Friday, April 22, 2011

20 Questions With bdrose

1. What should we call you?

BDR is what I put on video games, when I used to be good enough to get on the high score screen, that is.

2. Any hobbies or favorite pastimes besides HBD?

Fantasy Baseball (sense a theme here?)

3. How did you fall into HBD?

Was also a fan of Strat-O, so heard about a baseball sim called WhatIfSports.

4. How many teams do you run? How many hours per week do you pour into your teams?

2 teams only. check them after every cycle, at least.

5. Married? Children?

Yes, I'm Al Bundy.

6. City/State you live in? Hometown where you grew up?

Westchester, NY. Originally from Montreal, the Great White North.

7. Occupation? Do you check in on your teams often during the workday?

Magazine publisher. Hell yeah I check from work.

8. Tell me 5 things nobody in Belle knows about you.

Went to college with Barack Obama for one year.
Carry in my wallet a picture of a salmon I caught, but not my wife.
I own a fantasy baseball magazine.

9. What makes you laugh?

Pina Coladas, getting caught in the rain, the taste of champagne. Wait a minute, what was the question again?

10. Top 3 all time movies?

Princess Bride, Pulp Fiction, The Empire Strikes Back.

11. What popular song past/present do you most identify with?

Geez, that's too much like a Miss America question. Let's just say R.E.M. is my fave band.

12. Real baseball team you grew up loving? Still in love with them?

Sadly, the now defunct Montreal Expos. Went to hundreds of games growing up, that 1994 strike KILLED us. Tim "Rock" Raines deserves to be in the HOF.

13. Tell me 3 things you wish you knew about particular Belle owners?

What the hell is Crump's secret to success? That's all.

14. You're fairly outspoken as a Belle owner. Why?

Silence is overrated.

15. What is your GM philosophy?

It's more fun trying to win with a smaller budget. Not more likely though, as my record shows.

16. Any special meaning for your WIS nickname? Your Belle team name?

Nope, just flowed, evoking the series.

17. Who is/was your favorite Belle owner? Why?

Our fearless commish, for running a very solid league, with a great blog.

18. Which MLB Commissioner do you admire or identify with most? Why?

Bart Giamatti. Short reign, but had integrity.

19. General pet peeves about the HBD game?

Coach hiring, especially the dearth of Fielding instructors.

20. If I was Belle Commish for a day I would...
abdicate the throne.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

20 Questions With toddcommish

1. What should we call you?

Todd is fine. Commish is fine. MikeT refers to me as "TardCommish".

2. Any hobbies or favorite pastimes besides HBD?

Not really. Before some of the anti-gambling legislation, I was a fairly regular online poker player with occasional dabbling in poker blogging. Now I mostly sit on my couch and yell at my sports teams.

3. How did you fall into HBD?

I'm old school, which means that the Bill Simmons article from years back started me on the dark path of SLB. I dabbled in the Basketball and Hockey sims before being one of the lucky few in the Ruth World (2nd world launched, and now the first world simmed). And as someone once said "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny"

4. How many teams do you run? How many hours per week do you pour intoyour teams?

3 HBD teams. Charter member of all three (Ruth, Moonlight Graham, Joey Belle). And I'll have at least 20 seasons in all three. I spend about an hour a day going over my HBD teams, longer if it's pre-season.

5. Married? Children?

Married for over 20 years to a beautiful SoCal blonde. Two kids; the boy is a senior in high school, entering San Jose State (my alma mater) as a Computer Science major in the fall. Daughter is 15 going on 16, and if any of you dirtbags even look at her, I will have your eyes removed.

6. City/State you live in? Hometown where you grew up?

Pleasanton, CA... between San Jose and Oakland. I grew up in Sunnyvale, CA

7. Occupation? Do you check in on your teams often during the workday?

HR Training Manager, and of course I would never dream of using company resources to check my WIS teams. I'm shocked that you would even ask.

8. Tell me 5 things nobody in Belle knows about you.

I lost on Jeopardy in 1988 (some might know this because I've bragged about it in the past)
I bowled a perfect game... for real. None of that Wii crap.
I'd leave my wife for Paula Creamer
The worst day of my life was when my dog died, worse than when my dad died.
I did a LOT of psilocybin mushrooms in my 20's

9. What makes you laugh?

The misfortunes of others. We all laugh at it, I just admit it.

