA+, 2607 K, 64.3 fWAR
Mike Mussina- 3562.2 IP, 270-153, 123 ERA+, 2813 K, 82.5 fWAR
I pair Glavine and Mussina together for two reasons. First, their numbers and careers are comparable. Glavine threw more innings and won more games, Mussina pitched slightly better and racked up more strikeouts. Glavine might actually be undervalued by Wins Above Replacement considering he consistently posted ERAs better than his peripherals would indicate. In fact, Glavine accumulates 88 RA-9 WAR, a form of WAR developed by Fangraphs which uses runs allowed instead of FIP. Both were consistent and durable aces who were more steady than exciting, and thus were largely overshadowed by some of the ridiculous pitching talents of their day. It’s difficult for me to see how anyone could have one of these pitchers on their ballot and not the other. I say that because the second reason I paired Mussina and Glavine together is precisely because a large number of voters are indeed going to have one of these pitchers on their ballots and not the other. More specifically, Mussina is likely going to be left off a lot of ballots that include Glavine. Why? Because Glavine has 300 wins. It’s really that simple.

Curt Schilling- 3261.1 IP, 216-148, 127 ERA+, 3116 K, 83.2 fWAR
In terms of overall career value (at least as measured by WAR) Schilling is right in line with Mussina and Glavine. However, Schilling tossed more than one thousand fewer innings than Glavine and about a season and a half’s worth of innings less than Mussina. Schilling was really “only” a capable major league starter for 15 seasons, while Mussina had 17 seasons as a full-time starter and Glavine had 20. Their career values are nearly identical, then, because Schilling was simply more dominant. Mussina and Glavine threw more innings but the innings that Schilling threw were of a higher quality, in large part because Schilling was able to miss more bats than either of them. (In 5 separate seasons Schilling posted a K/9 over 10, which, yes, is absurd.) All three are easy Hall of Famers to me, and I think Schilling will get elected in the next few years. We’ve seen guys get enshrined after receiving a lower percentage of the vote than the 38% Schilling received in his first year on the ballot last year, so I’m not terribly worried about him being snubbed. I think the biggest bullet points on Schilling’s resume are his 3116 strikeouts (the voters love their round numbers) and his numbers in the playoffs. He started 19 playoff games, won 11, and posted a 2.23 ERA in the height of the steroid era. That’s about as good of a playoff resume as you’ll see, and certainly seems like the type of thing the old school voters will recognize.

Frank Thomas- 10,074 PA, 154 wRC+, 521 HR, 1704 RBI, 72.4 fWAR
Frank Thomas, 1990-2000: .321/.440/.579, 169 OPS+
Albert Pujols, 2001-2011: .328/.420/.617, 170 OPS+

Creepy.

And last but certainly not least:

Edgar Martinez-8672 PA, 147 wRC+, 309 HR, 1261 RBI, 65.6 fWAR
In my mind, leaving out the greatest DH of all time would be one of the greatest snubs in the entire Hall. And make no mistake, Martinez is the greatest DH of all time. When comparing DHs there is nothing else to examine but their impact at the plate and David Ortiz is a distant 2nd with his 138 wRC+. I think everyone remembers that Martinez was a great batter but it seems most voters overlook just how great his bat was. His game was one that practically begged to be underrated- he was a classic doubles and walks hitter who only topped 30 home runs once. Martinez was a full-time DH, never playing more than a handful of games in the field in any season after 1994. Despite not making any contributions to his team with the glove, Martinez was a consistent 5 WAR player from 1990 to 2001. If he has played third base very poorly over this time frame I don’t think there’s any question he’d be a Hall of Famer already, but by DHing instead of hurting his team in the field he apparently irked enough traditional voters to keep himself on the Cooperstown backburner.

Honorable Mention:
I would absolutely vote for Craig Biggio, Alan Trammell, Tim Raines, and Larry Walker if it weren’t for the 10-player limit and my lack of a BBWAA membership. I also wouldn’t argue too hard if you had Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Kent or Fred McGriff on your ballots, although I think they each fall just short. Hell, both Biggio and Trammell are borderline candidates for me, but I’ve been berated by enough of my saber-inclined friends to bump them into my Hall. It should be pretty clear that my ballot won’t come close to matching the results tomorrow, so if I had to guess I’d say Maddux, Glavine, and Biggio make the cut tomorrow. Of course, after the results comes everyone’s favorite part of Hall season- two weeks of lambasting the writers whose ballots differed from your own hypothetical ballot. Who else is amped for that?

