Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Off-Season Winners and Losers - AL West

We're about to wrap up one of the biggest off-seasons (free agency-wise, at least) in Belle history - we could see some real shifts in the balance of power this year. Let's take a division-by-division look at who advanced their causes and who slipped backwards this off-season.


The Division Champ Salem Goonies probably made the biggest splash in the AL, adding stud SP Ruben James and late-inning relievers Geoff Sosa and Jacob Franklin. The did lose P's Al Taylor and Glen Moore, plus backup OF Vinny Ma, but come out way ahead. They were 2nd in the league in ERA last year - these moves could make them the favorite to reach the WS from the Junior Circuit. Off-Season Grade: A

Portland tried to keep pace with 3 big FA signings of its own: SP Al Taylor, OF Tomas Cruz and 2B Roy Drew. Their losses (SP's Nick Rando and Vance Scutaro) might be a bit more meaningful than Salem's, but Season 14's #4 pick, 3B Hong-Gu Kim, is ready to contribute and should pick up some of the slack. They should improve on last year's runs total of 753, but I think they've still fallen further behind the Goonies. Off-Season Grade: B+

Boise sat out free agency but didn't lose anyone of note; their biggest off-season move was the promotion of Season 14's #11 pick, IF Fred Ruffin, to the big league roster. The infield is a little overpopulated, but Ruffin will find plenty of AB's.
Off-Season Grade: B

San Diego
lost IF Alan Leach, although it's not a huge loss at this point in his career. They countered with 4 pretty nice FA pickups: SP Jimmie Feliz, who's coming off a pair of disappointing seasons but will love Petco's cavernous pastures; solid SS Archie Blake; reliever Glen Moore; and OF Alberto Pinzon, one of the top available hitters. The Surf Babies have 13 players aged 15 and under on the opening day roster...this version will be much-improved. Off-Season Grade: A

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Headliners Galore In Free Agency

The stage is set for perhaps the richest free agent class in Belle history.

Let's start with the hitters, where Victor Morales hopes to cash in the way he did 5 years ago, when D.C. maxed out to get him. He made the All-Star team every season in that contract and won the AL Silver Slugger in RF 4 times (with his 2nd MVP in Season 14 for good measure).

Right up there with Morales is former Syracuse standout Alberto Pinzon, a .299 lifetime hitter with 218 career home runs.

Hot-corner defense? There's Matt Ryan with his 2 Gold Gloves (plus 222 career homers).

For the power fans, there's Tomas Cruz (310 career HR's), 2B Roy Drew (302 career HR's) and Carlos Cairo (385 career HR's).

The pitching side might be better.

At 35, Gary Ramsay can still get it done, although he's coming off an injury season. It'll be interesting to see what lenght contract the bidding takes him to.

Ruben James has made the All-Star team the last 4 years, and of course, took home the Cy Young in Season 16. At 33, he's got enough good seasons left to fetch a pretty nice contract.

If there's such a thing as a "sleeper" among the top starters, it's Del Ramirez, who has posted an excellent 3.62 ERA over 10 seasons.

The relievers include 2 of the top 4 career saves leaders, Roger Lawson and Geoff Sosa, plus Jacob Franklin, who has a FOY and 273 saves himself.

Let the bidding begin!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Awards Review

We had some very interesting awards races this year, including the closest MVP vote in memory. The recap:

AL MVP: Carlos Escuela breaks through to win with a .280/48/142 campaign. I voted for him, although I have to add that I think he benefited greatly from the lack of monster seasons from anyone else in the AL (especially perennial MVP contenders Morales and Brantley of D.C.). I thought Pascual Pena of Columbus had a better overall offensive season, but I don't vote for DH's unless their numbers are vastly superior to everyone else's.

NL MVP: This was a doozy, with the Privateers' CF Sid Selby winning with a mere 9 votes (Necromancers' Roenicke got 8 and Selby's teammate Scheffer polled 7, with Oakland's Feliz and Helena's Cooke with 4 apiece). Selby shows up on the ballot every year, probably because he's a pretty solid CF who steals bases and puts up decent hitting stats. His career year at the plate - .333/24/84, with a career-best 45 steals and league-leading 51 doubles - put him over the top. Roenicke had a strong case (.400 OBP with 52 homers and 126 RBI) - you have to think New York's failure to make the playoffs (they weren't really expected to...they had a nice improvement to 82 wins) cost him a vote or 2. Scheffer enjoyed the move to New Orleans' Zephyr Field with his best power season (51/150), but I get the sense voters viewed that RBI total as result of Selby being in scoring position so often. Cooke's and Feliz's seasons were only slighty less impressive versions of Roenicke's and Selby's. I voted for Selby.

AL Cy Young: Qualitatives vs. wins, and 3 Katanna SP's on the ballot. Qualitatives win this year - Lorenzo Rodriguez (16-6, 2.63 ERA) beats out 4 SP's with higher ERA's and win totals. I voted for Rodriguez.

NL Cy Young: Let's put Rex Gragg's season in perspective: if he had gotten 10 more IP's, he would've set new single-season records for ERA and slugging % allowed (the fact that the same could be said for several of Johnny Collier's sub-162 IP seasons does not lessen the accomplishment). Do Rueben James (222 IP) and Jorge DeJesus (225 IP) have valid arguments? You bet, but voters seemed to be in a "quality over quantity" mood this year. I voted for Gragg.

AL ROY: The versatile Bonk Liniak wins in what was a definite down year for AL rookies. Liniak is Exhibit # 479 as to the worthlessness of the contact rating.

NL ROY: The NL definitely cornered the rookie performances this season. and Gragg'sRoenicke's seasons were dominant; had Parra, Mitchell or Delgado been in the AL they probably would have won. I voted for Roenicke, but can't deny that Gragg's season was worthy.

