Comparing the mega-teams from LA

December 17, 2012

> Following the 2011 season, Los Angeles was not in a good state as far as the sport of baseball goes. The Angels and Dodgers hadn’t reached the postseason in 2010 or 2011, posting some of their worst seasons in decades (by their standards). The Angels were struggling to find any offensive consistency to back their decent starting pitching. The Dodgers were having similar issues, but their problems extended off the field as well, as Frank McCourt left them bankrupt.

I don’t think the Dodgers were expecting to contend in 2012 (at least early on) because of where they were financially, but their one huge move was giving Matt Kemp an eight-year, $160 million deal following his MVP-caliber campaign in 2011. The Angels, however, made themselves early favorites for the World Series by signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million deal, and C.J. Wilson to a five-year, $77.5 million deal.

Fast-forward to the 2012 offseason- following yet another season in which neither of these teams made the postseason- and a lot has changed. The Dodgers are nowhere near bankrupt; in fact, they’re the polar opposite, thanks to Magic Johnson and Co. The Angels are in the same position they were last year, but if they don’t make the postseason this time around, there’s something very wrong.

Anyway, let’s take a look at each of these teams from every angle- the lineup, the rotation, the bullpen, and so on. Both of them are considered near locks for the playoffs, but one has to be better than the other, right?

THE LINEUPS

Angels: 

1. Mike Trout, CF
2. Erick Aybar, SS
3. Albert Pujols, 1B
4. Josh Hamilton, RF
5. Mark Trumbo, LF
6. Kendrys Morales, DH
7. Howie Kendrick, 2B
8. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
9. Chris Iannetta, C

Dodgers: 

1. Mark Ellis, 2B
2. Luis Cruz, 3B
3. Matt Kemp, CF
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
5. Hanley Ramirez, SS
6. Andre Ethier, RF
7. Jerry Hairston Jr., LF
8. A.J. Ellis, C
9. Pitcher

OK, first off, Hairston isn’t going to start the entire season. Once Carl Crawford returns from the disabled list, he’ll take Hairston’s spot, and that’ll change the whole culture of the lineup (many project Crawford to hit second). But, until Crawford comes back- which will probably sometime in late May- that’s what I’m guessing the Dodgers’ lineup will look like.

Anyway, those are both powerhouse lineups. The each feature possibly the best 3-4-5-6 combos in their respective league in Pujols-Hamilton-Trumbo-Morales and Kemp-Gonzalez-Ramirez-Ethier. It’s hard to say which is really better than the other; both are going to be very exciting to watch. While I think the Angels’ lineup might be the more exciting with three perennial MVP candidates in Trout, Pujols, and Hamilton, I think the Dodgers have the overall better lineup. The reason I say this is because there are more experienced hitters in the Dodgers lineup, and by experienced, I mean hitters that you know what you’re going to get from them. Kemp, A-Gon, Ramirez, and Ethier aren’t necessarily “veterans” yet, but they’ve certainly been around the block a few times and have shown they can produce consistently at the big league level from year to year. The Angels definitely have that experience in Pujols and Hamilton, but they have a lot of younger, inexperienced hitters who I think we need to see more from. There’s no denying that Trout had the best offensive rookie season in quite some time, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to be susceptible to a sophomore slump. Trumbo hit over .300 for the most of the season last year, but then flamed out for the last two months and fell to a .268 average.

I think if everyone in the Angels’ lineup performs to their ability (and that includes Kendrick, who everyone thought was going to be a batting champion one day), then they’ll have the better lineup. But until that happens, I’d put my money on the Dodgers’ lineup, especially once Crawford gets back.

Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp

THE ROTATIONS

Angels: 

1. Jered Weaver
2. C.J. Wilson
3. Tommy Hanson
4. Joe Blanton
5. Garrett Richards

Dodgers

1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Zack Greinke
3. Chad Billingsley
4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
5. Josh Beckett

Coming into this offseason, both teams wanted to improve their starting rotations, and I think each did. However, I think the Angels losing Greinke really hurt them. I also wasn’t in complete agreement with them just giving up on Dan Haren and Ervin Santana; I really wonder if they’re going to get what they could have gotten from those two from Hanson and Blanton. And Richards is going to be good somewhere down the road, but I’m not so sure he’s ready for a full-time rotation spot. There are even some question marks surrounding Wilson, who had a terrible second half for the Angels in 2012. Weaver is no doubt the ace, but health is a bit of a concern with him; same goes for Hanson.

