Thursday, October 29, 2009

30 To Go

With 30 games left, here's what's happening with the pennant races:

National League

North: Short of a miracle or '64 Phillies-like collapse, Syracuse has it wrapped. Ruben James may have been the key acquisition of the mid-season - he's 5-1, 2.73 since joining the Warriors. Syracuse has also edged ahead of Charleston for the #2 seed and a first-round bye.

East: Jacksonville hung in gamely for a lot of the season, but has faded badly with an ugly 1-12 stretch. Looks like a second straight division title for the Lake Monsters.

South: Mexico City failed to take advantage of Charleston's 1-3 series against Ottawa - the Desperadoes were swept by Tacoma, and remain 2 back. They play each other in the last series of the season (Mexico City has a 5 of 7 head-to-head with the Apologists so far).

West: Oakland's cruising with a 16-game lead in the division and a 5-game lead over Syracuse for the #1 seed.

Wild Card: #2 in the AL South will almost certainly take the first wildcard. The second wildcard is currently an Ottawa/Las Vegas dead heat, with Trenton 7 games back.

American League

Augusta has used a recent 8-2 burst (including a win at Hartford and 3 of 4 with D.C.) to take command of the division. Madison and Columbus remain in range but need to get hot in a hurry.

East: Hartford has a shot at the all-time Belle single-season wins record (currently 122 by Chraleston in Season 7) and seems a good bet to break its own AL record (117 in Season 10).

South: Jackson has opened up a 7-game lead on Little Rock ad does not appear catchable. Even with Wilson Costello having a terrible season (by his standards), the Holes' run production has only fallen by about .25 per game.

West: Tucson has lead pretty much from the wire and has forged an insurmountable 13-game lead. They're currently 2 games up on Augusta for the 3rd seed, but that may not be terribly relevant: there's a good chance that both the wild card teams will have better records than the 3 and 4 seeds (their 1st-round opponents).

Wild Card: Here's the intersting AL race. After dropping 6 straight to Boise and Hartford, Little Rock has snapped back with a sweep of Pittsburgh to build a 2-game lead over Richmond. Rochester was sitting in the #2 wild card until the last 10 games, when their 3-7 and the Poor Men's 7-3 put them a game back. We're still expecting a charge by Washington D.C., who currently sits 4 back of Richmond.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Take 5 (x2) - Top Ten ROY Candidates

Player Awards will be showing up soon, and we've had some great rookie performances (as more of the bonanza class of Season 9 enter the Majors), especially among hitters and relief pitchers. Here's the top 10 so far this season (regardless of league):

1. Ernest Farr (LF- TAC): 19th pick in Season 9, leads all rookies in HR's and OPS

2. Lance Reed (RF-NAS): #18 overall in Season 9, running #2 in OPS among rookies

3. Jesus Gomez (3B-ROC): Season 12 IFA edges out Escuella for better defensive play

4. Carlos Escuela (3B-TUC): Season 10 #7 and pre-season ROY fav leads rooks in RBI

5. C.C. Taguchi (RP-JAX): 3rd-rounder (Season 8) has 9 wins, 2.84 ERA and a sterling .599 OPS-against

6. Clarence Marte (CF-SYR): Season 10 #1 sparking the Warriors from the leadoff spot (.361 OBP, 34-of-42 SB) and playing a credible CF

7. Vic Mesa (SP-TRE): Season 6 4th-rounder has been the best rookie SP this year, at 7-8, 3.71

8. Roosevelt McGowan (2B-IND): Season 6 #30 has had some trouble fielding 2B but been solid on offense

9. Jimmie Stokes (1B-SXF): Season 9 #8 leads rookies in BB's and OBP

10. Fernando Nieto (RP-SD): Season 11 IFA has been a nice surprise with a 2.70 ERA in 63 IP

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Revisiting the Minor League Fatigue Issue

Last year, we voted to require teams to keep their minor leagues free of fatigue. We didn't really specify the details...I figured I'd work up some simple wording and we'd vote on it.

I've procrastinated on this for 2 reasons: 1) Like a lot of 10+ season-old worlds, we're short on minor league FA's every year, and 2) the owner who prompted us to consider this isn't with us anymore. I just did a random look around the minor leagues and didn't find any evidence of severe fatigue problems.

So, I thought I'd check in with everybody and see how we feel about it. Personally, I still think it's a good idea to make it a formal requirement, but I'm not really convinced it's a big problem.