Friday, November 5, 2010

First-Round Draft Analysis

Note: Picks marked with ** are the ones I can only see with my advanced Scouting Department (budget of 6, which is basically my 8 year-old nephew in Florida reading "HBD America" a couple of times a month), so take my comments with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, I try to render an opinion on all picks if for no other value than entertainment.

1. Detroit Retro Gangstaz - Tomas Park, SP: The main thing you want to do with a #1 pick is NOT SCREW IT UP, so mission accomplished for the Gangstaz. In Park, they get a future ace, although it looks like it will be at least 3 seasons before his ML debut. Park features very good control along with excellent splits versus both righties and lefties. No dominant pitch, but 3 that are decent-to-good. Keeps it down pretty well. Good health and makeup predict he'll get close to projections. Bonus: eventually becomes a big innings-eater capable of complete games. GRADE A.

2. Toledo Mud Hens - Alexander Browning**, SP/RP: At bare minimum, he'll be among the most unique pitchers in Belle; when he matures, he looks like he'll be able to throw 50-55 pitches every other day, and perhaps as many as 100 every third day. More importantly, they'll be GOOD pitches. His right split looks like it may be a bit lower than you'd like for a 2nd pick, but a superior first pitch and good 2nd pitch should make up for that. High health and makeup give him a good chance to reach projections. GRADE: B+

3. San Diego Surf Babies - Willis Atkins**, SP: Atkins is a soft-toss junkballer with an arsenal of 4 good pitches, all of which dart downward. His control and splits aren't that great, and he looks like he's going to be better against lefties than righties. Overall, a rather strange player. Although I don't think he'll be great - yes, there were much better picks available here - I do think he'll be the kind of player who has some quite good seasons (mixed with some really bad ones). GRADE C

4. Baltimore Orioles - Amp Faulk, SS: The first position player taken looks like he'll develop into a Gold Glove 3B with superb contact skills, but it's not clear he'll become a great hitter. His batting eye is s0-so, and his splits are really going to have to go to get to the level you want in a #4 pick. Fortunately his makeup will contribute to that development...lavish a lot of expensive minor-league coaching on him and he just might reach All-Star status. Grade B

5. Little Rock Pebbles - Wade Charles**, SP: Interesting combination of extreme control and extreme velocity. Combine that with 3 pretty good pitches and a vR that could conceivably reach the low 80's, and you just might have something special here. Lefties will certainly give him some trouble, but he should be at least adequate against them. Also keeps the ball down fairly well...I think the Pebbles hit a homer with this one. GRADE A

6. Columbus Criminals - Gil Schofield**, SP: The locker-room scene after this guy's pro debut could be right out of Bull Durham (except for the part about walking 18 and hitting the bull mascot twice):

Larry Hockett: (while deflating the big plastic Oscar Meyer Wiener prop) "But Joe...this kid has some serious shit."
Joe Riggins: "Yeah (nodding and grinning while sipping a Miller)...serious shit."

Once again, my nephew in Florida isn't the most accurate advance scouting department, but he's telling me this could be the first guy I've seen in HBD to reach ratings of 100 on both control and vR. Serious shit indeed. His pitches are just OK and not projected to get a lot better, but I don't think that will matter if that control and vR come through. And there's the catch...42 health. No doubt a team or 2 passed on him for that reason. I think $20MM training and medical budgets just became mandatory for Columbus for the next 15 seasons. Still, you play big, you win big. GRADE A+

7. Mexico City Red Hot - Armando Franco, CF: Despite paltry splits, the Red Hots take a shot at a power-hitting CF with the 7th pick. Franco's range will eventually get to true CF territory, although I doubt his glove will. At the plate, he'll make good contact and draw his share of free passes, and the power will be superior. I worry about those splits, though - my college scouts show that projected vR at 41 - awfully low for a major league hitter. If you can get away with it anywhere, though, it's for a power-hitting CF or SS. GRADE B.

8. New York Necromancers - Jerry Strong, SP: The Necromancers add some much-needed pitching to their position-rich farm system. Should develop into a solid #2 or #3 starter with a decent 4-pitch assortment and good splits. His control has a long way to go to reach projections, but should get to a respectable low-to-mid 70's level. He won't get a lot of punchouts and occasionally "misses high" (= home runs). When his DUR and STA top out, he'll be able to notch 225+ innings. GRADE B+

9. Rochester Replacements - Francis Heredia**, RF: Probably the best hitter in this draft class, he projects to 80's contact and power, mid-70's eye and low 70's splits. Righty pitchers give him the most trouble - the key to his value is how much he improves there. Health and makeup are grade A, and he'll be a very good fielder with a plus arm in right. Solid speed and baserunning ratings are a nice bonus...this is the best all-around position player in this year's class. GRADE A+ - BARGAIN PICK

10. Helena Associates - Yuniesky Jiminez**, RP: Helena nabs a big-innings reliever. Like a lot of pitchers in this draft, has a long way to go and won't approach some of his projected ratings. Control should eventually top 80, and his fastball/sinker pitch duo will be very good. Already keeps the ball down well. If there's a flaw here, it's with his effectiveness against righties. With good development, though, it should be good enough. Future 120-inning setup guy. GRADE A.