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I don’t blog often, but when I do, I’m the only person who reads it

The desire to write grows with writing- Desiderius Erasmus

 

So, I’ve decided that I want to get back into blogging.  “Get back into” is probably misleading in that I never blogged that frequently (especially here), but throughout college I typically spat out a post or two a month across a variety of blogs.  In the two years since I’ve graduated, however, the only writing I’ve done has been in 140 character increments.  I fancy myself a halfway decent writer and once I get the creative juices flowing it’s a process I typically enjoy, so it’s something I’ve decided I need to do on a regular basis. Not too regular, mind you, but I don’t think one blog post a week is too much to ask of myself.  I’m not sure who my audience will be- if you’re reading this, then hey, it’s you!- but I’ll be sure to tweet out links to each post.  Who knows, maybe I’ll finally make a Tumblr and find like-minded people there.  If nothing else blogging will help me shake off the dust, improve my writing and provide additional writing samples.  I’m sure the vast majority of my posts will be about sports- especially those in Philadelphia- but I’m sure some other topics will work their way into the rotation.  We’ll see.  At the very least this will provide me with a good mental workout, which is never a bad thing.

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Well, we still have the Phillies

I’m just going to go ahead and list every good thing I can say about the Eagles.  I don’t know why, honestly, because I hate their guts right now.  I, along with the rest of the good citizens of the Philadelphia Valley, am fed up with having my gonads stomped on every January by a team that makes the same mistakes every year.  I’m sick of hearing Andy Reid say it’s his fault, I’m sick of Mcnabb pointing fingers, I’m sick of the defense coming up small in every big game, and most of all, I’m sick of all of the stupid .

But for some reason, I really think this might help.  Enumerating everything GOOD about the organization might put things in perspective and, who knows, put me in a halfway decent mood.  At this point, that’s all I care about.  If this post stops abruptly then you’ll know it wasn’t working.  Here goes:

-We have the best YOUNG wide receiver duo in football.  Not best overall, at least not now.  New England and Arizona clearly have us beat at the moment.  But this core of wideouts is going to anchor this team for the next half decade.  Desean Jackson might be the most explosive receiver in the game, Jeremy Maclin has just as much big play ability, and Jason Avant is one of the most reliable slot receivers this side of Wes Welker.  Brent Celek, who I’ll include because of his receiving abilities, is emerging as a top-flite tight end.

-We may be let down every year, but at least we have something to cheer about.  This season couldn’t have ended in a more devastating manner, but this team was still 11-5.  I’d rather lose in the playoffs then not make them at all.

-Somewhat related to the last point, but our management is at least committed to winning.  We may not be the “Gold Standard” that Jeffrey Lurie anointed us, but we’re far better than most teams in the NFL.  Just look at a hapless franchise like the Browns.  Think their fans would switch spots with us in a heartbeat?  We’re lamenting a playoff loss to a hated rival.  They’re lamenting having no future, and even their late-season win streak can’t be seen as a good thing because it bumped their draft slot back a few positions.

-We have more than one playoff win in the last 13 years.

Alright, I can’t really tell if that helped or not, but I’m getting tired.  I need to sleep off this loss a little more.

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Wild Card Weekend Picks

(Embed Youtube video of hackneyed Jim Mora’s “Playoff?!?!” rant here)

Wild Card Weekend may be the best weekend of the NFL Playoffs simply because it’s so unpredictable.  The one and two seeds are on bye, which leaves us with 8 solid but clearly flawed teams.  It is usually a recipe for competitive and exciting games because most of these teams aren’t good enough to pull away from their opponents.  The blowouts tend to happen in the divisional round when a rested one seed slaughters a five seed.  Wild Card weekend is where you’re more likely to see a missed field goal in the 4th quarter or a turnover in OT or some other incredible moment that defines two teams’ seasons.  In other words, what makes this weekend so good is what makes it so difficult to predict: The teams are relatively even and none are quite good enough to inspire much confidence.  Regardless, I boldly march forward and present my picks:

Jets at Bengals (-3)

Prediction: Jets 20, Bengals 14

I’m not totally sure where all this love for the Jets has come from the last couple weeks.  I guess no one noticed that they snuck into the playoffs when Indianapolis and Cincy sat their starters; they would easily be on the outside looking in if Jim Caldwell wasn’t trying to lose his fanbase.  I have absolutely no confidence in Mark Sanchez, and I really think that he’ll cost them a deep playoff bid this year.  You can’t win with a turnover machine at quarterback.  That said, I still think their running game and staunch defense will be enough to get them past a Cincinnati team that isn’t exceptional in really any facet of the game.  At least the Jets do two things very well.  It’ll be a low scoring game, and Mark Sanchez can always lose this one for New York, but right now I’ll take the Jets to move on and get slaughtered by the Colts.

