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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Looking back at the first week of 2011’s offseason

November 7, 2011

> The first week of the 2011 MLB offseason was rather quiet, with none of the top free agents reaching agreements with new teams (or the ones they were already with). But I guess that wasn’t expected. Anyway, despite this, there were a lot of minor moves, with some more significant than others, and later in this article I’ll try to go through every move made. But, before that, there is one Brewers-related piece of news that I should probably share.

> Dale Sveum is going to be interviewed for the Cubs’ managerial vacancy tomorrow. Ugh.

Over the past few days, Sveum has been considered the front-runner to become the new Red Sox manager, but nothing has been confirmed. And now he’s going to have a chance to become the Cubs’ manager, a team he has seen up close and personally for quite a few years now as the Brewers’ hitting coach.

So the reason I said “ugh” earlier is because, no matter who it is, I find it painful to see someone from a team I like leave for a team I hate. For instance, I was crushed a few years back when Brett Favre left the Packers for the Jets, and eventually the Vikings- a team I despise. (That is, until I figured out what a loser Favre was under the surface, but you still get the point.) Anyway, I’d be happy for Sveum no matter where he goes (if he does end up managing), but let me say I’d be much happier if he went to the Red Sox instead of the Cubs.

> But, with that aside, let’s get to all the moves that occurred during this first week of the Hot Stove. I guess I didn’t realize how much I didn’t cover on BreakingWI, but here’s my chance to redeem myself.

> Frank McCourt agreed with MLB to sell the Dodgers, and hopefully put this divorce-bankruptcy crap behind him and the franchise. The Dodgers suffered that for far too long, and hopefully whoever ends up being the team can right that ship.

> The long expected CC Sabathia opt-out never actually happened, as the Yankees managed to retain him by adding an extra year, worth $25 million, to his already-remaining for years on the seven-year deal he signed back in 2008 (after he left the Brewers). So much for that… I was looking forward to him sticking it up the Yankees’… Er, maybe I shouldn’t go there.

> The Indians acquired 15-year veteran starting pitcher Derek Lowe from the Braves. Lowe has definitely been on a decline in recent years, but the Indians hope his veteran presence can anchor their very young rotation.

> The Phillies successfully signed designated hitter Jim Thome to a one-year deal worth $1.225 million. Oh, wait, they’re a National League team… Apparently they expect him to play a little first base and be a power lefty off the bench, but I can’t see this deal working out very well.

> Cards manager Tony La Russa decided to retire after 33 seasons as a Major League manager. He definitely went out on top, that’s for sure…

> Davey Johnson is going to be the Nationals’ manager in 2012 as well, after picking up where Jim Riggleman left off midway through the 2011 season.

> The Giants exercised their option on lefty reliever Jeremy Affeldt, and also signed fellow lefty reliever Javier Lopez to a two-year deal.

> The Dodgers re-signed Juan Rivera to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million after acquiring him from the Blue Jays halfway through the 2011 season.

> The Cubs exercised their half of the option on third baseman Aramis Ramirez, but Ramirez declined his half, thus becoming a free agent.

> The Nationals re-signed starter Chien-Ming Wang to a one-year deal, following three seasons full of injuries- two of which he didn’t even pitch at all. But, before that, he was a dominant starting pitcher for the Yankees.

> The Diamondbacks made a few signings on and off the field, as they locked up shortstop John McDonald with a two-year, $3 million deal, along with a one-year deal worth $1.2 million for catcher Henry Blanco. They also extended GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson, both of whom completely turned around what looked to be another disappointing season coming in.

> The Brewers declined their $17.5 million option on Francisco Rodriguez, which was inherited from the Mets. They also declined a $6 million option on shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt (HOORAY!).

> The Mets pretty much came out and said that they’re not going to be able to retain shortstop Jose Reyes. Not that I’m surprised, but it’s sort of odd that they’d come out and say it like that.