11. Nashville Music City Ramblers - Rudy Moss, 2B: Gangstaz scouts had Moss all the way down at #35, citing less-than-inspiring splits (especially against lefties). Perhaps Ramblers' scouts were a little seduced by an OVR projection of 80 (or therabouts)? Still, a guy who gets to 80 range and low 70's for glove and contact should find steady work as a ML 2B. Offerman (#12) though, would have been a much better choice if available. Don't hate the pick, just guessing that much better choices were available here. GRADE C

12. San Juan Senators - Buddy Offerman, 3B: Pretty big steal to get this guy here (I had Offerman #2 on my board...probably a bit high but I didn't see 6 of the top 10). Switch-hitter is already well-advanced; with splits at 60, they should have no trouble reaching mid-to-upper-70's. Excellent power for an infielder, and a decent batting eye. Defensively, he should be at least a better-than-average 3B - great glove but a slightly underpowered arm - a Gold Glove or 2 is not out of the question. Bonus points: he'll be an ironman, possibly getting to 90+ DUR, and extremely good health and makeup point to max development. GRADE A+ BARGAIN PICK

13. Cincinnati Waste Managers - Fu-Te Cheng, SS: First true SS taken, and looks to be a good one. His defensive ratings, with the exception of Glove, should easily get to or surpass the recommended 85 for a SS, and the Glove might. The development concern here is that 38 makeup rating. On offense, he'll be better than most SS's against righties but barely adequate against LHP - he may end up in a platoon. In a weak draft, though, a solid pick at #13. Grade B+

14. Burlington Lake Monsters - Travis Riley, 2B: Somewhat like the Moss pick at 11, although I think Riley will end up being a much better hitter - he might get to 70 on both splits. He'll be a pretty good ML 2B, hit .250-.270, maybe have a .290 season or 2. DUR will make him a little short of a full time player, but that's a minor gripe. Makeup in the 60's may knock a point or 2 off projections. GRADE B-

15. Jacksonville Jinxed - Juan Gonzalez**, SP: This one has me confused. You take a guy with a vR of 35 with the 15th pick? With good development (and luck on the injury front), that vR maybe reaches 60. On the upside, his pitches could offset that...IF they develop completely (but pitches don't). Then there's the 45 health. So, this guy needs really big development to be a good ML pitcher, and his development is a big risk. The first Red Herring of the Draft.

16. Vancouver Victory - Albert Dominguez**, P: Another big-innings 35-pitches-every-day big. Unlike many of the pitchers in this draft, he has ratings that are starting at high enough levels that he could reach projections. If that happens (and with his high health and makeup I'd say he has a good shot), he could be very, very good - high 80's control, low 80's splits, 3 pitches ranging from very good to decent. If he has a weakness, it's that he's a flyball pitcher, although he should be able to improve that in time. Minor flaw compared to all the positives. GRADE A+

17. Portland Bar & Grillers - Kyle Adams, SS: Would've liked this pick a lot better if his Glove was starting at 56 instead of 46, but it could still get to adequate ML 3B territory. Certainly will get there on the range and arm ratings. Would like to see better potential batting splits, but contact and eye could reach pretty nice levels. I could see this guy becoming an everyday 3B who hits .270...not much power, though. At this point in this draft, a safe pick. GRADE B

18. Augusta Polar
Bears - Enrique Sojo, C: Very nice pick at this point. I know his right split is too probably won't reach 50. So he might end up being just a versus-lefty platooner. But he doesn't have to be. He'll be good enough defensively that the Bears could give up some offense against RHP. And he'll handle lefties just fine. Bonus: he'll be the rare high-DUR catcher...he might be able to go out and catch 162 games at some point, depending on how his development advances. GRADE A

19. Jackson Holes - Britt Price, RP: Lefty RP features pinpoint control and a 4-seamer that's particularly tough on lefties. As with many southpaws, the question is how well he'll learn to handle righty batters. Given that his vR is starting at a respectable 53, he should be OK. My scouts suggest he'll top out at 61, which wouldn't be bad. If he gets to 65-67, he'll end up being at least a minor steal here. High makeup and health always help, and he has both. GRADE B+

20. San Juan Senators - Hugh Hearn, SS: Projects to be a very good defensive SS who can hit lefties...not too shabby for this draft. His glove and arm accuracy won't reach the lofty levels my scouts project (90's), but should be plenty good for a ML SS. Right handed pitchers totally befuddle him, but he should be better than average...maybe even pretty good...against lefties. This all makes him look like a vL platooner and defensive replacement. Not a bad role player pickup at 20. GRADE B+

21. Jackson Holes - Bonk Mouton, SP: The evil-twin SP version of Jackson's pick at #19, Britt Price: great control and vR's that may or may not get good enough. The difference is that Bonk isn't particularly great against lefties, and his first pitch is just good, not great. Doubtful he'll ever have good enough stuff to consistently get ML hitters out. GRADE C

22. Sioux Falls Stoned Presidents - Stu Wilkinson, RF: Already has pretty good power and batting eye - those will get to major league levels. He's so clueless against lefties, though, it's tough to see him attempting it - think Randy Johnson vs. John Kruk in the All-Star Game. He's got some work to do against righties, too, ut he could get there. His makeup will help but he'll need to avoid serious injury to make the Show. GRADE B

23. Boise Posse - Chad Lloyd**, SP: The draft is officially thinning out at this point. Lloyd has some potential, especially in the control department, but he has so far to improve that it's hard to see him getting past AAA. His splits could conceivably get to ML levels, if they were accompanied by a couple of outstanding pitches. Let's hope my advance scouts are missing on the low side for him (a decided possibility). Long shot to make the Show, but still not a bad pick here considering what's left. GRADE C

24. Memphis Mudcats - Brad Johnstone, SP: Possesses a pair of nice pitches - a 4-seamer and a slider - that look like they could reach major-league quality. And, he's pretty effective against, maybe 4-A effective. His control isn't much and lefties rip him. He'll enjoy a long and fruitful AAA career. GRADE C

25. Jackson Holes - Fred O'Connor, CF: Jackson gets a steal here. O'Connor's not going to win any MVP's, but he's good enough to be a ML centerfielder. He'll be pretty good defensively, and he'll hit righties well enough...he might be a .270 ML hitter. Lefties bother him and he doesn't have much power...probably tops out at 15 homers if he plays full time. The biggest knock on him - and the biggest threat to his ML hopes: injury-prone and looks like he always will be. Still, at this point in this draft, a major find. GRADE A+ BARGAIN PICK