Eagles at Cowboys (-3.5)

Prediction: Eagles 30, Cowboys 27

Okay, who’d you expect me to pick, my least favorite team in football?  Let me get this out of the way right now: I have no confidence in either team.  The Eagles may very well come out and lay an egg like last week, or Romo may come out and throw four picks.  I wouldn’t even be surprised if BOTH happened.  Let me say this as well: last week wasn’t a good indication of these teams’ talent levels.  Dallas couldn’t have played much better and Philly couldn’t have played worse.  The Eagles didn’t show up for their biggest game of the regular season.  Dallas MAY be the better team, but there was nothing I saw last week that told me that the Eagles were outclassed.  As I said, we (yes, we) played far below their potential.  The Eagles’ defense was giving Romo all day- if they dial up the blitz (they really weren’t blitzing on Sunday…) and make Romo move out of the pocket you’re sure to see a few patented Romo-trying-to-be-Favre turnovers.  And the plays were there for the offense- a few dropped passes or errant throws (and even that terrible fumbled snap) ended many drives.  How many times did we see Jackson or Maclin have a ball bounce off or slice through their hands?  I can’t see the Eagles leaving that many plays on the field again.  Blitz Romo, make the plays they’re supposed to, and connect with Jackson for one big touchdown and the Eagles win the game.

Packers (-1) at Cardinals

Prediction: Packers 34, Cardinals 24

I didn’t believe in the Cardinals last year and I still don’t believe in them now.  The only thing they do well is pass the ball, and one of their big time receivers is hurting (but you know Anquan Boldin won’t sit this game out).  The Cardinals can’t run the ball, stop the run, or stop the pass.  Green Bay is on fire and has a fantastic offense.  Aaron Rodgers should shred this defense.  I am curious to see how the Packers’ defense holds up against Warner and Fitgerald, because that could tell us a lot about how well the Packers might fare against the other pass-happy teams in the NFC.

Ravens at Patriots (-3.5)

Prediction: Patriots 24, Ravens 20

I’m this close [holds fingers 2 millimeters apart] to anointing Baltimore as a road upset.  The Patriots have seemed vulnerable all season and just lost Wes Welker, the Ravens have the most explosive player on either team (Ray Rice), and their defense can shut down any team while the Patriots defense can’t stop the pass.  But I just can’t predict it; honestly- I just can’t see the Ravens toppling the Patriots.  Well, I can envision it- if the Ravens can establish Rice and then let Flacco pick apart the Pats’ weak secondary and the defense can play their typical smash-mouth football they can certainly win this game- but I simply don’t think the Patriots will lose to a team they’re better than (albeit marginally).  Tom Brady will do his thing and make a hero out of a fourth string wideout (in lieu of Welker) and the Patriots will squeeze out a victory before getting manhandled next week by the Chargers.

Alrighty, that was fun, huh?  Still awake?  Eh, you didn’t miss much.  Anyways, I won’t be surprised when all four teams I predicted to win go on to lose.

Recap:

Jets over Bengals

Eagles over Cowboys

Packers over Cardinals

Patriots over Ravens

Also, I may as well go out on a limb and make my Super Bowl prediction  before the damn playoffs even begin:

Green Bay 31, San Diego 28

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Atlanta Braves Offseason Outlook

The Braves were an 86 win team in 2009, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.  For 4 months they were a .500 team, anchored by a great pitching staff but inhibited by a toothless lineup.  Despite sitting at .500 with two months to play and being just 5 games out, it never really seemed like they were a contender.  Larry Jones was showing his age, posting his worst OPS in seemingly forever and battling nagging injuries.  The outfield was in shambles, with spring call-up Jordan Schafer’s demotion in May, Garret Anderson proving he was washed up, and Nate McLouth failing to build on his breakout 2008 season.  While they were middle of the pack in runs scored, it sure didn’t seem that way, as they were barely scoring more runs than their crack pitching staff allowed.

 

But in late August, seemingly out of nowhere, Atlanta caught fire.  The Braves went 34-21 between August and September for a .618 winning percentage, easily the best in the NL over that span.  They pulled within 2 games of Colorado for the Wild Card spot after their second seven-game winning streak in September.  All of a sudden, Atlanta wasn’t just a great pitching team, they were the best hitting team in the majors.  Adam Laroche håad just come in from Boston and was having his annual post-all-star break hot streak (hitting .325/.401/.557 as a Brave).  While they fell short (losing their final six games) the late season charge was enough to energize the fanbase and provided a reason for optimism heading into 2010. 

