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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The Fish had this one coming

November 14, 2012

> This seals the deal: Jeffrey Loria is an idiot. Around this time last year, he got cocky and decided that signing as many big name free agents as possible was the key to winning. So he went out and gave Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell multi-year deals.

A year later, Loria is finding himself dealing away all of these players following a disastrous 2012 season. It was announced today that the Marlins and Blue Jays are in works of a HUGE trade- possibly one of the biggest we’ve ever seen. The Marlins want to send Josh Johnson, Buehrle, Reyes, John Buck, and Emilio Bonifacio- all of whom would have had starting roles at their respective positions in 2013- to the Jays in exchange for minor leaguers/players not nearly the caliber that they’re giving up.

In doing so, the Marlins are dumping about $160 million in payroll- the same number everyone was crediting them for spending last offseason.

As few Marlins fans as there are, I have to wonder it feels like to be one of them right now. I would want Loria run out of town on a rail at this point. Not only is he screwing around with more money than he should be, but he’s messing with his own fans. There are a lot of team owners out there who are accused of not caring about their team’s fanbase, but if there’s one perfect example, it’s Loria. (Keep in mind the Marlins also traded away Hanley Ramirez, Omar Infante, and Anibal Sanchez at the Trade Deadline, and have already traded away Bell this offseason.)

Anyway, as of right now, the Marlins are expecting to receive Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis, Justin Nicolino, Jake Marisnick, and Anthony DeSclafani. Those names are probably subject to change because of all the money being moved in this trade (I have to wonder if this is the most financially lopsided trade in baseball history), however.

> Lost in the trade frenzy was that the Manager of the Year Awards were given today. Davey Johnson won the in the NL; Bob Melvin took it home in the AL.

> The Brewers released their Spring Training schedule.

> Rather, the “Bewers” released their Spring Training schedule. (This is the headline of an email I received from Bleacher Report. The fact that it’s from Bleacher Report should explain this enough.)

> Minor moves: 

Cubs: Signed Scott Baker to a one-year deal (actually a great move for them, in my opinion).
Cardinals: Released Kyle McClellan; signed Rob Johnson to a minor league deal.


Nothing doing for Brewers against JJ

September 6, 2012

POSTGAME

> I missed most of today’s game because I was in school (day games late in the year drive me insane). But, I didn’t miss much, as the Brewers scuffled to do anything in today’s 6-2 loss to the Marlins, forcing them to settle for a split of the four-game series.

Marco Estrada was knocked around a bit. The Marlins tagged him for four runs on seven hits over five innings. That included a very rough first inning, in which Estrada allowed three consecutive hits- two doubles- to Bryan Petersen, Donovan Solano, and Jose Reyes to start the game. The only Brewers runs came on sacrifice flies from Ryan Braun and Norichika Aoki in the third and seventh innings, respectively.

THE NEWS

> Estrada claimed that he “wasn’t ready” for today’s game, saying he lost track of time and to rush through his pregame routine.

“I rushed a little bit. By the time I was done, the game had already started and (Josh) Johnson had a pretty quick inning. It’s my fault, I can’t let things like that happen.”

I don’t know how he “lost track of time,” but, regardless of what happened, it’s pretty inexcusable.

Again, I wasn’t watching today’s game, but looking at the box score, Johnson had a hit batter and a walk in the first inning. Both came without the assistance of a double play, so the inning couldn’t have gone that quickly. But I don’t know. This is one of the stranger excuses I’ve seen.

> Aramis Ramirez was held out of the lineup with a lower back/oblique strain. He was pulled from the game when he was in the on-deck circle for his final at-bat last night.

> A few September call-ups made their season debuts today. Josh Stinson threw a third of an inning, and Logan Schafer got a pinch-hit single following an eight-pitch at-bat in the ninth inning.

THE NUMBERS

> Braun now sits at 99 RBIs on the season.

> No one in the lineup had more than one hit today.

> Match-ups for the upcoming Cardinals series:

Yovani Gallardo (14-8, 3.79 ERA) vs. Kyle Lohse (14-2, 2.81 ERA)

Mike Fiers (8-7, 3.19 ERA) vs. Jake Westbrook (13-10, 3.93 ERA)

Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.53 ERA) vs. Joe Kelly (5-6, 3.54 ERA)

Gallardo- who’s 1-9 with a 7.05 ERA in his career against the Cardinals- is pitching this series. Wouldn’t be surprised to see his ERA sail over 4.00 after that game.