26. Las Vegas 69ers - Zeus Wright, 3B: Pretty good find for this late. Zeus will have pretty good splits...maybe low 70's for both...but that's clearly his best feature. Not much power, average batting eye at best, and he'll definitely whiff more than his fair share of times. With time, he'll be an average 3B defensively. His health and makeup are both pretty high, so he could get pretty close to his projections. He could have a ML career as a utility guy. GRADE B+

27. Washington D.C. Revenge - Steven Romero, DH: Romero will be a decent major-league hitter - contact and splits in the 70's, with a batting eye that could get to the low 80's - but I'm not sure if he'll be good enough to be a major-league DH. I guess it's not impossible - he could have some .300 seasons with 15-20 homers, which isn't shabby. But certainly a little short of what you want in a DH, power-wise. Nonetheless, an excellent pick a this point. GRADE A

28. Syracuse Saltine Warriors - Bob Michalak, SP: This soft-tossing junkballer already has good command of a screwball and a slider; they'll reach big-league quality although his fastball probably won't. His control is decent and in time could be very good, although his splits (50ish to 60ish at best) will always limit his success. Thanks to pitch quality this is the kind of guy who could have some good seasons at the ML level...just don't bet on 2 in a row. GRADE A-

29. Pittburgh Alleghenys - Curtis Stein**, CF: Thanks to some pretty good power (outside chance to hit 80), a nice glove (maybe 80 again), and some blazing speed, this guy has a chance to make the majors. As what, I'm not sure...I don' think his range lets him play CF. He's not likely to hit lefties well enough to be a full time player. So,maybe a vR platooner, but more likely a defensive replacement/backup COF/pinch hitter/pinch runner type guy. Not bad at 29. GRADE B.

30. Salem Goonies - Ernest Adams**, SP: Projections don't look dreadful, but I think for most ratings he just has too far to go to make a ML pitcher. His control will be pretty decent, but those splits won't work. His cut fastball and sinker are good enough now that they could get to ML caliber, but I don't think they'll be good enough to make up for AAA splits. GRADE C.

31. Ottawa Ice - David Matos, SP/RP: With "maximum" development (and I'm saying a 25 -point improvement is "maximum"), this guy will have control/vL/vR of 76/71/70. Is that ML quality? With a couple of good pitches (which Matos will have), you bet. So he's a development task. His health and makeup are what they are (just OK), so playing time and coaching are critical. GRADE B+

32. Oakland Surenos - Derrick McFeeley**, RP: Looks to have very high potential (especially on the control and vR), but he has an awfully long way to go. These kinds of players are usually disappointing - regardless of potential, 25-28 points seems to be about the maximum improvement you ever see in ratings (and rarely that much). Still, if he improves 25 points in control and vR (to get to low 80's and low 70's), he'll be a ML pitcher. That's not a bad bet at this point in this draft. GRADE A-

33. New Orleans Privateers - Darren Weiland, RP: See previous comments on McFeeley. Weiland's vR upside is probably not quite as high as McFeeley's, although in reality they'll probably both and up in th low 70's. Weiland may be a bit more intriguing, with 2 pretty good pitches compared to McFeeley's one. Usefulness will be somewhat limited by his low STA and just-average DUR, but likely a ML pitcher nonetheless. GRADE A-

34. Cleveland Katanas - Enrique Gonzalez, 2B: The Katanas seem to have a talent for finding a bargain in the 30's every year, but this one is a real steal. Gonzalez will be a platooner, for sure, but a very good one. His contact, rR and eye ratings will make him a .280-.300 hitter, with an occasional gust up to .320. He'll be a good defensive 2B...throw in some SB's and excellent bunting skills and you've got a very nice player. I had him #7 on my board. GRADE A+ STEAL OF THE DRAFT

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mid-Season Report - AL

Just past the halfway mark and coming up to the All-Star break, let's take a look around the league. There are some familiar story lines and a few interesting surprises:

AL North
After a few rebuilding years, Columbus has returned to prominence and leads the division by 6. The Criminals' balanced attack (note: Wilson Costello could be making an unlikely MVP bid at .340/21/72) is 2nd in the league in runs scored, but their pitching has been average. Cincy and Augusta are hanging 6 and 8 back, while Detroit is currently looking pretty good on its 70-win goal.

AL East
Cleveland is in its familiar first-place perch, but it's not dominating as in years past. It's pitching is great as usual, but the normally-potent offense has fizzled by their standards (4th in runs). Jaque Fitzgerald is having his usual great year (.324/21/52), but the rest of the lineup is under par. Despite a pitching off-year of its own and non MVP-type seasons so far from Morales and Brantley, D.C. is just 3 back. Pittsburgh is right there at 5 back; Rochester is headed for its 3rd straight cellar finish and is in full-blown rebuild mode.

AL South
Richmond and Jackson are locked in neck-and-neck battle here. The Poor Men are doing it with pitching - starters Juan Gil (9-2, 3.21) and (5-2, 2.96), and Josias Rodriguez, and closer Wiki Batista (8 saves, 2.58) lead the effort. For the Holes, LF Dennis Hewson has 24 homers and SP Johnny Collier is 6-2 with a 2.45 ERA.
Little Rock and Nashville are just 9 back but showing no signs of challenging.