 

In all honesty, Atlanta fans do have something to be optimistic about.  They have a pretty good team that is really only one big bat away from being able to run with Philadelphia in the National League East.  They had the 4th best pitching staff (in terms of runs allowed) in the NL last year, and it figures to be even better this year, and despite their struggles scored the 6th most runs.  Anchored by perhaps the best rotation in baseball and some good positional players, this is a team with a lot of promise heading into 2010.

 

The offense that crippled them for four months is still the biggest problem heading into 2010.  Chipper Jones really showed his age this year, and will be one year older.  Adam Laroche, who put this offense on his shoulders in August and September, is a free agent.  He must be resigned.  He’s a lock for 25 home runs, a .270 average, an .840 OPS, and a monster second half.  Left field is a mystery with Garret Anderson unlikely to return, and right field is below average with Ryan Church.  Kelly Johnson won’t cut it at second base.  Despite all those questions, there’s reason to believe that this will be a better unit next year.  Youngsters Brian McCann and Yunel Escobar should take steps forward, and Martin Prado should be able to step and be an upgrade over Johnson at second.  Matt Diaz had a very good year and should take over in left field.  Between these moves and resigning Laroche they should certainly possess a more-than-competent offense.

 

They still could use one more free agent for the outfield, allowing prospects Jordan Schafer and Jason Heyward one more year of seasoning.  They’ll likely stay away from the marquee free agents like Matt Holliday and Jason Bay because of the exorbitant cost.  Johnny Damon would be a good fit but the Braves would be hesitant to sign him because of his type A status (which would cost them a draft pick).  On the other hand, 37-year-old center fielder Mike Cameron would be a perfect fit for this team.  Because of his age he wouldn’t be in a position to demand more than a two-year deal, which means he’d be allowed to walk around the same time Atlanta’s prospects are ready.  Not only is he a type-B free agent so he wouldn’t cost them a draft pick, but he still plays terrific defense in Center Field and hits well enough to be a good value.  That would allow Nate McLouth and his terrible defense to slide over to a corner outfield spot.  (Yes, I know he won a gold glove.  So did Bobby Abreu.)  Cameron would bring a little bit of offense and a lotta bit of defense, and really every team in need of a center field should be giving him a look.

 

Atlanta’s starting pitching was as good as any in baseball last year, and it stands to be even better in 2010.  The Braves will get full years from phenom Tommy Hanson (who was called up in June) and Tim Hudson (who missed the first five months of 2009 recovering from Tommy John surgery).  While Jair Jurrjens is likely to regress to an ERA in the mid-3s, Derek Lowe will likely perform better.  On top of all that talent, they have as much depth as anyone, with spare back-of-the-rotation type starters Kenshin Kawakami and Jo-Jo Reyes. (do they have any pitchers will normal names?) likely to pitch out of the pen.  Atlanta is equipped to cope with a potential rash of injuries, which can be just as important as frontline talent.

 

In fact, their very embarrassment of riches may very well be used to acquire some hitting.  GM Frank Wren has stated that either Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez (his two most expensive starters) may be dealt.  Let’s face it; Atlanta will have a great pitching staff even if they remove one of their starters.  However, if some package centered on one of their starters nets them a dynamic hitter then it’s a move they need to make.  While I’ve previously stated that Milwaukee should absolutely hold on to Prince Fielder, he may very well be made available.  I don’t know if Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin would consider Vazquez enough in return for a man who hit 46 home runs last year, but both are only signed for 1 year.  It’d be interesting regardless, and Wren should certainly approach Melvin to see what it would take.  Mike Rizzo, who took over for Jim Bowden as Nationals’ GM, likely understands the sad state his franchise is in (certainly better than Bowden did).   Perhaps Josh Willingham or Adam Dunn will be made available?  (Assuming the Braves don’t resign Laroche, because you simply can’t start Dunn in the outfield.  He’s comically bad defensively out there).   

 

On the other hand, the bullpen is a concern.  Atlanta was lucky enough to have two closer-caliber relievers (Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez), but both of them are free agents this winter.  Fortunately, the Braves still have plenty of quality arms in the pen, so it won’t need to be totally overhauled.  Kris Medlen and Peter Moylan are both terrific relievers, and they have enough spare starters to at least be able to absorb some innings.  Wren needs to bring in some good arms to complement what they already have in order to turn this pen into an elite unit once again.  There are plenty of solid relief options out there, and no team should waste the money or prospects to sign someone with “closer experience.”  Two or three solid vets and preferably one with electric stuff (Takashi Saito, anyone?) is all that this pen really needs.