10. Top 3 all time movies?

Shawshank Redemption, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Good Will Hunting

11. What popular song past/present do you most identify with?

Identify with? That's a toughie. If you want to amend the question to "movie", I'd say "Good Will Hunting". I don't identify with songs.

12. Real baseball team you grew up loving? Still in love with them?

San Francisco Giants. The WORLD FUCKING CHAMPIONS! You bet your ass I still love them!

13. Tell me 3 things you wish you knew about particular Belle owners?

Is rlahann really liberal, or does he just do it to irritate others?
Why would you want to be a commissioner with all these difficult owners?
Why would anyone spend $20 for a season just to tank and try and get the #1 pick and waiver priority in the following year?

14. You're very quiet as a Belle owner. Why don't you speak up more often?

I'd speak up if it was something that I legitimately cared about. This league has been remarkably free of anger and hostility, and I'd like to thank you for that. Besides, my team isn't good enough to chirp about, and isn't bad enough to bitch about. Plus, I don't know enough about most of these guys to really rip into them (like we do in MG)

15. What is your GM philosophy?

I prefer to build through the draft and free agency. I put a LOT of time and effort into the draft. Trades tend to be too much of the "I'll give you Juan Uribe and Julian Tavares for Albert Pujols" types of ridiculousness. The whole trading psyche is based on "I'm gonna take advantage of you"... and tends to frustrate me.

16. Any special meaning for your WIS nickname? Your Belle team name?

Predictably, I set up the ToddCommish name years prior to WIS through Yahoo, and yes, I was the commissioner for a fantasy football league. It was the first thing that came to mind.

I originally had the San Jose Bad News Bees when the world started, but got sick of the extreme ballpark. When given a chance to move, I chose a western conference team with a neutral ballpark, and unimaginatively went alliterative with the team name.

17. Who is your favorite Belle owner? Why?

Screw all you guys. I hate all of you. Until you let me win.

18. Which MLB Commissioner do you admire or identify with most? Why?

You've done a great job with this league. RobTracy originally started this league with an "alleged" five-season commitment. That fell apart roughly a week into the first season, and the league was rudderless for a long time. Now, it seems to be rolling along and has steadily climbed the list of "best leagues."

19. General pet peeves about the HBD game?

No peeves about the game. More peeves against the owners that don't seem to get the game and seem to want to either blow up the team/league, or bitch about the game until admin changes it.

20. If I was Belle Commish for a day I would...
not do a damn thing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

20 Questions With blanch13

1. What should we call you?


2. Any hobbies or favorite pastimes besides HBD?

Yeah, hiking and camping for a long time. More recently, dabbling with martial arts and social dancing.

3. How did you fall into HBD?

I did just literally fall into it a couple of years back. I had played Purebaseball a few years back and enjoyed that a lot, but the whole thing didn't run very well. Played a lot of Strat-O-Matic as a kid, so I have a long history with the baseball sim thing.

4. How many teams do you run? How many hours per week do you pour into your teams?

I have 4 teams now, and spend virtually no time on them. Pretty much all my HBD time is spent on commissioner duties and blogging here - probably 3-4 hours a week.

5. Married? Children?

Divorced with one daughter who's graduating from college next month.

6. City/State you live in? Hometown where you grew up?

Happily reside currently in Austin, TX. I do actually come from the same hometown as Joey Belle - Shreveport, LA.

7. Occupation? Do you check in on your teams often during the workday?

I'm a self-employed sales and small business coach - I do a lot of 5-minute check-ins.

8. Tell me 5 things nobody in Belle knows about you.

I don't think anybody in Belle knows anything about me, but here goes:

1. I'm kind of a crazy, only-child, Type-A personality.
2. I once had to negotiate with gangsters when I lived in Singapore.
3. I'm 56 years old.
4. Was an all-state SS in high school ball in La.
5. I do all my work by phone.

9. What makes you laugh?

George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Lenny Bruce. That should confirm my age.