AL West
Salem is threatening to lap the field - they've opened up a 10 game cushion on Portland. The Goonies' formula is positively Weaver-esque: tough pitching (3rd in Team ERA) and longballs (Escuela, Grant, Vargas and Krause are the top 4 homerun hitters in the AL). The Bar & Grillers remain in the thick of the wild card race - with roughly half the homer totals of Salem, they may be shopping for power at the deadline. Boise has fallen off last season's 85-win pace and San Diego remains in rebuilding mode.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Look Back At the Season 9 Draft

As we look over the current draft class (and vomit), it makes us long for the good old days of Season 9, in which every first-rounder who signed is currently in the majors and a 23rd-rounder could make the Show. A nostalgic look back.
1 Alberto Pinzon 2B .912 career OPS, 1AS, 1SS
2 Robert Crawford SS .754 career OPS
3 Charlie Cosby P 83 wins, 3.49 career ERA, 2AS, 1 no-hitter
4 Erick Durbin 2B did not sign
5 Harold Bryant P 81 wins, 4.42 career ERA
6 Vince Cross P 39 wins, career 3.52 ERA
7 Quinton Iorg 3B did not sign
8 Jimmie Stokes RF .823 career OPS, 1AS, 2GG
9 Alex Uribe P 19 wins, career ERA 5.82
10 Jimmie Feliz P 34 wins, career ERA 4.78, 1AS
11 Hugh Rivera SS .747 career OPS
12 Trent Diaz P 78 wins, career ERA 3.79, 1AS
13 Craig Hague P 22 wins, 14 saves, career ERA 2.85,
14 Clark Jensen P 54 wins, career ERA 3.86
15 Mickey Beckett P 63 wins, 4.11 career ERA
16 Leonardo Hardy CF .823 career OPS, 1AS, 1SS
17 Otis Langston RF .913 career OPS, 1AS, 1GG
18 Lance Reed RF .859 career OPS, 1AS
19 Ernest Farr LF .858 career OPS, 1ROY, 1AS, 1SS
20 Larry Davis CF .688 career OPS
21 Matt Flores 1B .834 career OPS
22 Carlos Javier P 29 wins, 10 saves, 4.24 career ERA
23 Alex Garland RF .944 career OPS
24 Derrek Betemit P 48 wins. 4.57 career ERA
25 Flip Ingram P 20 wins, 8 saves, 4.61 career ERA
26 Domingo Bautista 3B .718 career OPS
27 J.T. Burns C .891 career OPS, 3AS, 1 SS
28 Matthew Haas P 14 wins, 10 saves, 4.15 career ERA
29 Omar Freeman SS .663 OPS, 2GG, 1AS
30 Enrique Velazquez P 46 wins, 4.19 career ERA
31 Jason Griffin C .749 career OPS, 1SS
32 Johnny Hernandez 2B .795 career OPS

Of 10 players signed with supplemental picks, 5 are in the majors currently. Round 2 has 13 major-leaguers, Round 3 has 5, Round 4 has 3, and Round 5 has 1.

The latest pick in the Season 9 draft to enjoy current big-league status: Helena's Jack Mieske, taken in the 23rd round with pick #739.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Elder Wants Out Of Detroit

3-time All-Star catcher Richie Elder has told Detroit sports-talk radio station WDFN ("The Fan") that he's demanded a trade.

"This place (the Detroit Retro Gangstaz) is a f____n''s not what I signed up for," he told the Fan's Shep and Sharp. "You got Danny Perisho out there trying to play first base in a wheel chair...hell, we might not have a pitcher who can hit 75 on the gun. This is a joke."

Elder is hitting .340 with 8 homers and 21 RBI for Detroit.

When reached for comment, Gangstaz GM blanch13 confirmed Elder's demand, and said he would listen to offers from other teams. "I know Richie's frustrated," he said. "We all are. If we can make a deal that helps our team, he'll get his wish."

Hot Starts - AL Pitchers

Lorenzo Rodriguez (Cleveland) - 1.21
Mickey Beckett (Augusta) - 1.78
Jung Wanatabe (Pittsburgh) - 1.82

Ernest Terrell (Salem) - 7
Jung Wanatabe (Pittsburgh) - 6
William Inouoe (Augusta) - 5
Darryl McCorley (Columbus) - 5
Edgardo Valdes (Cleveland) - 5
Lorenzo Rodriguez (Cleveland) - 5
Luis Gabriel (Cleveland) - 5
Charlie Cosby (Richmond) - 5
Juan Gil (Richmond) - 5

Johnnie Hernandez (Pittsburgh) - 12
Roger Lawson (Cleveland) - 11
Tomas Martin (Augusta) - 10

Saturday, October 9, 2010

NL Hot Starts - HItters

OPS Leaders
Gary Goodwin (Mexico City) - 1.071
Yeico James (Toledo) - 1.049
Sammy Gonzalez (Helena) - 1.014

HR Leaders
Luis Diaz (Baltimore) - 15
J.T. Burns (Oakland) - 14
Christopher Booker (New York) - 13

RBI Leaders
J.T. Burns (Oakland) - 39
Christopher Booker (New York) - 36
Luis Diaz (Baltimore) - 36

Stolen Bases
Quilvio Diaz (Syracuse) - 13
Andrew Recchio - (Burlington) - 12
Jim Olson (Sioux Falls) - 12

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

AL Hot Starts - Hitters

A little too early to say anyone's in the MVP race, but there certainly are some hot starts out there. Here's who's come out of the gate smokin':

Salem has a pair of sluggers atop the OPS standings. Jose Vargas is picking up right where he left off in last year's MVP season, at .375/8/17/1.225. Teammate Ray Krause is right there at .394/8/22/1.167. Detroit's Richie Elder is third at .380/5/14/1.154.

Cincinnati's Albert Munoz leads in HR's with 9 - 5 more sluggers are right behind with 8: Boise's Andrew Corino, Jackson's Carl Serrano, and the Salem trio of Vargas, Krause, and Carlos Escuela.

The Portland Bar & Grillers are getting some pretty timely hits from Frank Suzuki - he leads the AL with 34 RBI (that's a 220-RBI pace). Roy Drew of Augusta is second with 27 and the Criminals' Pascual Pena and D.C.'s Eric Brantley share third with 25.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Odd Occurrences Department

In today's PM cycle, SP Fred West hit his first career HR at age 34 (a grand slam, at that).