> The Braves have announced that they would trade starter Jair Jurrjens and outfielder/second baseman Martin Prado, if given a good enough deal. Right now, the Royals look like the best destination, at least for Jurrjens.

> The Giants are willing to trade starter Jonathan Sanchez. Not sure who would want that walk-machine, unless they really need starting pitching.

> The Cardinals declined their options  on shortstop Rafael Furcal and reliever Octavio Dotel. That was surprising to some (including me).

> The Red Sox picked up their $6 million option on shortstop Marco Scutaro.

> The Nationals appear to be in the running for starter Roy Oswalt, whose option was declined by the Phillies prior to the World Series.

> It sounds like the Phillies are literally dying for Michael Cuddyer, which means they’ll probably have him. But that would pretty much nullify the Thome deal, because Cuddyer could play a similar role, but is so much more versatile.

> The Diamondbacks declined options on starter Zach Duke, second baseman Aaron Hill, and shortstop Willie Bloomquist, but are probably open to re-signing Hill and Bloomquist.

> The Blue Jays picked up their option on outfielder Edwin Encarnacion, but declined their option on reliever Jon Rauch.

> The Royals picked up their $6 million option on closer Joakim Soria, who is coming off a horrible 2011. But, prior to that, he was one of the top closers in the game.

> The Reds picked up their option on second baseman Brandon Phillips, but declined the option on closer Francisco Cordero.

> The Padres declined options on starter Aaron Harang, reliever Chad Qualls, and first baseman Brad Hawpe. I thought it was interesting that they didn’t pick up Harang’s option, because he actually quietly put up a good season.

> The Rays exercised their option  on starter James Shields and closer Kyle Farnsworth, while declining both of those pitchers’ batterymate, Kelly Shoppach.

> Mariners closer David Aardsma, who did not pitch at all in 2011 due to an injury from 2010, has elected free agency. Whichever team that signs him will probably have to wait until at least June for his services in the Majors, however, as he’s still recovering from the injury.

> The White Sox picked up their option on reliever Jason Frasor, who they acquired from the Blue Jays at the Trade Deadline.

> The Indians exercised their option on starter Fausto Carmona, but declined the option on the injury-plagued center fielder Grady Sizemore.

> The Pirates declined options on catcher Ryan Doumit, shortstop Ronny Cedeno, catcher Chris Snyder, and starter Paul Maholm. I thought they should have kept Maholm at least, because he’s good- just doesn’t get run support. But they can do whatever the want to keep themselves from having their first winning season since 1992, for all I care…

> The Rockies declined their option on starter Aaron Cook. That was definitely expected, as he’s been injury-plagued and ineffective over the past two years.

> Lastly, the Rangers exercised their option on Japanese reliever Yoshinori Tateyama.

Well, that took awhile, but thanks for reading. Feel free to leave thoughts on these moves, if you have any.



Sveum considered front-runner for Sox managerial position

November 5, 2011

> The Brewers could soon be saying their farewells to their long-time hitting coach, Dale Sveum. Sveumer- a nickname he’s earned over the years in Milwaukee- is considered by many sources to be the primary candidate to occupy Boston’s managerial vacancy, which was left by Terry Francona. In my opinion, Francona didn’t need to be fired, but, after a collapse like the Sox had in September, something had to be done.

Anyway, back to Sveum. He was the third base coach for the Red Sox back in 2004- one of their World Series years- and 2005. He actually received a lot of criticism due to the rate of runners, who were sent by him, getting thrown out at home. But that doesn’t faze him, apparently.

After Ned Yost was fired with 12 games left to go in 2008 season, the Brewers’ most recent playoff year before 2011, Sveum took over for those 12 games, and the Brewers went 7-5 under his management. But that’s his only managing experience in the Majors.