Peralta rewarded with W in first start

September 6, 2012

POSTGAME

> If Wily Peralta had any nerves tonight, they certainly didn’t show, as he was a key to the Brewers’ 8-5 win over the Marlins. He tossed six solid innings, giving up three runs on five hits while walking four and striking out three. Peralta was given more than enough offensive support, with Rickie Weeks slugging two home runs- both two-run shots- while he was in the game.

The bullpen tried to blow it in the seventh, allowing the Marlins to put up a four-spot with RBIs from Greg Dobbs, Bryan Petersen, Donovan Solano, and Jose Reyes. That slimmed the lead to 6-5, but Corey Hart- who also had a two-run blast in this game- buried the Marlins with a two-run double in the ninth.

MY TAKE

> Peralta looked decent tonight, and showed flashes of the ace-type stuff he has. His running fastball was consistently 95-96 MPH, and he touched 98 twice. He hung his slider a few times, but they didn’t hurt him; and when the slider was down in the zone, it was filthy. He didn’t use his change-up much, but did throw one great one to strike out Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth inning. Peralta also reportedly has a curve, but I didn’t see it at all tonight.

THE NEWS

> Aramis Ramirez was in the on-deck circle for his at-bat in the ninth inning, but quickly retreated to the dugout prior to his at-bat. He then disappeared into the clubhouse. It’s still unknown what happened, but it was speculated that he could have been sick. Jonathan Lucroy pinch-hit for him.

> The Brewers called up their second batch of September prospects yesterday: Peralta, Tyler Thornburg, Josh Stinson, and Logan Schafer.

Peralta will take Mark Rogers’ spot in the rotation for likely the rest of the season. Thornburg could see some spot starts here and there, but he’ll be used out of the bullpen for the time being. Stinson, who has seen Major League time with the Mets, went 11-9 with a 3.16 ERA at Double-A; he’ll also likely be used out of the ‘pen. Lastly, Schafer is a highly-touted outfield prospect who we saw a bit of last September.

> Hunter Morris won the Brewers’ Minor League Player of the Year award, and Hiram Burgos won the Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The Brewers have already hinted that Morris won’t be called up, but didn’t rule out the possibility of Burgos seeing big league time this month.

> Alex Gonzalez is ahead of schedule of his rehab from his torn ACL. I guess this has some significance in case Jean Segura and Jeff Bianchi don’t pass the Brewers’ expectations in Spring Training of next year.

THE NUMBERS

> This was Weeks’ first multi-homer game since June of 2010.

> Segura went 0-for-4, lowering his average to .198. He’s been good defensively, but I can’t imagine the Brewers are satisfied with his offense.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Marco Estrada (2-5, 3.85 ERA) vs. Josh Johnson (7-11, 3.86 ERA)

Yes, Estrada has a lower ERA than JJ, somehow.

In personal news, school started for me yesterday. That shouldn’t affect BWI yet, but the work will pile on as the weeks go by. As for the reason there wasn’t an article last night, I was having computer problems I simply didn’t have time to fix. But that’s all cleared up now.


Offense crushes McDonald early

September 3, 2012

POSTGAME

> You could tell from the early innings on that today was going to be a slugfest, and that’s exactly what happened. Thankfully, it came out in favor of the Brewers, who downed the Pirates, 12-8. It was home runs galore, as a grand total of eight of them were hit between the two teams.

The Brewers absolutely murdered James McDonald, tagging him for eight runs (seven earned) in just 2 2/3 innings. Ryan Braun hit a mammoth three-run blast off him in the first inning, then Jeff Bianchi and Rickie Weeks each hit bombs off him in the second (all three were tape-measure shots). Carlos Gomez added one in the third inning, which spelled the end of the day for McDonald.

But the offense wasn’t done after that. Aramis Ramirez added two RBi singles before it was all said and done, and even Yovani Gallardo- the starter- hit a solo blast.

CUTCH DOESN’T DESERVE THE MVP- AT THE MOMENT

> So recently I’ve been preaching that, if the National League MVP award was handed out today, I would not give it to Andrew McCutchen. Today I finally put something on Twitter regarding that, saying that I laugh at the people who were handing him the award two months ago.