The blast came in the 5th inning of the New Orleans Privateers' 12-2 romp over the New York Necromancers. Ironically, NY starter Ben Cox had intentionally walked Cookie Corder with 2 outs to get to West. Freddie then responded with HR #1 in his 194th career AB. With one swing, West also increased his career RBI total by 27%.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hall Of Fame - Make Sure To Vote! PART 2

OK, with the big 4 of Matty, Seanez, Romano and West covered, here's how I see the other top candidates.

Alex Ramirez gets consideration because he was the rare power-hitting 2B/CF. He's certainly a little short in the awards department - just 3 All-Stars and 2 Silver Sluggers. But he did top 60 homers twice and 50 another 4 times (and 480 total). I think he's just good enough on the strength his power game.

I put Rico Nunez right about on par with Ramirez. He wasn't quite the hitter Ramirez was (.894 career OPS vs. Ramirez' .964), but he was a pure SS for most of his career, and those 417 dingers are pretty impressive. Add in the 3 GG's at SS (doesn't sound like much, but the way fielding stats go it's really hard to do) and he may have a little bit better case.

Steven Vaughn's claim rests on his 3 Cy Young's (in fact, he won the first 3 AL CY's), which in turn rest on his win totals. He was a game-winner, for sure - almost 18 a season for his career. Here's my big problem with Vaughn: his contemporary (and teammate for 5 seasons in OAK) Thomas Sparks was a better pitcher by every qualitative measure (ERA, Whip, OAV, OBP against, and Slugging % against) over their entire careers, and I just can't see Sparks as a Hall-Of-Famer.

I'm going to go with Nunez with my 5th vote.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hall Of Fame - Make Sure To Vote! PART 1

Hall of Fame voting ends at the close of Spring Training - make sure to get your votes in!

Here's how I see the potential inductees:


Rob Romano, Matty Vaughn, and Luis Seanez. Vaughn and Johnny Collier have been the best pitchers so far in Belle's history, although on most measures, Seanez compares very favorably to Vaughn. If Seanez had spent his whole career with Charleston, Jackson or Cleveland, he would've topped 200 wins as well. The objections to Romano have been his short career...would you kick Sandy Koufax out of the rl Hall for that?


Dick West. Not quite the category of the Big Three, but solid. Wasn't the greatest power hitter around, but his .334 lifetime average is second only to Romano. And he had a fairly long career despite turning 27 in Season 1.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One-On-One With Fans-only

Fans_only took over the Ottawa franchise, which hadn't had a winning season in 8 years, in Season 12. That season produced a 12-win improvement, to 77, and the team has improved every year, posting win totals the last 4 years of 86, 87, 98, and 102. Last season, of course, saw the Ice take the Belle World Series, the first for fans_only.

The JBT recently had a chance to sit down with fans_only and get his views on various things HBD, plus a couple of others.

Who is fans_only in real life?

My name is Darrell, I am 29 and I live about an hour outside Toronto with my wife and 2 kids. I work as a Quality Assurance Specialist for one of the largest grocery chains in Canada.

Favorite real-life sports team?

The two teams that I follow the most are the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Bruins.

You've improved the Ice every year since you took over the team, culminating in a WS title last year. Was there a key move or development that got you over the top?

When I took over this franchise they had a lot of young talent, but they were lacking power. I think trading for Ray Henley in season 14 and Tomas Cruz in season 16 really helped put my team over the top.

What will you have to do to repeat this year?

I am planning on keeping most of my team together with a couple changes. The biggest key will be keeping my starting pitchers healthy. There are a number of good teams in the NL and if my team falters due to injuries I could easily not even be in the playoffs.

The world is still talking about it so I have to ask you. What do you think about LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joining forces in Miami?

Being from the Toronto area everybody knew that Bosh was leaving well before the season was over. As soon as all 3 of them announced they were going to play together I hoped they would somehow lose in the playoffs. Now I’m just interested to see how the 3 of them will co-exist and be happy with the amount they each get the ball in the long term.

In your opinion, which ratings are the most important when it comes to determining how successful a pitcher might be?

The first rating I usually look at is the splits vs LHB and vs RHB. After the splits I look at the control ratings as well as the pitch ratings. Another rating that I find to be a good indicator is the makeup. I have found most successful pitchers have at least a decent makeup.

If you could change one thing about HBD, what would it be and why?

I would like to see more players that get drafted outside the first few rounds make it to the majors. I know it would be difficult to create something more like real life where players that get drafted late can still become legitimate players but it would add another element to the game.

Monday, September 13, 2010

One-On-One With Crump123

The JBT recently sat down with long-time Katanas GM Crump123 to find out who he is in real-life and get his thoughts on various HBD questions.

For the newer Belle owners, crump has put together one of the true enduring dynasties in all of HBD. Taking over in Season 2, he took a 48-win team and improved it to 103 wins and a WS title. Since then, the Katanas have only won under 100 games once, have 108 or more the last 9 seasons, and posted another WS title in Season 4.

Who is Crump123 in real life?

Jon, 31, Programmer for a Clinical Research Organisation in the UK. (And we were all positive you were some kind of die-hard Clevelander).

Favorite real-life sports team?

Manchester United.

You've put together an incredible run here...15 seasons and the fewest wins was 98...9 straight seasons of 108+ wins. But just 2 WS titles. What's up with that?

Tell me about it. I've felt i've had the best overall team in a lot of those seasons. I either got shut down by Jackson's pitching in the ALCS, or got swept by Zack in the WS (0-8 in back to back WS). I put it down to bad luck, and that quality pitching in the playoffs is a necessity, but it's impossible to get when you draft 30-32 every season.

The world is talking about it so I feel as though I have to ask you. What do you think about LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joining forces in Miami?

Very little. :) Being European i'm not so hot the baseketball, i paid attention when Jordan played, since he played for my team... Beyond that a passing interest in knowing who is up and down. What i would say, is that clearly they are all big name players given the hype; but very rarely in any sport, do the big name players playing together get it done. If they can play without ego getting in the way then they have a shot, beyond that it'll be a huge disappointment.