Please vote in the poll (top right) and either post in the world chat or tc me if you have something to add. Thanks.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Madison and Syracuse Upgrade For The Stretch

A division leader and a team sensing the chance to contend have made significant trades in advance of Tuesday's transaction deadline:

Madison gets: RP Don Restovich and C Buzz Arnold
Nashville gets C Jeff Eaton and RP Hulk Hodges
Madison is only 6 games back and still has a shot at the AL North Crown. Restovich is a decent bullpen arm; the Badgers are trying him at closer and he's picked up 3 saves despite getting knocked around. Arnold is well onto the backside of his career but is still a competent pitch-caller and a plus hitter at C. The Ramblers get a couple of guys to fill cheap roster slots while they're rebuilding. The splits-challenged Eaton is at least mildly interesting as a defensive-whiz C who can hit the occasional longball.
Crystal Ball says: very nice trade. Ramblers lose a little more contract; Badgers get a little help for really no risk.

Syracuse gets: SP Ruben James
Toledo gets: SP Bailey Anderson, 2B/LF Yeico James, and SP Frank Carson
The Warriors pulled off a coup here, landing a top young pitcher for 3 solid, but not top-of-the-line prospects. James had struggled a bit this year (only 3 wins, 4.31 ERA), but Syracuse was looking more at his first 3 seasons (especially last year's 15-7, 3.01). From Toledo's perspective, they're mired in last place with a $100MM payroll - it may be time to jettison everything and collect prospects for a couple of seasons.
Crystal Ball says: Warriors now have a 3-man rotation (James, Nakajima, Woodward) that will give them a chance in ANY playoff series.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Power Rankings

Some pretty good movement from the last ranking:

1. Hartford (no change): on pace for 1300 runs
2. Charleston (up 8 places) : not in their usual spot atop pitching stats but 3rd in both offense and pitching
3. Oakland (up 2 places): still winning with offense
4. Mexico City (no change): 3.54 ERA only 2nd in AL
5. (tie) Jackson (up 6 spots): moved up from 16th to 7th in runs scored
Rochester (new in top 10): 3rd in offense despite low HR total
7. Syracuse (no change): pitching has taken a dive
8. Little Rock (new in top 10): surprising Pebbles staff still leading in ERA
9. Richmond (new in top 10): improved pitching now 4th
10.Washington D.C. (down 7 spots): slowly getting into the wild card picture

Fell out of the top 10: Burlington, Madison, Nashville, San Jose

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mid-Season Predictions

National League

#1 -
#2 - Mexico City
#3 - Syracuse
#4 - Burlington
#5 - Charleston
#6 - Las Vegas
OAK's trade for Ramsay will give them enough pitching to claim the #1 seed. I still like the Desperadoes to take the South but it's tough to pick against the Apologists. Looks like if you can hang around .500 you've got a shot at the last wild card - I like Vegas but Ottawa, Jacksonville and El Paso are right there.

Division Play-In: Syracuse over Vegas
Charleston over Burlington
DCS: Mexico City over Syracuse
Oakland over Charleston
Tough call on both of'd be nice to have a pair of nail-biting 7-gamers, but that never seems to happen when it should.
NLCS: Surenos took Charleston to 7 last year...this year they get it done vs. Mexico City

American League

#1 -
#2 - Jackson
#3 - Tucson
#4 - Columbus
#5 - Rochester
#6 - Richmond
The Katanas and Holes look unstoppable as the first 2 seeds. Surprising Tucson is in control of the West, but the North could go down to the last day. Rochester's looking very strong for the first wildcard...the second is a Little Rock/D.C./Richmond mystery. Can Little Rock's pitching keep getting away with it? Maybe, if they keep getting the ball to Geoff Sosa in the 9th (1.36 ERA, on pace for league-record 57 saves). I never would've guessed that D.C. would be only 44-39 with Morales at .328/23/78, but they're far from out of it. And Richmond is right there despite the bullpen meltdowns. I'm taking a flier and picking the Poor Men.

Division Play-In: Rochester over Columbus
Richmond over Tucson in a mild upset

DCS: Jackson over Richmond
Hartford over Rochester
Would love to pick an upset here, but the crystal ball says "no".

ALCS: Hartford gets their revenge from last year.

WORLD SERIES: Katanas over Surenos

Looking forward to this one. Hartford's pitching has been surprisingly good considering they play half their games in a broom closet - I think they keep getting it done.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

NL North Season 13 Preview

The NL North improved by 20 games last year, thanks to jumps of 12 and 8 wins by Ottawa and Syracuse. So far this year Syracuse is off to a strong start, with Ottawa hanging around 7 games back. Trenton and Sioux Falls aren't out of wild card contention if they can swing some moves...any shakeups in sight?


Syracuse: The Warriors are currently 2nd to Oakland in runs scored. Rookie Clarence Marte has made an immediate impact, hitting .322 and scoring 67 runs (2nd in NL). The main return of the Hartford trade, Rafael Brogna (.285/20/74) and Marquis Seo (.364/19/70), are the leading run producers. There are just no holes in this lineup - even journeyman 3B Tomas Montero is hitting .333 in a platoon role. At this point they're on about a 950-run pace.