10. Top 3 all time movies?

Hard to pick a top one, so in no order:

The Shawshank Redemption, Rashoman, and Pulp Fiction

11. What popular song past/present do you most identify with?

I don't think I identify with popular songs, but when I think of my favorites they're frequently something by Led Zeppelin or AC/DC.

12. Real baseball team you grew up loving? Still in love with them?

I lived and died with the Yankees for a long time, starting in the Mick's last good year ('64) and going through about '78-'80 (when I got to see a number of the Reggie/
Randolph/Guidry/Chambliss/Nettles Yankee-era games). Now I think the Yanks are the evil just seems unthinkable to me that you can have 1 (or a few) teams with such a huge resource advantage over the the other teams.

13. Tell me 3 things you wish you knew about particular Belle owners?

Hmmm...favorite food, favorite baseball player of all time, and best HBD "secret trick".

14. You're very loud as a Belle owner. Why do you speak up so often?

Just a function of being commish...I'm pretty low-key in my other worlds.

15. What is your GM philosophy?

Still figuring that out. I do find that once I have a team in contention I tend to get bored with it...I think I like the building process more than anything else.

16. Any special meaning for your WIS nickname? Your Belle team name?

Nah, I usually get my team names from one of those internet team name-generator sites.

17. Who is/was your favorite Belle owner? Why?

I'll have to pass on that one.

18. Which MLB Commissioner do you admire or identify with most? Why?

I honestly don't know enough about any of them or the issues they've dealt with to comment intelligently. On the larger admin side of baseball, I'd have to say I admire Branch Rickey the most. He had to have a lot of vision and balls to bring in Jackie Robinson when he did, and contributed many other innovations.

19. General pet peeves about the HBD game?

The only real gripe I have is that prospects are pretty much sure things, and that fact in itself creates the urge to tank. I really think it would be a huge improvement if they could address that somehow. Seems like it would be pretty easy to "fuzzy up" the draft and IFA's. Another interesting approach might be to offer an "HBD Premium" version, with fuzzier scouting and maybe a "revenue model" component (where your available $$ goes up or down with W-L record and perhaps some other factors).

20. If I was Belle Commish for a day I would _______________ .

I guess I'd do what I'm doing...trying to get in a good bit of blogging.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pittsburgh Lands Snyder

Pittsburgh and Austin have swung a mega-prospect trade, featuring the 2 players rated the top prospects at their positions in recent JBT articles.

The Alleghenies get reliever Chris Snyder, Season 15's #18 pick overall. Not sure what his projections looked like back in Season 15, but he has developed better than just about any prospect I've ever seen (for example, his vR improved 30 points over his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th pro seasons). Snyder appears to be an excellent fit for Pittsburgh, who has outstanding young talent just about everywhere on the roster except the bullpen. He's expected to jump into the closer role immediately.

Austin gets a pretty nice haul in return - C Orlando Aguilera, RP Ruben Villanueva, and OF Miguel Zorilla. Aguilera was one of last year's top IFA's and was recently named Belle's top catching prospect by both the JBT and the accompanying owners' poll. He looks like he'll be a .300/35 homer guy when he hits the majors in Season 21 0r 22. Villanueva looks to be a serviceable reliever; Zorilla will have a spot as a platooner against righties.

Interesting deal for both teams. Pittsburgh has a couple of relatively young catchers on the ML rosters now, so they used a big chip to go get what they needed. Austin is looking a couple of years down the road, so they moved a ready-now pitcher for what is probably more value in the future.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Best Prospects: Relief Pitchers

To get this list, I eyeballed the Season 15-18 IFA's and drafts, pulled out what looked like the top 13, estimated their future ratings and plugged those into a spreadsheet I use to rank pitchers in amateur drafts.

What I learned from this look was that relief pitchers are about the only place you can regularly find draft or IFA bargains - the average position of the draftees was #15 (ranging from #2 to #32) and the average bonus for the IFA's was just $5.4MM (numbers for the 13 I evaluated). The 13 are also all really close - I'd love to have any - so the poll on who the top ones are should be interesting.

#1 - Chris Snyder (Sea 15 #18 overall, Austin - currently AA): best combination of vL and vR you're likely to see anywhere...put together with very good control, velocity, groundball and P1, and Austin has themselves a great closer for the next dozen seasons. His second pitch is only pretty good - the only flaw.