In your opinion, which ratings are the most important when it comes to determining how successful a pitcher might be?

VsL, VsR, Control, P1 and P2 They're all important, VsL, VsR are the most, but even then the others still need to be usable.

If you could change one thing about HBD, what would it be and why?

Prospect development. Too linear, too obvious.

Favorite HBD team and why?

This one, we keep winning and they have Katana in the name. :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Belle Welcomes New Owners

Now that budgets are set, it's time to officially welcome our 3 new owners (all in the NL this year).

First, we have dabidbutler9, who is a veteran of 32 HBD seasons, most (and most recently) as an owner in Let's Play Two and Addicted Users. He takes over the prospect-laden New York Necromancers.

Next, we have elgman, new chief of the Helena Associates, home to 2 of the last 4 NL ROY's. He brings 31 seasons of HBD experience.

Finally, we welcome carlie1998, a relative newbie with 5 HBD seasons, but 4 playoff appearances and a WS championship already. He steps into a ready-to-win-now squad with the New Orleans Privateers.

The fortunes of our 3 new owners may be among the most interesting story lines of Belle Season on it in the new poll!

Friday, September 10, 2010

New Management In Detroit

Well, new management has taken over the Buffalo franchise, moved it to Detroit, and started evaluating the organization.

What it's finding isn't a pretty site.

The Major League roster is kind of a mix of Bad News Bears, Beer League, and The Benchwarmers. There are a couple of legit major leaguers (Cookie Martin and Hack Bush). We'll probably give Bonk Liniak (Season 14's #17 overall) and Pedro Sierra (Season 11 IFA) every chance to win jobs. That's about it...the bulk of our pitching staff understandably declared free agency, along with 7 position players. I don't know if it makes sense to bring any of those guys back; Dan Cirillo's looking for a 4-year deal at age 34. I don't of our best (and few) assets may be the couple of sandwich picks we could get from Type B's.

We've set a goal of 70 wins while investing as heavily as we can in scouting and the international market. If we think we can get a Type A free agent or 2 (at the cost of 2nd and 3rd rounders) who are easily tradeable, we might be able to turn them into 1st round prospects at the deadline. We're definitely going to have to innovate. We might have to petition the league to let a lucky fan pitch the 5th inning of every home game (if we have any fans show up)...we're not likely to have starters last that long.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Records and Milestones Of Season 16

We had a couple of significant single-season pitching records set last year, plus a slew of new career marks:

New Single-Season Records:

Richmond's Charlie Cosby tied the record for shutouts in a season with 5 (originally set by Midre Jose of El Paso/now San Juan in Season 14).

Jackson's Johnny Collier continued his assualt on the record book, lowering the mark for best Slugging % Allowed in a season to .278. The previous low was by Fred West (Columbus and Austin/now New Orleans in Season 14).

Career Records:

Career records change a lot every season, but we had some quite significant events last year.

The immortal Skip Leon barely squeaked past the 2000 RBI mark at 2001. He also pushed the hits record up to 2920, but that's probably as far as he'll take it. At age 40, he looks like he's ready for the rocker.

With a 38-HR campaign, Joe Rivera finally passed Leon for the career HR lead at 656. Rivera's still going strong - he's got a great shot at 700.

Johnny Collier improved several career standards he already held, but the real story was Cory Mitchell. With his excellent season for Jacksonville at age 37, he took over the career leadership in Complete Games with 64 (joined by Dan Cirillo), Quality Starts with 305, and Wins with 226. And for good measure, he pushed up his already career-best numbers for innings pitched (3466.3) and strikeouts (2836).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ottawa Wins it In 6

After the first 2 games split, the Ice came on strong to win 3 of the next 4 and take the 16th Belle WS in 6 games.

Ottawa hauled out the big lumber for Game 3, banging out 13 hits and 16 runs. They also capitalized on 3 Allegheny errors, collecting 6 unearned runs. Jorge DeJesus wasn't super-sharp, giving up 4 earned runs in his 6 innings, but it was good enough for his 3rd win of the playoffs. When the smoke cleared, Ottawa had a 16-5 win.

Pittsburgh returned the favor in Game 4, rapping 18 hits in a 14-5 win. Neifi Foster (3 hits, homer, 5 RBI), Bucky Daal (3 hits, homer, 3 RBI), and Steve Diaz (4 hits, 2 RBI) lead the Allegheny attack.

With the series tied at 2, Game 5 was crucial. The Ice opened by belting around Allegheny starter D'Angelo Cerda for 4 runs in the top of the 1st, but Pittsburgh answered with 3 in their half. Ottawa chased Cerda with 2 more in the second, but the Alleghenys stayed close with 3 in the 3rd. The Ice finally pulled away in the middle innings with 1 in the 4th (Chip Cromer solo HR), 1 in the 6th (Cesar Liriano single) and 2 in the 7th (Cromer and Liriano singles) to take a 10-5 lead to the bottom of the 9th. But the Alleghenys weren't going quietly. They got a couple of runners on with a double and an error, then Bucky Daal slammed a 3-run homer to give Pittsburgh life. But Ice closer Mike Simpson came in and slammed the door (getting the final out on a pick-off), and the Ice had a 10-8 win and a 3-2 series lead.

The Alleghenys had a real shot in Game 6 - they took a 3-1 lead into the 7th on the strength of starter Max Cruz's 6 innings. But Ottawa took advantage of the Pittsburgh bullpen: 4 in the 7th (O'Halloran, Vitiello HR's, Suarez single) and 2 in the 8th (Henley HR). Pittsburgh couldn't answer, and the Ice took a 7-3 win and the WS victory.

Ottawa's win makes it 3 straight for the NL; all-time the Senior Circuit now boasts an 11-5 advantage. This was the first WS win for the Ottawa franchise, and the first WS trip for the Pittsburgh franchise.