To me, the Dodgers obviously have the better rotation, even though there are a few enigmas in theirs as well. Kershaw/Greinke is one- if not the best- 1-2 punches in baseball, and they get to throw half of their games at the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. After Kershaw and Greinke, however, there are a few questions. Billingsley can be an All-Star caliber pitcher when he’s on, but that isn’t always the case. Perhaps not having the pressure of being a #2 starter will help him. Anyway, the 4-5 spots in the Dodgers’ rotation should go to Ryu and Beckett, in my opinion. The Dodgers also have veterans Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano, and Aaron Harang, all of whom are capable of starting, but I think Ryu and Beckett will give them better results than any of the other two.

Clayton Kershaw

It’s evident that both of these teams will have to back up their rotations with those huge lineups, but I think the Dodgers are better off starter-wise.

THE ‘PENS 

(NOTE: I only put the six guys who I thought were guaranteed spots. There are probably going to be a few other long relievers in each bullpen>)

Angels: 

Ryan Madson
Ernesto Frieri
Scott Downs
Sean Burnett
Kevin Jepsen
Jerome Williams

Dodgers: 

Brandon League
Kenley Jansen
Ronald Belisario
Scott Elbert
Matt Guerrier
Javy Guerra

This is actually the one category in which I think the Angels are better off. There’s only one guy that I think the Dodgers can count on to be consistent, and that’s Jansen. The rest of the guys- including League, who they named their closer and threw $22 million at- have had up-and-down careers.

The Angels, on the other hand, have a nice mix of young flamethrowers and veteran guys who know how to pitch. I loved the Madson pick-up; I expect him to have a good year even though he missed all of 2012. Frieri can also close if need be. Then they have a great tandem of lefties in Downs and Burnett. This has the makings of a great bullpen for the Angels.

Frieri

These are both going to be very exciting teams to watch, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we saw an LA vs. LA World Series (though it never seems to work out that way). I think the Dodgers have the slight edge, but that’s not to put a damper on the team the Angels are going to field.

> The Phillies signed Mike Adams to a two-year, $12 million deal (plus a vesting option for a third year), so that puts to bed any rumors that spoke of his possible return to Milwaukee. But Doug Melvin probably wouldn’t have been willing to give him $6 million a year anyway.

> The Mets are being the Mets once again, as they have a deal in place to send the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner- R.A. Dickey- to the Blue Jays in a seven-player deal. The deal also includes Josh Thole and another prospect going to the Jays along with Dickey, while the Mets are getting back Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, John Buck, and a prospect.

I’m starting to wonder why the Mets gave an extension to David Wright if this is what they intended to do all along, but that’s their screwed-up organization for you. But I like the deal for the Blue Jays. They may have hurt themselves in the long run, but they’re making themselves favorites for the AL East next year. They’ve assembled a pretty nice rotation in Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Brandon Morrow, and Ricky Romero, all of whom have been considered aces at some point in their careers.

> Minor moves: 

Phillies: Signed John Lannan to a one-year deal.
Marlins: Signed Jonathan Albaladejo and Ed Lucas to minor league deals.
Giants: Signed Javier Herrera to a minor league deal.
Twins: Signed Mike Pelfrey to a one-year deal.

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Hamilton, Dempster wiped off the market

December 15, 2012

> For the second straight offseason, the Angels have picked up the best hitter on the market with a sneaky deal that no one saw coming. Following a year in which they gave Albert Pujols a 10-year, $254 million deal, they handed out another huge contract to Josh Hamilton, this one for five years and $175 million. 

If you told me you saw this coming, I’d call you a liar. Their outfield seemed set with Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, and Peter Bourjos, a young core that could last them a long time. But, much to the chagrin of their division rival Rangers, they went out and stole the best free agent on the market, and will insert Hamilton into one of those outfield slots (likely Bourjos’).

It was speculated all offseason that the Brewers had interest in Hamilton, and there were articles as recent as December 6th saying that Milwaukee would make a run at him. But, realistically, the Brewers were never going to get him, especially at his price tag.

Anyway, the Angels’ lineup now looks something like this: Trout, Erick Aybar, Pujols, Hamilton, Kendrys Morales, Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo, and Chris Iannetta.

Looks like Los Angeles is the new New York.

Hamilton

> The Brewers’ top starting starting pitching target, Ryan Dempster, was also taken away, as the Red Sox wooed him with a two-year, $26.5 million deal. Apparently, the Brewers were willing to give Dempster two years plus an option for a third, but they didn’t come close to what Boston was offering cash-wise. Anyway, I don’t see Dempster doing well in the American League after what he did for the Rangers last year, but that was his choice.

With Dempster off the market, the likelihood of the Brewers bringing in a free agent starter this offseason decreased by a lot. The rest of the crop is either too Jeff Suppan-like or won’t fit the Brewers financial situation. The next best option after Dempster would be Edwin Jackson, but that would only happen if he would be willing to take a one-year or two-year deal. If the reports of Jackson wanting a four or five-year deal are true, then the odds of him coming to Milwaukee aren’t very good.