Sioux Falls: The Presidents have improved their attack this season, rising from 9th in runs scored last year to 5th. 2nd-year LF Richie Scheffer is well ahead of his excellent rookie-season pace at .327/22/69; although SS Bailey Johnson's contact numbers are off some, he's still the #2 run-producer at 17 HR's and 53 RBI. They also have a trio of sluggers at 15 HR's - 2B Ricardo Nunuz and rookies Jimmie Stokes and Garrett Durbin. It's a very young lineup that ranks 3rd in longballs - they should be high in the offensive rankings for years.

Ottawa: The Ice attack has gone a little chilly this year, falling from 8th last year to 10th. Last year's top OPS'er, 2B Vance Carter, has slumped from .885 to .694. A pair of rookies, Brandon O'Halloran (11 HR's, 42 RBI) and Quilvio Suarez (12 HR's, 40 RBI), are leading the offense with credible numbers. Ottawa has 2 more rookies and a 2nd year man in the lineup, and more help at AAA (Brian Jiang, Taylor Rivers and Cesar Liriano); by next season they'll have one of the youngest adn most promising lineups in the NL.

Trenton: The Trogs have moved up from 11th in runs scored last season to 7th this year. They're getting great production from their 2 big power guys, RF Jesus Mendez (27 HR's, 54 RBI) and LF Vladimir Lopez (.306/31/66), who's 4th in the league in HR's. It's an all-or-nothing offense, though - 5th in HR's and last in OBP. Table-setters needed om coming seasons if they're hoping to stay in the top half of the league.


Syracuse: The Warriors' ERA is up half a run a game this year, and something tells us they're looking for help. Brian Nakajima (9-2, 3.52) and Felix Woodward (7-3, 3.33) have been excellent starters, but the rest of the rotation is getting blown up. Relievers Dingo Hawkins (2.55), Diego Martinez (3.07) and Damaso Arias (3.52) are pitching well, but closer P.T. Lincoln is inexplicably struggling. The Warriors are leading the division comfortably, but will have to pick up some pitching help to advance deep into the playoffs.

Sioux Falls: The Stoned Presidents are up over a half-run a game in ERA this year. Starters Tyrone Broome (7-4, 3.77) and Bernard Myette (5-2, 3.96) are solid, setup man Freddie Berger is out of his mind (1.61 ERA), and Enrique Ramirez (2.72) has been outstanding, but that's where the good news ends. Last year's #1 pick, R.A. Everett, is in AAA but at least a season away, so there's no near-term improvement in sight.

Ottawa: The Ice are 12th in ERA at 4.67 and still somehow hanging around. They have a nucleus of 3 young starters to build around: Jorge Dejesus (8-5, 5.16), Albert Dejean (8-5, 2.78) and Raul Arias (5-6, 4.53). Closer Doug Brown (23-of-25 saves, 1.24) is headed for the All-Star Game and Shane Sirotka has been solid (3.18), but the rest of the staff has been forgetable. Their best high-minors pitching prospect, AA starter Julio Santana, was set back with elbow tendinitis this year, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the Ice trade a hitting prospect or 2 for some arms.

Trenton: The Troglodytes are posting about a half-run a game improvement over last year. Magglio Nunuez is pitching lights-out but has only 5 wins; look for a big 2nd half from him. Vic Mesa's 1.98 ERA is guaranteed to go up, and closer Casey Sherman (20-of-22 saves, 2.74) is probably going to see some ERA inflation as well. Rookie Hank Newman was called up recently and has impressed; we could also conceivably see Harry Viriato in the majors this year. Some good young arms here, just not eough of them.

1. Syracuse
cruises to the division title.
2. Ottawa hangs around .500 and takes 2nd.
3. Sioux Falls' offense will carry them to 3rd.
4. Trenton's overachieving pitching staff comes back to earth - 4th.
5. Vets on the move: Ottawa could stay in the wildcard race if they can hang at .500, but Trenton and Sioux Falls could move a number of guys - we'll predict the Presidents' SP Daryl Holtz and the Trogs' closer Casey Sherman.
6. Rookie Watch: There are quite a few good rookie preformances in the division, but Syracuse's Clarence Marte leads the way.

Friday, October 2, 2009

AL North Season 13 Preview

Cincy's offense went into an early coma, Madison's has them surprisingly in the race, and Augusta and Columbus are battling for the top spot. The AL North has the makings of a three-team race - here's how it'll unfold.


Augusta: The Polar Bears were 10th in offense and right on the league average of 829 runs - they're running 10th again but a shade under the league average this year. C Macbeth Crawford is still the primary power source, but he's being pushed by the recently-promoted Quilvio Nunez (.389 in 15 games). 2B Roy Drew was an All-Star, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove last season - Augusta's title hopes depend on his resurgence after a slow start. FA 1B pickup Larry Keisler has been a good run producer from the left side.