 

In short, Atlanta needs to acquire one big bat and add a few bullpen arms to seriously challenge Philadelphia in the NL East.

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Back in my day, we played baseball on the diamond

…and not on those damned computer screens. Ah, fantasy baseball, how I miss thee. The fantasy baseball season has done bone for almost two months now and already I’m aching to start drafting again. I enjoy few things more than playing pretend GM, so the end of fantasy baseball leaves a large void in my life- one that can only be filled by black tar heroin and the scalps of infants. Fantasy hockey has never really done it for me and I’ve never been an NBA fan (although that is slowly changing despite the increasing irrelevance of the 76ers). I love fantasy football, but it really only requires you to check you roster twice a week (Sunday morning and right before the waiver deadline). It doesn’t quite quench my immense thirst for fantasy sports domination, at least not on a daily basis. Therefore, to scratch my itch for fantasy baseball, I present to you my 2009 Fantasy Baseball Awards. Please note that these awards are primarily subjective, although if I say that a player is the best at his position, I am likely referring to their ranking on the ESPN player rater. It’s not perfect but at least it’s fair and objective.

Silver Slugger Award: This award goes to the best individual player at every position.

Catcher: Joe Mauer. I never draft a catcher before round 10 in drafts. Catchers get injured too early, they post stats equitable to mid-tier corner infielders but go 10 rounds earlier, and solid catching options are still around in the mid-teen rounds. Next year I am willing to draft Joe Mauer with a top-5 pick.
1st Base: Albert Pujols. Who else did you expect?
2nd Base: Chase Utley. He was already the best 2nd baseman in the game and then he set a career high in stolen bases.
3rd base: Mark Reynolds. Yes, he was the best third baseman in fantasy baseball this year. He led all third basemen in homers, was third in RBI and steals, 6th in runs, and didn’t kill your average. Not bad for a man who may have been Mr. Irrelevant in your draft.
Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez. Was actually a bit of a disappointment by only hitting 24 home runs alongside his 27 steals. Most would call that a career year. He is still the best bet to go 30-30 among any player in the game, and might be the only player capable of winning a batting title while doing it.
Outfield: 1.) Carl Crawford. Really slowed down in the 2nd half but you’ll take 60 steals and a .300 average in the 3rd round.
2.) Ryan Braun. Who else can hit .300 with 30+ homers and 20 steals?
3.) Matt Kemp. Oh, right, this guy can too. Crazy that he’s still only 25.

Gold Glove. Uh, right, my bad, forgot this wasn’t actual baseball. Only FELT like my players were playing to win my league.

Rolaids Relief Pitcher: Mariano Rivera. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see the best reliever of all time pocketing this award. If you take out fluke vulture wins that boosted Nathan and Broxton past him on the player rater, he was the most valuable reliever in fantasy. He collected the 3rd most saves alongside the 3rd best era and 2nd best WHIP among closers. Honorable mention: Joe Nathan, Jonathan Broxton, Andrew Bailey.

Rookie of the Year: Okay I know there’s only one in real life but I’m separating it for hitters and pitchers. Suck it Bud Selig.

Hitter: Andrew McCutchen. Gave you Shane Victorino-esque numbers in half a season. Honorable mention: Garrett Jones, Chris Coghlan, Gordon Beckham.

Pitcher: J.A. Happ. Tommy Hanson came close, but Happ’s significant innings pitched advantage push him over the top. 166 innings of 2.93 ERA/ 1.23 WHIP ball is better than 127.2 innings of 2.89 ERA/ 1.18 ball. Hanson is better and is the smarter play next year, but Happ helped his fantasy owners more this year. Honorable Mention: Randy Wells, Scott Feldman.

Blue Light Special Award. This award goes to the sleeper who was taken late in drafts as a flier who panned out and became a critical asset to his owners’ teams.

Blue Light Special Award, Hitter: Mark Reynolds. He was owned in every (competitive and intelligent) league because of his big power and solid speed (well, propensity to run, anyway), but he was taken so late because of the terrible average he’s carried throughout his career. He followed through on the power and speed, tallying 44 homers and 24 steals, but the average came along as well as he hit .260. Just goes to show that we managers are more scared of a bad average than any other stat. Honorable Mention:

Blue Light Special Award, Pitcher: Jair Jurrjens. This is a guy who was drafted as a fill-out-my-rotation-with-somebody-who-doesn’t-suck type pitcher in most leagues and provided his owners with a 2.60 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 152 strikeouts and 14 wins. Many took him because they thought he could build on a solid 2008, but he did more than anyone could have predicted. Honorable Mention: Ubaldo Jiminez

Waiver Pickup of the Year Award: These awards go to the hitter and pitcher who went primarily undrafted and became must-own pieces by the end of the season. Again, I stress undrafted. Sleepers are drafted, waiver pick-ups aren’t.