But, as I’ve been saying, it isn’t the end of the world if the Brewers don’t bring in a new starter for 2013. I’m completely fine with them staying in-house and using the prospects who are big league-ready. If that is the case, the ideal rotation for the Brewers would be Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson, Wily Peralta, and Mike Fiers. While that seems like a relatively inexperienced rotation to someone who doesn’t watch the Brewers everyday, I think the Brewers will get by, especially with the best offensive lineup in the National League backing them up.

> One more major signing: the Tigers finalized a deal with Anibal Sanchez, who nearly went to the Cubs, this morning. The Cubs reportedly had a five-year, $75 million deal in place with Sanchez as recent as last night, but the Tigers were given the opportunity to counter the offer, and wound up getting him back.

Sanchez was one of the starters who the Brewers probably wouldn’t have been able to afford, but at least it’s good that the division rival Cubs won’t get him.

> Doug Melvin basically said that he doesn’t want Shaun Marcum back.

> The Brewers have been linked to Mike Adams, one of the better relievers on the market, recently. But Tom Haudricourt considers them out of the hunt for him. Adams started his career with the Brewers, pitching for them from 2004 to 2006.

> Long-time Brewers farmhand Amaury Rivas has signed a minor league deal with the Marlins. He was always one of my favorite minor league pitchers for the Brewers, but I figured he’d be gone at some point.

> Minor moves: 

Rangers: Signed Brandon Snyder to a minor league deal; outrighted Konrad Schmidt to Triple-A.
Padres: Signed Juan Oramas, Sean O’Sullivan, Gregorio Petit, and Rene Rivera to minor league deals; acquired Chris Rearick from the Rays.
Twins: Signed ex-Brewer Brandon Boggs, Ray Olmedo, Bryan Augenstein, Reynaldo Rodriguez, Scott Earlton, Virgil Vasquez, Mike O’Connor, and Jason Lane to minor league deals.
Giants: Signed Andres Torres to a one-year deal; signed Chad Gaudin to a minor league deal.
Braves: Signed Ramiro Pena to a one-year deal.
Rockies: Signed Tommy Manzella to a minor league deal.
Mets: Re-signed Manny Acosta to a one-year deal.
Yankees: Signed Bobby Wilson and Gil Velasquez to minor league deals; designated Josh Spence for assignment.
Cardinals: Signed Alex Reyes to a minor league deal; signed Ty Wigginton to a two-year deal.
Nationals: Signed Neivy Pilier and Brian Bocock to minor league deals.
Rays: Acquired Vince Belnome from the Padres.
Phillies: Signed Andres Blanco, Josh Fields, Cesar Jimenez, Steven Lerud, Michael Martinez, Zach Miner, Jermaine Mitchell, Pete Orr, and Humberto Quintero to minor league deals; claimed Mauricio Robles off waivers from the Mariners.
Royals: Signed Xavier Nady to a minor league deal.


Recapping the Division Series to this point

October 9, 2012

> I’ve been busy the past few days, and there hasn’t been much Brewers news to report. But, seeing as we’re already into the third day of the Division Series, let’s jump right into some postseason coverage.

POSTSEASON COVERAGE

> A day after Justin Verlander’s 11-strikeout, 121-pitch adventure, the Tigers defeated the Athletics, 5-4, to take a 2-0 ALDS lead. It was a back-and-forth game with some shoddy defense on both sides, but ex-Brewer Grant Balfour finally gave in at the end, allowing a walk-off sacrifice fly from Don Kelly.

> Bronson Arroyo and the Reds dominated the Giants last night, shutting them down 9-0. Arroyo took a perfect game into the fifth, and finished with seven one-hit innings. He was backed by his offense, who crushed Madison Bumgarner and the Giants’ bullpen army. Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, and Ryan Hanigan each had multi-hit days.

> The Cardinals-Nationals series started yesterday, and the Nats came out on top after take advantage of a later error by the Cards. Despite Adam Wainwright’s 10-strikeout game, Tyler Moore’s two-run single in the eighth was the decisive factor.

However, the Cardinals stormed back today with a 12-run outburst, including two home runs from Carlos Beltran.

> The Yankees rode a five-run pummeling of Jim Johnson in the ninth inning last night to a 7-2 win over the Orioles. The ninth inning rally started with a home run from Russell Martin. Former Brewer CC Sabathia nearly went the distance, but was pulled with two outs in the ninth.

The O’s-Yanks game is still in progress right now, but the Orioles are winning 3-2 after 6 1/3 stellar innings from Wei-Yin Chen.