Cincinnati: The Waste Managers were 5th with 885 runs last year, but have inexplicably stopped hitting this year. Carlos Cairo's hitting .249, Christopher Booker's OPS'ing .758 (career .881), Carlos Pineiro's down...across the board, these guys are having off years. Certainly not too late to turn it around, and the talent is there...need a good "lollygagger" speech or something.

Columbus: The Criminals were 11th last year at just under 5 runs a game and are right about there this year. DH Matt Selby leads the attack at .330/10/39. LF Miguel Bautista (12 HR's, 33 RBI) and CF Emmett Green (10 HR's, 29 RBI) form the second line of run production. They might win the division with this lineup, but will need more oomph come playoff time - look for a deadline deal.

Madison: The Badgers have improved by more than a run a game from last year (4.57) to this year (5.7). The resurgence is lead by a pair of 2nd-year power hitters, Bartolo Olivares (.328/14/43) and Hack Bush (.277/15/32), with help from veterans Jimmie Castro (.314), Jose Polanco (.305/13/48) and Charles Bottalico (.302/9/38). They've also moved up frpm 14th to 5th in fielding percentage, thanks largely to shoring up SS and CF with Terry Owen and Tony Carrara.


Augusta: The Polar Bears are running right about at last year's ERA pace of 4.56. Heralded rookie SP Mickey Beckett is struggling, but vets Jacque Butler and Carter Jefferson are off to terrific starts. The bullpen is getting long in the tooth, and only closer Tomas Martin, LR Wolf Ellis and ageless wonder Daniel Grace are pitching well. With the Bears tied for the division lead, the JBT expects to see at least a move or 2 to add pitching before long.

: The Waste Managers' big trade of ace Gary Ramsay means more vets are likely to ship out soon. Alex Cruz has never really put it together in the bigs, but Roger Kirby could get some attention and Wilton Ashley is blowing hitters away with a 1.67 ERA in long relief. Cincy now turns its focus to the youngsters - after 120 innings in parts of 2 seasons Andy Newman is starting to figure it out (.99 WHIP, 3.07 ERA). Glen Wulf is promising, but still struggling in his second season. The big surprise may be Eduardo Valentin, a 27 year-old rookie who's flashing a 2.10 ERA. There's more bullpen help on the way in the form of AAA reliever Carlos Javier, but a big chunk of the Managers' future pitching may come in trades for the hitters they got for Ramsay.

Columbus: The Criminals' 4.86 ERA is also just about identical to last year's. This year's big-ticket free agent, Cookie Prieto, has refused to wilt under the intense pressure of the Columbus media and leads the team with a 2.44 ERA. Al Escobar and Fred West are pitching well, but last year's 2 13-game winners - McKay Casian and Yamid Reynoso - are sputtering along with only 6 wins between them. Closer Bosco Swann is 10-of-13 in save opportunities, but hasn't exactly been sharp. The Criminals could use some pitching help to, but their best bet for help is a rebound by Casian and Reynoso.

Madison: The Badgers are hanging around 4 games back despite their bloated 5.76 ERA. Basically, they have one guy on the team (Dan Cirillo) who looks like a legit ML pitcher; David Wilson has 6 wins despite his 4.85 ERA (thanks to the offense putting up 63 runs in those 6 wins). Don't know how it could happen, but if the front office could work half the magic with the staff they did with the offense and defense, they could stay in the race.

Tough call here...the Polar Bears, Criminals or Badgers could all win it. JBT says the Criminals' pitching kicks in and they pull away in teh 2nd half.
2. Augusta hangs tough but comes in second.
3. Gotta love what Madison has accomplished, but oh, that pitching staff. No miracles for these guys this year.
4. The Waste Managers have packed it in early - they'll call it a rebuilding year and finish 4th.
5. Rookie watch - Quilvio Nunez, Augusta.
6. Vets on the move - Cincy's already made the big vet move with the Ramsay trade, but they're probably not done. Given they now have a gaggle of hitting prospects knocking at the door, look for one of their big-name veteran hitters to change addresses. Bet on Christopher Booker.

Summary of Polls To Date

1) Who's the better FA Signing, Victor Morales at $22MM/yr or Alan Leach at $13.5MM/yr?
Leach - 16
Morales - 7

2) Who will win the NL West?
OAK - 14
SJ - 3
LV - 3
TAC - 1

3) Who will win the AL West
TUC - 2
POR - 2
BOI - 1
SD - 1

4) Who will win AL South?
JAC - 5
NAS - 2
LR - 0
RIC - 0

5) 1-inning SP, replaced by opposite-handed P to mess up platoons - cool or not?
Cool - 15
Not - 18

6) Favor or oppose a formal rule requiring owners to keep minors fatigue-free
Favor - 9
Oppose - 1
Not a problem - 7