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.