Waiver Pickup of the Year Award, Hitter: Garrett Jones. If you had known he would hit 21 home runs, steal ten bases, and tally an average right under .300, you probably would have drafted him around the 12th round. He did that in half a season. He may be a fluke, and he may disappoint those who own him next year, but think of all the owners who were desperate for power in July, noticed a player they had never heard of had 5 home runs in the last week, picked him up, and got 15 free bombs. Honorable Mention: Russell Branyan (Actually, he probably should have won. Who votes for these, anyway?)

Waiver Pickup of the Year Award, Pitcher: Wandy Rodriguez. A few shrewd owners may have drafted him after noticing that his ERA had decreased for the past 2 seasons, as did his walk rate, while his strikeout rate rose. They pointed at his home ERA, which sat below 4, and declared that he had the talent to be a very good pitcher. The rest of us pointed out that he was 30, unproven, and named Wandy. What’d he do? Provide his owners with 205 innings of 3.02 ERA baseball with a 1.24 WHIP and 193 strikeouts and 14 wins. If he wasn’t owned in your league by April 30th you should have left your league. Honorable Mention: Randy Wolf, Scott Feldman, J.A. Happ, Randy Wells, and Joel Piniero

Comeback Player of the Year: The award goes to the player who best returned to their former glory after a year or more of fantasy uselessness.

Hitter: Derrek Lee. I could say Carl Crawford, but his 2008 (while disappointing) wasn’t terrible. Plus I gave him a Silver Slugger. I guess it’s not really fair that I give it to Lee, seeing as his last 2 years haven’t been terrible, but the difference is that Crawford merely battled an injury that hurt his production while Lee simply declined. Just 3 years ago Lee was considered an elite 1st baseman, being a lock for 30+ homers, a good average that often topped .300, and double digit steals. In 2005 he hit 45 homers alongside a .335 average. Coming into 2009 he had 42 homers between the last two seasons combined. He had fallen into the “steady but boring vet who you’ll likely package away in a trade for pitching tier.” In 2009? He gave you a .305 average with 35 homers and over 100 RBIs. He’s now back in the top tier of first baseman who aren’t Albert Pujols. Honorable Mention: Robinson Cano, Troy Tulowitzki (again I don’t usually give it to players who simply had injuries), Victor Martinez, Derek Jeter.

Pitcher: Justin Verlander. My first instinct was to give it to Chris Carpenter, but he never really struggled, he was just out with an injury. Maybe I should make an award for guys who bounce back from injuries? (Stay tuned for this). My second was to give it to Javier Vazquez, but for as long as he’s been around he was never really this good before. Verlander, on the other hand, was once very good, young, and promising, but truly struggled last year. By the end of April many owners simply dropped him. Fools! From then on he posted an ERA just below 3 with 18 wins and at least 950 strikeouts.

Breakout Player of the Year Award: Awarded to a player with immense expectations who does the best job of establishing himself as one of the best young hitters in the game.

Hitter: Justin Upton. Really, what can you say about the guy. He hit .300 with 26 bombs and 20 steals…at age 21. He’s already a top-of-the line outfielder. Saddled with huge expectations and even more potential, Upton was supposed to have a breakout season eventually, but it came about 2 years before everyone honestly expected it. Others: Adam Lind, Ben Zobrist, Michael Bourn, Kendry Morales.

Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw. There are always countless young pitchers expected to be the next big thing who go 3 rounds too early in March because of their potential. David Price was bleh this year and was expected to be great. Tommy Hanson pitched phenomenally but wasn’t called up until June. Joba Champberlain couldn’t even stay in the rotation. Kershaw, however, delivered. 171 innings. 185 punchouts. 2.79 ERA, and a 1.23 WHIP. Sure he only got 8 wins, I guess, but those numbers overall are great. He still walks too many but he’s still a fantastic pitcher (who is still so far from their prime it’s scary to imagine how good he may become).

Biggest Draft Bust Award: Goes to the player who posted the highest negative disparity between their draft position and their actual value.