I guess I wouldn’t mind Sveum leaving- it wouldn’t kill the Brewers. It’s always tough to tell if a hitting coach is doing his job (unless you’re a fan of a team like the Padres, Mariners, Athletics, and so on), but my biggest question for him, at least in 2011, is this- why couldn’t he get Casey McGehee out of his season-long slump? That’s what hitting coaches are there for. But I guess that wouldn’t matter much in Boston- most of the guys over there can already hit, and Sveum wouldn’t even be the hitting coach.

Anyway, if the rumors are true, goodbye and good luck to Sveum- he had a decent run as the hitting coach over here.

> Apparently Matt Kemp, the Dodgers’ star outfielder who is probably Ryan Braun’s biggest competition for the NL MVP this year, thinks that his team will be able to lure Prince Fielder over to Los Angeles this offseason. Here were his exact words:

“Every team can use another big bat, more offense would help us out. We lost a lot of one-run runs (don’t know if that’s a typo, but it’s what the quote says). One more big bat, we’d be more dangerous. Why not do it?”

To answer his question, “why not do it,” here’s the answer- your team is financially devastated.

I’m sorry, but I can’t see it happening. Sure, Fielder would be a decent fit over there, since James Loney proved his uselessness over the course of the 2011 season. But, the Dodgers aren’t even owned by a specific person or group right now, as the whole Frank McCourt episode just ended. It’s going to take time to recover form that, so I just can’t see any huge signings from the Dodgers- at least not early on this offseason.

Plus, despite the fact Fielder is friends with Kemp, Fielder has had his history of bad blood with the Dodgers. Of course, nobody can forget the time he tried to break into the Dodgers’ clubhouse a few years back after being drilled by ex-Brewer Guillermo Mota (who now pitches for the Giants). And, there was an episode earlier this year in a Spring Training game against the Dodgers, when Fielder charged the mound in defense of his teammate, McGehee.

So that’s my reasoning. I just can’t see it happening, with both the financial situation of the Dodgers, and the bad blood.

> The Brewers are going to have to look for a new radio voice to call games alongside Hall of Famer Bob Uecker. As of yesterday, Cory Provus, Uecker’s companion in the radio booth since 2009, had joined the Twins as their lead radio broadcaster.

I don’t listen to games very often on the radio, unless I don’t have access to a TV. But, I’m going to miss Provus; I thought he did a decent job with the Brewers.

Anyway, as for Uecker, who turns 77 in January, he’s already announced that he’s going to be back in the booth for the 2012 season. Which is a good thing, because I can’t imagine Brewers baseball without him, at least not yet.

> So I heard a rumor from a friend today at school about the Brewers possibly signing Jose Reyes. He said he heard about a five-year, $120 million deal.

No idea where, though. When I got home, I looked all over and couldn’t find any rumor like that anywhere.

I’m guessing he was either making it up, or heard something wrong. First off, it’s too early in the offseason to even be talking about deals of that caliber, especially with the top players in the free agent pool- I expect some of them to be out there for a month, maybe even two.

But, if this rumor does turn out to be true, I certainly wouldn’t have an issue with it.

> Anyway, that’s about all the Brewers news I’ve got. Before I go, here’s the Hot Stove news from today:

> Jim Thome is going back to the Phillies. Wow.

Thome re-joined another one of his former teams, the Indians, last year after a trade from the Twins, and now he’s going back to the Phillies. It’s going to be nostalgic for Phillies fans, obviously. But honestly, what was Ruben Amaro Jr. thinking?

Thome’s primary position has been designated hitter over the past few years. The problem? The Phillies aren’t in the AL. I don’t know what position he’s going to play, other than being a power threat from the left side off the bench. Maybe some first base with Ryan Howard out for the first few months of the season, but note that Thome has only played 28 defensive innings since 2007- and he’s 41.

But hey- they’re the Phillies. They always seem to know what their doing.

> The Orioles still can’t find a GM. Apparently there’s nobody out there willing to take on the task of bringing the term “winning” back to Baltimore. But can you blame them? It would probably take three years, maybe two at the earliest, to get that team back on track and in contention.