#2 - Zoltan Steinbach (Sea 15 #23 overall, Little Rock - currently AAA): just really good across the board - his worst rating is a vR of 75 (I'm not counting velocity as a rating that matters a lot, although it does affect strikeouts). Very good groundballer with excellent pitches...what a find for the Pebbles.

#3 - Wally Darwin (Sea 18 #2 overall, Toledo - currently Low A): The Mud Hens expended an awfully high draft choice on this guy but it might be justified (same with Browning, and both because they'll throw a ton of innings along with putting up quality numbers). Darwin projects to be a very high-control, command-type pitcher who's really tough on righty batters. One really good pitch and a good second pitch - the only very minor thing separating him from the top two is that he'll only be good - not great - against lefties.

#4 - Blaine Knight (Sea 15 #9 overall, Detroit - currently ML): excellent control, very good splits, keeps it down. Pitches: Excellent P1, OK P2, his third pitch is going to hurt him some.

#5 - Joseph Kida (Sea 16 IFA, Jacksonville - currently AAA): Power lefty with great control, will absolutely destroy lefties. Righties will have trouble, too, but will at least have a chance. P1 great, P2 pretty good. Will give up some longballs.

#6 - Roy Waters (Sea 18 #23 overall, Richmond - currently Low A): like #3 Darwin, this pick depends on development. I think Waters will improve well - he has good makeup and his vR in particular is already very high. At maturity, his ratings won't be as high across the board as the top - 5; his vR will likely make the 90's, but others will be in the 70's.

#7 - Derrick McFeeley (Sea 17 #32 overall, Oakland - currently Low A): great find at the end of the first round for the Surenos. Another soft-tosser who will have generally good ratings across the board...just lower than those of the top 5.

The best of the rest (no particular order):

Alexander Browning (Sea 17 #2 overall, Toledo - currently ML): that vR only gained 3 points in his second pro year, and looks like it will only reach low 60's. I think he'll still be good, but clearly righties are going to beat him up on occasion.

Yuniesky Jiminez (Sea 17 #10 overall, Scottsdale - currently AAA): pretty good overall; again, the vR is the real suspect. I think his will develop better than Browning's but his is starting pretty low.

Pete Prince (Sea 17 IFA, Ottawa - currently High A): outstanding bargain for a $2.6MM bonus. Won't have great splits but his pitches are already really good...and he has 2 more years of solid development to go.

Albert Dominguez (Sea 17 #16, Vancouver, currently AA): This is probably the guy who has a chance to jump into the top group. He's the extreme flyball pitcher of the bunch - I think he'll have some outstanding seasons but will always be plagued by homers.

Albert McMichael (Sea 16 #13 overall, Scranton - currently AAA): will be very solid...all his ratings are pretty decent for a ML pitcher now, and he has another solid year of improvement in front of him. Also will be susceptible to the longball.

Yovanni Velazquez (Sea 18 IFA, Pawtuckett - currently AAA): I had to throw in one crapshoot and this guy is it. I really have no idea what his projections are, but his groundball rating and first 2 pitches are already really good. If his splits develop at all, this guy could end up being a really nice closer. What do you want from a closer? Either a strikeout or nothing out of the infield. It's conceivable that this guy reaches 100 on both Vel and GB.

What's the Difference Between 0 Scouting and 18 Scouting?

The signing of IFA Albert Crespo by Scranton gives us a good opportunity to see how much difference there is between "High" and "Low" scouting budgets.

First, a correction. In the last post, I said there wasn't a place to see int'l scouting projections on an IFA after he signs. Incorrect.

When an IFA first shows up on your scouting radar, your int'l scouting dept tells you about it in your main message inbox (the one on the left, just above division standings). Turns out that if you don't delete that message, and you look at the player card within that message, the player card there retains the int'l scouting projections even after he signs.

Let's look at Crespo through the eyes of Detroit scouts. We have very high (18) int'l scouting, and our advance scouting is as low as it gets (0). That's a pretty big difference.