Naturally, I received gas for voicing my opinion that, more often than not, differs from others. My main point was that you shouldn’t assume whoever is having the best season in freaking June is going to win the MVP award. But I also wanted to state that McCutchen has been in a bit of a tailspin lately. He was hitting roughly .370 last month, but dropped all the way to the .340 range in August. Like I said, .340 is still great, but people seem to be forgetting that it’s still a drop of .3 in average points, which itself is horrible.

And, not surprisingly, during McCutchen’s drop in average, the Pirates have dropped in the standings. They’re 11 games back of the Reds in the National League Central, and let the Cardinals pass them in both the division and Wild Card standings (obviously). Yes, the Pirates are still just 1.5 games out of a WC spot, but that’s courtesy of some sheepish play on the Cardinals’ part.

I stated this in an article a few days ago, but I don’t see the Pirates being relevant come October. If they can’t beat teams like the Brewers and Padres, then they don’t belong in the postseason. And it’s pretty much a given that, if the Pirates don’t make it, McCutchen won’t take home the award. That’s just the way the voting works nowadays. Say the Cardinals and/or Giants make it. Then someone like Matt Holliday or Buster Posey will win it because of the value they had on their team’s postseason run.

There were some false assumptions on Twitter today; I did NOT say McCutchen is having a bad season by any means. Even after his slump (by his standards), he’s up there among league leaders in most offensive categories, and his defense is spectacular in center field. But, if the Pirates don’t make it, there’s plenty of reason to doubt he’ll still win the MVP award.

MY TAKE

> Today proved that Ron Roenicke has no idea how to manage a pitching staff. He left in Gallardo to get the crap beaten out of him for 4 2/3 innings, forcing him to throw 119 pitches. But would he ever be allowed to throw a 119-pitch complete game? No, because that’s too many innings.

Makes sense, right?

> Manny Parra continues to state his case for not being on the team next year. He came on to start the ninth with a four-run lead, but allowed a hit and a walk. RRR decided not take any chances and put in John Axford, who managed to bail out Parra and record the save.

But what caught me was the way Parra reacted to being removed. He whipped the ball back at Martin Maldonado before leaving the field, then appeared to be angry with Roenicke. But honestly, what is Parra expecting? Going out and throwing like crap every other outing isn’t going to win your manager’s confidence (no matter how mindless that manager may be). He’s become strangely cocky about himself this year, despite the fact this is arguably his worst year in the Majors. His attitude and performance definitely don’t match.

THE NEWS

> Pirates manager Clint Hurdle claims that the Brewers are still dangerous in the pennant race.

“Toughest thing to do in sports is repeat. I know that going in. They’ve had a lot of injuries, and some pitching challenges, which never bodes well for a club. They’re a very dangerous club right now, very dangerous. Offensively, they can beat you a number of different ways. One of the best dynamics to have offensively is speed and power, and they have that. The speed shows up every day.”

“They’re playing with a lot of pride, playing together. And whether you like it or not, sometimes you get in situations where your best opportunity is to finish strong, and wreck other people’s seasons.”

> Chris Narveson began a throwing program today.

> Randy Wolf made his debut for the Orioles today, against the Yankees. He came on in relief of the injured Chris Tillman, and threw 3 1/3 innings while giving up a run and notching the win.

THE NUMBERS

> Every starter in the lineup- except Maldonado- had a hit.

> The Brewers have gone on an 11-2 run in which they went from 12.5 games back in the WC standings to 6.5. But, according to CoolStandings.com, they still have only a 0.6 chance at making the postseason.

> Braun tied his career-high in homers (37), and we still have a month to go. It’s also worth mentioning he’s two away from 200 dingers for his career.

> The probables for the upcoming series against the Marlins:

Mike Fiers (8-6, 2.85 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (10-12, 4.78 ERA)

Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.35 ERA) vs. Jacob Turner (1-3, 7.33 ERA)

??? vs. Nathan Eovaldi (4-10, 4.48 ERA)

Marco Estrada (2-5, 3.85 ERA) vs. Josh Johnson (7-11, 3.86 ERA)

The ??? will probably be Wily Peralta, since Mark Rogers has been shut down for the year.