That wraps up another excellent season of Joey Belle action...see everyone on the other side of rollover.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ice, Alleghenys Split the First Two

Welcome to Joey Belle WS coverage!

Ottawa's Albert DeJean threw a strong 7 innings in Game 1, limiting Pittsburgh to 2 runs; meanwhile, the Ice batters stayed hot, knocking around Allegheny top gun (and Cy Young runnerup) Jung Wanatabe for 12 hits and 6 runs in 5 and 2/3. O'Halloran and Suarez homered for Ottawa in a convincing 8-2 win.

Pittsburgh evened things up with a convincing 7-4 win in Game 2. The second ining was the big frame, with the Allegheny's plating 5 runs - Bucky Daal's 3-run blast was the big blow. Rafael Brogna added a solo blast in the 5th. D'Angelo Cerda went 8, limiting the Ice to just 4 hits and 2 earned runs (Maximo Cota's 5th-inning boot lead to 2 unearned), and new FOY Johnnie Hernandez picked up his 9th save of the playoffs with a perfect 9th.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Best Season of All-Time

'Tis the season to discuss annual player awards (while we wait for the playoffs to get interesting).

But rather than going through the usual enumeration of who should win (according to me) or how WIS figures out who to put on the ballot, this year I'm going to focus on just one player's performance this year and how it stacks up to Belle's best seasons ever.

That one player, of course, is the Salem Goonies' slugging DH, Jose Vargas, who missed winning the AL Triple Crown by 11 RBI (.370/49/121).

What I got to wondering was how Vargas' season really compares to the top offensive seasons of Belle. All of the previous top 5 RC27 seasons in Belle occurred in the steroid era (which for us ended during Season 13). Vargas' season actually comes in at #5.

I'm not a stats guy, so somebody correct me if this is erroneous. To get an estimate of the difference between the steroid era and now, I just looked at average runs scored in the AL in Season 2 (Steven Spencer's all-time best RC27 of 17.05) and this season's AL average. Runs were 22.76% higher in the AL in Season 2.

Add 22.76% to Vargas' 14.399 RC27 this year and you have 17.68, which would top Spencer by a fair amount.

I think he's got a case.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

NL West Season Preview

Season 15 Recap: Las Vegas won 102 to nip the defending World Champ Surenos by 5 games, but Oakland got the last laugh, topping the 69'ers in the NLCS and going on to win their second straight Champeenship. Meanwhile, Santa Cruz (then Fresno) improved by an impressive 21 wins to 81, while Vancouver (the long-time San Jose Bad News Bees II) dipped under .500 for hte 3rd straight year. The West dominated post-season awards: Oakland's Clyde Jackson won the Cy Young, Santa Cruz' Kennie Frascatore took the ROY, and Vegas' Juan Gomez nabbed the FOY.

LAS VEGAS has a rather remarkable record of 15 straight .500+ seasons - only 3 of which have been under 90 wins. And they're doing it largely with pitching - last season's #2 ranking in Team ERA was the 3rd straight season in the top 3, although the lineup supported that staff with 782 runs (5th). The 69'ers rotation is without a true ace, but is solid through #5...the idea is for the starter to go deep and then turn it over to Juan Gomez, who won his first (but not likely his last) FOY. On offense, they rely on everybody contributing rather than riding a star: the Wengert/Keeler catcher tandem led the team in OPS, while RF Hughie Bruskie led in HR's with 30.

didn't sit on their laurels - they shook up the roster by trading for SP's Trent Diaz and Rafael Aquino, and signing C Harry Encarnacion to a front-leaded FA deal (leading us to believe that he's trade bait). The Surenos have a power-oriented attack (with Maduro, Rivera and Burns the main sources), but rely heavily on leadoff man Wilfredo Feliz to get on ahead of the sluggers. To call their pitching staff "reliever-oriented" would be an understatement; the basic plan is t give Gary Ramsay an 80-pitch start, then fill in with spot starters until he can go again, and mix-and-match a wide assortment of effective relievers. Then rinse and repeat. The addition of Diaz may give them a solid #2 starter, although they've attempted to trade him once already.

SANTA CRUZ has one of the up-and-coming young teams in the NL, improving by 21 games last season. ROY Kennie Frascatore gives the Radicals a legit ace - they can be a winner in any series. Can they get to the playoffs? With 3 young stars (C Nomura, 1B Cooke, and LF Farr) in the lineup, the offense is probably there. But they were 11th in ERA last year, even with Frascatore winning the ROY. This may have been the year for them to go after some FA pitching help - for them to have a shot at overtaking OAK and LV, they'll have to add some more pitching at some point.

VANCOUVER has moved from the extremely pitcher-friendly San Jose Municipal Stadium to Vancouver's perfectly neutral Nat Bailey Stadium. Maybe that'll get Derek Walker jump-started; after a ROY Season 12 (.983 OPS), he's posted 3 decent, but frankly disappointing years (all .700's OPS). Troy Harris will add some needed pop to the lineup, which should produce at least adequate scoring. The question is the pitching staff, which was so-so in a great pitcher's park last year. They have some bright spots (Craig Hague, Midre Estrada, Carl Benson), some spots that should be bright (closer Deion Corbin), and a bunch of question marks. They're auditioning 14 pitchers at the moment...if they can find 6 or 7 that work they might make some noise.

1. This will be one of the best races in Belle, with Vegas, Oakland and Santa Cruz
in a year-long dogfight. Well, that may be expecting a bit much of the Radicals, but I think they'll improve. I think the Surenos have enough left to squeak by Vegas.
2. Watch for Santa Cruz starter Kennie Frascatore in the CY voting...he was great last year and the move to an even bigger ballpark can only help
3. Although he's off to a bad start, watch for OAK's Harry Encarnacion to be the ost accomplished pinch-hitter in Belle history...or be traded for some young pitching talent.