To our int'l scouting department, here's what Crespo looks like (projections):
Range - 73
Glove - 85
Arm Str - 76
Arm Acc - 89
Contact - 67
Power - 63
vL - 65
vR - 51
Eye - 41

To our advance scouting department (the 10 year-old nephew in Tampa), here's what Crespo looks like:
Range - 59
Glove - 100
Arm Str - 81
Arm Acc - 100
Contact - 73
Power - 61
vL - 58
vR - 40
Eye - 34

If we say that the int'l projections are "accurate", how much do you miss by with scouting of 0? And does 0 always miss high or low?

Here's the % that 0 scouting was off from 18 scouting (negative #'s mean the advanced - $0 - estimated lower than the int'l - $18)

Range: -19.2%
Glove: +17.6%
Arm Str: +6.6%
Arm Acc: +12.4%
Contact: +9.0%
Power: -3.2%
vL: -10.8%
vR: -21.6%
Eye: -17.1%

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Which Scouts Are Showing Me This Player Card?

Since we have a couple of relatively new HBD'ers, I thought I'd put up an explanation of one of the more confusing aspects of the game - the whole projected ratings from 4 different scouting departments thing. I've run into even veteran owners in other worlds who had some misconceptions around this, so maybe a review is in order here.

First things first: current ratings are the player's actual abilities right now. They are exact and everybody sees the same thing regardless of what they spend on scouting. This is important and frequently misunderstood - if I spend $20MM across the board in scouting and see a pitcher's control as 82, and you spend $0 across the board on scouting, you will see that pitcher's control as 82. You and I will see each current rating of every player as exactly the same number. Scouting has absolutely nothing to do with current ratings.

Projected ratings, on the other hand, are always estimates (from some scouting department or another) of what the player's ratings will be. They are never exact, because they can't be - a player's development is heavily affected by future events (namely, how good his coaching is, how much his team spends on training, and injuries or lack thereof. It's also affected by the player's makeup rating). Projected ratings are determined by the level spent on various scouting departments - higher spending yields more accurate estimates but they're still estimates.

Advance Scouting: When you're looking at a player card of a player on a roster (yours or another team's, majors or minors), the projected ratings you're seeing come from the advance scouting department.

High School and College Scouting: when the amateur draft players show up every year, and you're looking at them on the GM's Office >> Player Development >> Amateur Draft Prospects screen, the projected ratings you see there (and on the player card) come form the high school and college scouting departments. Until the player signs, the HS and Col projected ratings are also what show on the GM's Office >> Player Development >> Amateur Draft Results and the World Office >> Reports >> Draft History screens. Once the player signs, all the above (except one) change. When the player signs, wherever you look at him (except on the Amateur Draft Prospects screen), you're seeing the projected ratings from Advance Scouting.

The Amateur Draft Prospects screen is unique in that it retains the HS and Col projected ratings even after the players sign. It's the only place (that I know of) that you can get an idea of what different levels of scouting spending tell you. Example: you spent $20MM on Advance Scouting and $12MM on College. Your #1 draft pick is a college 2B that your scouts said had a projected CON of 97; once he signs your Adv says he projected CON is 88. You know your Adv is going to be fairly accurate in this comparing the ratings on this screen against what Adv scouting yields, you can get a feel over time of how much "difference" different levels of spending make.

Note: the Amateur Draft Prospects screen goes away after the season, so (unless you copy them to a spreadsheet) you only have access to these ratings for the current season.

International Scouting: works the same way as the HS and Col scouting except that there's nothing (that I know of ) that retains the Int'l scouting ratings after the player signs. There obviously is an Int'l Prospects Page (analagous to the Amateur Draft Prospects page), but once the player signs he doesn't show up on that page anymore.

Hope this was at least a little helpful. Comments welcome.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Best Prospects: Catchers

For purposes of these rankings, I'm saying "prospects" are players who are listed as having 0 years of ML experience as of this season. So, we'll have some guys on ML rosters showing up.

Our top catching prospects are largely switch-hitters (4 of the 6) and either late first-rounders (4, picked 17, 18, 18 and 29) or Season 18 IFA's. They're mostly hitters with decent-to-good receiving skills, but we've got one defensive prodigy in the group. Rochester is the proud parent club for 2 of our future star C's.