> The Blue Jays acquired reliever Trystan Magnuson from the Athletics earlier today. He put up a 6.14 ERA in nine Major League relief appearances this year.

And that’s all. Not much news today, but the Thome signing really caught me off guard. I’m curious to see how that turns out.


Braun, Fielder take home Silver Slugger Awards

November 3, 2011

The Brewers don’t have good defense. That’s why nobody on the Brewers received any of the Gold Glove Awards that were handed out yesterday.

But you can’t argue with the fact that- despite its inconsistency- the Brewers have a rather destructive offense. So, it was fitting that a few Brewers took home the offense-related awards that were handed out today.

Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder both won the 2011 Silver Slugger Award at their respective positions: outfield and first base. It’s the second straight season that they had multiple winners, as Braun also won last year, along with pitcher Yovani Gallardo.

Braun had a career year in multiple categories. He hit 33 home runs with 111 RBIs, and also had a .332 batting average- a new career best for him, and second in the NL in 2011. Braun also led the NL in OPS at .994, and led in slugging percentage at .597. Not to mention this is Braun’s fourth year in a row winning the Silver Slugger Award.

This was Fielder’s second Silver Slugger Award, as he also won in 2007. Fielder winning it this year broke Albert Pujols’ three-year streak of winning the award at first base. Anyway, Fielder hit 38 home runs with a 120 RBIs. He also hit .299, which tied a career-high.

Both of these guys definitely deserved it. I know there are people out there arguing that Pujols or Joey Votto should have won at first base, but Pujols’ injury dampened his chance at winning for the fourth straight year, while Votto just didn’t have as good of a year as Fielder. Anyway, here are all of the winners at each position in the AL and NL:

American League

Catcher: Alex Avila, Tigers

First Base: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox

Second Base: Robinson Cano, Yankees

Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians

Third Base: Adrian Beltre, Rangers

Outfield: Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox; Curtis Granderson, Yankees; Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz, Red Sox

National League

Catcher: Brian McCann, Braves

First Base: Prince Fielder, Brewers

Second Base: Brandon Phillips, Reds

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

Third Base: Aramis Ramirez, Cubs

Outfield: Ryan Braun, Brewers; Matt Kemp, Dodgers; Justin Upton, Diamondbacks

Pitcher: Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks

I think most of these guys were deserving of winning it.

Anyway, before I go, here’s all the Hot Stove news from today:

Cubs manager Mike Quade finally got fired. Newly appointed president of the Cubs, Theo Epstein, flew to Florida to tell Quade personally that he wouldn’t be returning to the Cubs in 2012. In Quade’s only full season with the Cubs, he went 71-91, which obviously wasn’t going to cut it.

Anyway, I guess I didn’t expect this, but it doesn’t appear that Epstein is going to do much screwing around while he’s the president of the Cubs. He wasted no time firing Quade, so we’ll have to wait and see if he’ll make any other surprising moves. (Actually, the Quade move wasn’t very surprising. Never mind.)

Oh, and one more thing related to the Cubs and Epstein- the Cubs and Red Sox still haven’t agreed on compensation for Epstein leaving the Sox with time still left on his contract. At first, the Sox wanted Matt Garza from the Cubs, which was just plain stupid. But now I guess they can’t even agree on a Minor Leaguer.

Frank McCourt agreed to sell the Dodgers today. Apparently, the team is going to be auctioned off.

But it’s about time. I’m not big into the Dodgers, but those fans- and the players themselves- have had to suffer enough under that dink McCourt. A baseball team shouldn’t have to suffer because of the owner’s personal issues (if you didn’t know already, this all started when McCourt and his wife- who was the president of the Dodgers- got divorced).

Anyway, a few other moves- the Nationals are close to re-signing starter Chien-Ming Wang, who has missed the better of the last two years with injuries. Also, John McDonald, a great defensive shortstop, re-signed for two years with Diamondbacks.