Hitter: This was not a good year to be a first round pick. David Wright forgot how to hit homers and got concussed. Jose Reyes blew a hammy. Grady Sizemore battled injuries. Josh Hamilton missed half the year and was likely more productive on the DL. Jimmy Rollins had an on-base percentage of .296. I don’t want to say the first four because they could use injuries as a crutch, and I didn’t think Jimmy Rollins was a first round pick even in February. Really any of them are good picks, but I’m going to pick someone totally else entirely: B.J. Upton. A second round pick with a world of upside finished as the 117th best player according to the player rater. He did enter the year with some concerns around some lingering injuries, but dreams of him mashing 25 homers and swiping 40 bases (which he did) were too much for owners to resist him. Instead, he hit 11 homers with a .241 average, and no runs at all for a top-of-the-order player. He might come cheap next year but that’s little consolation for those who drafted him this year.

Pitcher: Brandon Webb. 4 innings. 13.50 ERA. 2.0 WHIP. And you drafted him in the 4th round.

Russian Roulette Award: Goes to a player who was a clear injury risk but stayed healthy and delivered a great season.

Hitter: Alex Rodriguez. He fell to the 3rd or 4th rounds in most drafts because of his hip surgery and delivered 30 homers, a solid average, some steals, and a significant number of runs and ribbies. Imagine all the owners who drafted Rodriguez, realized around round 20 that they needed a stopgap third baseman for April, then drafted Mark Reynolds.

Pitcher: Chris Carpenter. He hadn’t pitched in seemingly forever after having multiple elbow surgeries but returned with a vengeance this year, notching a 2.24 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 17 wins and 144 strikeouts. In short, he gave his worried owners a Cy Young Caliber pitcher with their 15th-round draft pick.

Fantasy Baseball MVP: Albert Pujols. He’s as consistent as they come. A lock for a .320+ average, 35+ homers, 100+ RBI and runs, and is now even tallying double digit steals. He’s simply the best player in baseball, be it real life or fantasy. A case can be made for Hanley because he’s a shortstop, but I’ve never been a huge fan of the positional scarcity argument. Besides, Pujols is as far above and beyond the second-best first baseman as Hanley is above the second best shortstop, if not more.

Fantasy Baseball Cy Young: Zach Greinke/ When you’re 7th among starters in innings, 3rd in strikeouts, 9th in wins, and 1st in ERA, and 6th in WHIP, yeah, you get the Cy Young Award. His closest competitors were either too far behind in ERA and wins (Lincecum, Haren, Hernandez) or strikeouts (Carpenter, Halladay) to really be considered. If you were lucky enough to draft him in round 8 like I did then you likely were a contender. it’s just a shame he plays for Kansas City because I really don’t think many people realize just how good he was this year.  Someday down the line, this will be considered one of the greatest seasons by a pitcher ever.

Alrighty folks, that’s all I got for yas.  Come back before March because I’ll likely have plenty to say about the upcoming Fantasy Baseball Season.  Oh, and the actual baseball season as well.  Until then, please enjoy my hastily created offseason outlooks.

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Milwaukee Brewers offseason outlook

Milwaukee is a team that really intrigues me. They just missed the playoffs this year but have reason to be optimistic because they play in a very winnable NL Central. They have one of the best young cores in the game upon which to build, but their best player is a free agent after 2010. And as a small market franchise, they don’t have much money to retool with. They could do so many different things this offseason that they’re almost impossible to predict.

All of their options will depend on what they do with Prince Fielder. The team has plenty of young talent in Ryan Braun, Yovanni Gallardo [no sic], Rickie Weeks, etc., but that lineup runs through Prince Fielder. Subtract his 46 home runs and 1.014 OPS from Milwaukee and the lineup gets real shallow. Many think that he should be traded for young major-league ready pitching, and there were rumors that the light-hitting Giants were interested in a package centered on youngster Matt Cain for Fielder. While Cain is certainly one of the best young pitchers in the game, Fielder is more valuable (at least for this season; that may be offset by the fact that he’s cheaper and under team control for two more years compared to Fielder’s one). Great hitters are more valuable than great pitchers. It’d be an intriguing deal, but it’s unlikely to come to fruition. If they we to trade away Fielder it’d likely be for prospects, and it’d be an admission by the front office that 2010 will be over before it begins.