#1: Orlando Aguilera (Sea 18 IFA, Pittsburgh - currently AAA): The lefty-batting Dominican is quite advanced for a 19 year-old - he could probably play in the majors now but will certainly benefit from more seasoning. Doesn't have a great arm but in time will be an above-average pitch caller. Let's face it, he'll make most of his future millions with the bat. He projects to a .300 hitter with 30-35 and occasionally 40-HR power. Multiple All-Star Games and Silver Sluggers, possibly an MVP or 2 (although C's don't seem to get nominated).

#2: Fernando Belliard (Sea 18 # 17 overall, Detroit - currently AAA): College product has superb contact and on-base skills - maybe a .400+ OBP guy - but only 15-HR power. Projects to a B arm and B pitch-calling. A plus: he'll be an absolute ironman, IF he can avoid injury (health is the biggest ratings concern). Could make several All-Star teams.

#3: Daniel Twitchell (Sea 18 #18 overall, Rochester - currently Low A): Almost identical to Belliard - switch-hitting college C with good contacts skills and good against both LHP and RHP. Not quite up to Belliard's defensive skills or durability, but a better health prognosis. Also a multiple All-Star candidate.

#4: Michael Hammond (Sea 16 #29 overall, Oakland - currently ML): What's with all the switch-hitting C's? Hammond slipped in the Season 16 draft due to the 36 Health rating, and the Surenos gladly scooped him up at #29. This guy will hit - .300/30HR's is a distinct possibility. Average arm and slightly above-average pitching calling, the big question is whether he can stay in the lineup - he's had a couple of injuries already but they haven't hurt his development too badly.

#5: Enrique Sojo (Sea 17 #18 overall, Rochester - currently AA): Another switch-hitting C for the Riot. Sojo has a howitzer attached to his shoulder, but will occasionally shoot one into the outfield (way into the OF). Already a decent pitch-caller and could get to B+ level. Could develop into a .260-.280 hitter with 20-25 HR power and decent walk totals, although he might see some severe slumps against RHP.

#6: Kazuhiro Suzuki (Sea 18 IFA, Scranton - currently Low A): Won't win any awards for offense, but projects to one of the best defensive catchers in Belle history. Already a very good pitch caller, it's just a matter of how good he'll be. Bazooka for an arm and extremely accurate. Will get some walks and hit for some power, but most years will average .200-.240. Makeup may hurt development a bit.

The Rest Of The Opening Day Recaps

Let's start part 2 of the openers in the NL.

New York opened against Syracuse with a 4-1 home win. The Warriors got a run in the first off Necromancer starter George Titan, but only 3 hits the rest of the game off Titan and 3 relievers. SS Matty Cortez drove in 2, while RF Steve Bryant and 1B Ellie Roenicke had solo shots.

Pawtuckett welcomed Toledo to McCoy Stadium with an 11-3 pasting. CF Ricardo Delgado and 2B Luis Diaz both cranked a pair of homers for the Slater Paws, while Matty Coco connected for Toledo. Pawtuckett starter Mike Franco was a little shaky, allowing 8 hits and 3 runs, but got the win, while Tom Salazar picked up a 3-inning save.

San Juan visited Louisville and came away with a 6-4 win. The Senators used a big 4-run 5th (Brendan Keeler 2-run homer)to take a commanding 6-1 lead. Louisville rallied to 6-4, but San Juan CF Graham Black gunned down Edgar Romero trying to stretch a base hit to a double to end the game. Ramiro Fuentes tossed 8 innings for the win.

Scottsdale prevailed in a 10-7 slugfest at home against Oakland. 1B Sammy Gonzlaez had 3 hits and 4RBI for the Vipers; SS Rod Goldberg had a pair of hits and 2 RBI for the Surenos. Scottsdale starter Kennie Frascatore wasn't very effective (7 hits, 5 earned runs in 5 IP) but got the win.

Detroit opened at Rochester and banged out 15 hits en route to an 8-1 thrashing. The oldtimers shined - C Harry Encarnacion cracked a pair of homers and drove in 6, while DH Robert Franco pinged out 5 singles. Dan Cirillo got the win (#171 on the career) with 7 strong innings.