THE NEWS

> A few managerial updates- some surprising, some not so much. The Indians hired Terry Francona, the Red Sox fired Bobby Valentine, and Jim Tracy resigned his post as Rockies manager.

> The Angels signed catcher Chris Iannetta to a three-year extension.

> Minor moves:

Rays: Released Matt Bush.
Yankees: Designated Cory Wade for assignment.

And that’s about it. This is what the post format is going to look like for the rest of the offseason. Since there won’t always be Brewers news to cover, I have to compensate by reporting news from around the league as well.

THE EXTRAS

> Yesterday, Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque kissed the ball before tossing it to first base to record the final out of the ninth. No joke.

But, of course, something as trivial as this had to turn into a fiasco.


Weeks beats Rox to give K-Rod win in Crew debut

July 17, 2011

11:30p Hearing the phrase “The Brewers won on the road” isn’t very common, but hearing “The Brewers won at Coors Field” is even more uncommon.

Brewers-Rockies Wrap-Up

The Brewers pulled out a great win today against the Rockies, 8-7. It was back-and-forth all game, but in the end, some clutch hitting and bullpen work gave the Crew the win.

The Rockies got on the board first in the second inning, but in a frustrating way. After Brewers starter Zack Greinke gave up a two-out triple to Ian Stewart, catcher Jonathan Lucroy dropped a third strike, then a wild throw to first allowed Stewart to score. Chris Iannetta drove in Dexter Fowler, who reached on the dropped strike, with an RBI double. Jhoulys Chacin would follow with a RBI single to make it 3-0, Rockies. None of these runs were charged to Greinke, however. Greinke would exit after six innings. He gave up three runs (none earned) on five hits while walking two and striking out eight. This was the first time this season that Greinke did not give up an earned run during a start.

The Brewers finally got to Chacin in the fifth. After Chacin walked Greinke on four pitches, Corey Hart hit a frozen rope line drive homer to cut the deficit to 3-2.

The Brewers also got to Chacin in the seventh, when he ran into some control issues. Josh Wilson and Lucroy hit back-to-back singles to start the inning, then Craig Counsell, pinch-hitting for Greinke, advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt. Chacin’s night ended after he hit Hart with a pitch to load the bases. Chacin went 6 1/3 innings while giving up five runs on seven hits. He walked one and struck out five.

Matt Reynolds came in in relief of Chacin, but the Brewers got to him as well. Nyjer Morgan laid down a perfect drag bunt to score Wilson. Then, during the same play, first basemen Todd Helton attempted to throw the ball home with his glove, but the ball went over the catcher’s head, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Mark Kotsay followed up with a sac fly to give the Brewers a 5-3 lead.

LaTroy Hawkins came in relief of Greinke, but, after letting the first two batters reach and retiring only one batter, Ron Roenicke decided to go to his bullpen. And who does he call? Kameron Loe.

Loe let both of Hawkins’ runs score and was charged with one to himself, and blew yet another save. This gave the Rockies a 6-5 lead.

The Brewers countered in the eighth, when Yuniesky Betancourt scored on George Kottaras’ RBI groundout to tie the game at 6-6.

In the bottom of the eighth, the long awaited K-Rod debut finally happened. Francisco Rodriguez tossed a scoreless inning in his Brewers debut and worked around a Prince Fielder error. He would get the win, and you’re about to figure out why.

Huston Street was in for the Rockies to try and keep the game tied, but couldn’t do so. After walking Fielder, Rickie Weeks hammered a go-ahead homer to give the Brewers an 8-6 lead.

John Axford came in the bottom of the inning to record his 24th save of the year, despite giving up a run.

K-Rod makes Brewers debut

Rodriguez finally made his Brewers debut today, and did something that the rest of the Brewers’ bullpen has struggled to do- throw a somewhat clean inning. It wasn’t a perfect inning because the worst defensive first baseman in baseball (Fielder) made an error, but Rodriguez worked around it and was eventually rewarded the win.

Anyway, I could get used to seeing innings like this. I can tell just from that one inning today that Rodriguez is going to be our most consistent reliever for the rest of the year.

Street continues to struggle against Brewers

Street’s struggles against the Brewers against the Brewers continued today, as he gave up a go-ahead shot to Weeks in the ninth. Coming into today, Street’s career numbers against the Brewers were 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA.

Braun exits early with more injuries…

Ryan Braun exited the game early today with a calf strain AND a hamstring strain. He hasn’t been running very well all series, so I guess it was bound to happen. Hopefully this doesn’t set him back for too long.

Anyway… I might add more tomorrow. But I’m completely exhausted right now… The only reason I’m awake is because of sheer excitement from the Brewers win.