 

So let’s assume they hang on to Fielder for this season and try to win the NL Central. For one thing, as weak as the division is, they might not have to do much. For one thing, the division champion Cardinals are likely going to lose Matt Holliday and Joel Piniero, and their rotation and bullpen will likely suffer some regression. The Cubs may be a bit better if Aramis Ramirez and Geovany Soto get healthy, but Soriano looks washed up and they’ll likely lose Rich Harden. The Astros and Pirates are non-contenders and as good as the Reds core group is, they’re not operated efficiently enough to get over the hump. A team anchored by Fielder, Braun, and Gallardo really only needs a solid supporting cast to be a contender, especially in this division. The offense is fine; Fielder and Braun can carry any lineup, and Rickie Weeks, Mat Gamel, and Casey McGehee will all contribute enough. The Brew Crew scored the 4th most runs in the NL last year. Hitting isn’t the problem. This is a team that needs more pitching.

 

A 24-year-old Yovanni Gallardo isn’t a bad way to start the rotation, but he really needs to cut down on his walks to realize his potential. Trevor Hoffman seems to have found new life in Milwaukee and there’s no one better to anchor the bullpen than the all-time leader in saves. Beyond that, the pitching is pretty much atrocious. As a small market franchise it will be tough to make a bid for most free agents, so most of the talent they acquire will have to be via trade. Unfortunately, they just traded their biggest trade chip, J.J. Hardy. The 26-year-old combined slick fielding with some power to be one of the best shortstops in the game, his disappointing 2009 season aside. The Brewers basically gave him away to the Twins, receiving only Carlos Gomez in return. Gomez is a great defensive center fielder, and while he is still young, he’s never really flashed much promise as a hitter (.638 career OPS…). The Brewers got fleeced, although it does allow them to let free agent Mike Cameron walk and use his money elsewhere. I maintain that swapping Hardy for a promising young pitcher made more sense.

 

Fortunately for Milwaukee and other small market franchises, this free agent class is loaded with plenty of starters whose value is far below what it should be because of injuries. Erik Bedard, John Smoltz, Rich Harden, Justin Duchscherer, Pedro Martinez, Brett Myers, and former Brewer Ben Sheets. All have spent plenty of time as top of the rotation stars but have also acquired the injury prone tag, which will greatly reduce the price tag they’ll command. That will play right into Milwaukee’s hand, because they’ll be able to take a chance on a good pitcher for far less cash than they’d have to spend otherwise. Ben Sheets is an interesting option. He spent all of 2008 on the DL with elbow issues, which is always a red flag, but he has spent his entire career in Milwaukee and his bargaining power couldn’t be any lower. Would he accept an incentive-based one year deal with his former team to try and reestablish his market value and make a play for free agency in 2011? It could work out well for both sides- Milwaukee nabs a front of the rotation starter on the cheap and Sheets gets a chance to prove his worth. Brett Myers is another intriguing option. He’s never achieved his potential, but he reeled off two consecutive good seasons as a starter from 2005-2006 and can eat innings. Bedard and the Duke likely won’t stay healthy all year -if they’re even healthy by April 1st- but if the Brewers could even get 100 solid innings out of them it would have to be considered a win. Pedro and Smoltz are both question marks for both their age and health, but they flashed their former brilliance at points this year. I’d shoot for Sheets first, followed by Harden, Myers, and Bedard. For Milwaukee to revamp its rotation, one of these pitchers will have to become a Brewer and put together a healthy season.

 

The bullpen is the easiest facet of a team to overhaul, because relievers are almost always cheap. If I’m GM Doug Melvin I’m staying away from closers for a few reasons. For one, your pen is already anchored by Trevor Hoffman, who is as good as ever. They are paid far too much for a pitcher who will likely only throw 60 innings, and most have the type-A status as a free agent- meaning Milwaukee would forfeit their 2010 first round draft pick to sign one. Fernando Rodney is an interesting option. He’s 32 and never had good command (career BB/9 of 4.64) but he throws as hard as anyone. In the National league, that alone may make him an above-average reliever that can be had for relatively cheap. Chad Bradford is another interesting name; the submarine pitcher is coming off an injury-plagued year but has always posted great ground ball rates with good command, which could make him a fantastic middle reliever. He can’t blow batters away, but a guy who doesn’t give up home runs or walks is a very valuable pitcher. If the Phillies are foolish enough to let Chan Ho Park walk, he could be a steal for Milwaukee  (assuming they keep him in the pen). He posted an era of 3.3 as a reliever through the past two seasons and only 2.52 this year. He’s ineffective as a starter but lights out coming out of the pen, and has a rubber arm as well. If the Brewers can add a few solid arms to their pen to compliment Hoffman and a solid starter or two then they could have a pitching staff that might be enough to get them to October. With Prince Fielder just a year away from free agency, they don’t have any time to wait.

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