D.C. hosted Cleveland in a battle of AL East heavyweights. The Revenge posted 4 in the 2nd and made it hold up, holding off the Katanas for a 4-3 win. LF Dave Pressley knocked in 3 for D.C.; Luke Joyner and Jacque Fitzgerald hit solo's for Cleveland. Rob Workman allowed 2 runs over 8 innings to pick up the win.

Little Rock's Yamid Reynoso and 2 relievers rolled into El Paso and shut out the Sun Kings 4-0. CF Alex Woodson paced the Pebbles' attack with a 2-run homer.

San Diego's new-look offense exploded for 10 hits on Omaha and swamped the Middle Americans 9-2. Brand-new Surf Baby Carlos Manzanillo blasted a pair of homers and drove in 5...2B Carlos Pineiro and LF Alberto Pinzon contributed 2 hits and 2 runs scored apiece. Solo homers by DH Macbeth Crawford and 2B Robb Stein accounted for all the Omaha scoring. Starter Jimmie Feliz scattered 4 hits and a walk over 6 innings to earn the victory.

AL West Season 19 Preview

Season 18 Recap: Salem won 101 to handily take the West for the 4th straight time. Ottawa by 2 games. Portland gained 5 wins (80) for second, and San Diego had a nice pickup of 16 wins (78) for third. Boise (now Omaha) also improved, getting 5 more wins for 72. The Goonies didn't have an easy playoff run - they lost 2 games each to Richmond and Pittsburgh - but got hot at the right time, sweeping Chicago in the WS for their first Belle Championship. On the awards front, the Goonies' Carlos Escuela won his second consecutive MVP.

didn't rest on any laurels during the off-season - the roster has changed quite a bit due to free agency, trade and promotion. The Goonies scored 941 runs last year and led the world in HR's (298) - the offense should be equally as proficient this season. It looks like LF Christopher Booker will lead off and DH Jose Vargas will hit #2 - you know you've got a lot of sluggers when a guy with 600 career homers is a table-setter. Marquis Seo (against RHP...platoon partner Terry Schafer will do the honors against lefties), 2-time defending MVP Carlos Escuela (gunning for his 3rd straight 140+ RBI season), rookie CF Placido Chavez (Season 14's #7 overall) and RF Ray Krause occupy the RBI slots. There's not a soft spot anywhere - rookie SS Charles Richardson (Sea 14 supplemental) was a .300 hitter for his minor-league career. Former Cy Young winners Ruben James and Vic Benitez anchor a rotation that gets a boost from the promotion of Sea 15 #1 overall Tim Branson. 18-game winner Rudy Merritt and Ernest Terrell round out a very deep rotation. What has happened to closer Jacob Franklin? He's posted 3 straight 5+ ERA seasons...a poor start may prompt the Goonies to turn to Geoff Sosa for closing chores.

PORTLAND: Considering their extreme pitchers' ballpark, the Bar & Grillers offense is doubly impressive (814 runs last year - 5th). Sharp-eyed 2B Victor Miller and old pro Roy Drew lead off...2nd-year SS Hong-Gu Kim, 1B Brant Cooney, LF Ray Henley, and 3B Frank Suzuki follow and will be the prime power sources.
They'll definitely do some running - 8 players had 10+ stolen bases last year. Portland depends on a huge ballpark to keep their rather low-caliber pitching staff from getting shellacked. Among the starters, #1 Augie Fujiwara seems to have the best stuff for the big park, while setup man Mule Hampton may be the best of the relievers. Of the AAA talent, C Willie Picasso (Sea 15 IFA) appears most capable of helping this year...likely as a DH.

trailed the field in runs last year. Some of that was due to the ballpark, and with the signings of Carlos Manzanillo and Quilvio Suarez, the lineup's looking pretty good. Suarez and LF Alberto Pinzon are both solid #3-type hitters; 1B Stan Burnett, Manzanillo, and RF Corey Anderson supply ample power; even the SS and CF positions - Archie Blake and Eduardo Sierra - offer a little offense. The 4th-ranked pitching staff gets a boost from FA signees Tomas Cruz, Eduardo Valentin and Glen Moore. Jimmie Feliz is the #1 starter...Cruz probably becomes #2 with Fernando Nieto at #3. Closer R.J. Quevedo is a good bet to improve...Glen Moore and Eduardo Valentin should be solid as setups.

was one of our more active off-season traders, moving longtime franchise centerpiece P.T. Navarro and bringing in OF Benj Cooper, 3B Thomas Lambert, RP Andres Sierra and 1B Jolbert Cruz. The Middle Americans were an average-ish offense last year; they'll hope for some power from Lambert, Cruz, and DH Macbeth Crawford; some nice on-base numbers from CF Andrew Corino and SS Fred Ruffin at the top of the order; and more steady production from 2B Robb Stein (.280/24/80) to improve that. The pitching needs more improvement - they need a big season from Gail Henry, the #7 overall pick in Season 16. Omaha may have rushed him a little, but he's their best bet from the farm system. Wayne Evans is the other starter who looks capable of breaking out...he's also the rare player whose current overall rating is higher than his projected, without any of his individual current ratings being higher than projected (???). Jorge Feliz (Season 10 2nd-rounder) gets a shot at the show after 9 minor-league seasons...he joins what has to be termed a mediocre bullpen.


is clearly the class of the division and should handily repeat. San Diego might make things interesting for 2nd, and a wild-card berth is not beyond belief. I'll pick the Surf Babies for 2nd and Portland for 3rd, with Omaha improving some but still taking 4th.

Will contend for the MVP: Carlos Escuela (SAL), Hong-Gu Kim(POR)
Will contend for the Cy Young: Ruben James (SAL), Tomas Cruz (SD)
Will contend for the ROY: Placido Chavez (SAL), Tim Branson (SAL), Gail Henry (OMA)

Opening Day In Belle!

Regular season is underway, with half the teams playing their openers in the PM cycle. Let's take a quick look at the opening games, starting in the AL.

In Cincinnati, Columbus spoiled the Waste Managers' home opener with a 6-2 win. Criminals' 2B Fernando Espada collected 4 hits, including a double and a homer, and starter Eduardo Pena fanned 6 and allowed just a run in 6 innings.

Scranton upended Pittsburgh as Rich Grace and Hal Maurer shut down the vaunted Alleghenies offense. CF Juan Lopez homered for the Stranglers in the 5-1 win.

Charlie Cosby and 5 relievers shut out Austin, 3-0, as Richmond opened its South title defense with a home win. Ernest Farr slammed his first AL homer to pace the offense.

Augie Fujiwara twirled a complete game shutout for Portland; they knocked off the defending World Champ Salem Goonies at home, 3-0. SS Hong-Gu Kim drove in all the Bar & Grillers' runs with a homer and a single.

Chicago nosed Ottawa, 5-4, in the Ice home opener. Wth the score tied at 4 in hte top of the 9th, Swingers' SS Julio Prieto singled, stole second, and scored on Theodore Beckett's single. Ottawa threatened in their half, getting a pair of hits, but Roger Lawson steadied and got the save.

Jacksonville blew open a 2-2 tie with 7 in the 9th for a 9-2 road win at Burlington. George Kipling drilled a bases-loaded triple to key the big inning for the Jinxed; Russ Guthrie got the win with 2 scoreless innings in relief.

Luis Redondo thanked Mexico City for his new contract with 6 strong innings - the Red Hot edged New Orleans at home, 3-2. LF Damaso Castillo delivered the game-winner - a 3-run homer in the 4th.

Vancouver opened at home in a promising way: back-to-back-to-back solo homers in the 1st inning (Carlos Cairo, Derek Walker and Sammy Reyes). But Vegas starter Luis Cortes and 2 relievers shut down the Victory on 4 hits the rest of the way, and the 69ers got a big 5-run 5th for a 5-3 road win. C Gabe Borland homered and drove in 3 for Las Vegas.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

NL East Season 19 Preview

Season 18 Recap: Jacksonville got a little better for the 4th straight year, winning 86 and taking its 3rd straight division title. Pawtuckett improved by 8 wins (to 79) and edged Burlington (up 5 wins to 76) for second. Toledo struggled, dropping 16 wins to 45. The Jinxed surprised Ottawa with a sweep in the first playoff round, but lost to New Orleans in the DCS.

: the defending champs didn't do a whole lot in the off-season, signing SP Domingo Guillen and trading for RF Hack Bush (although they may not be done with their roster yet). Bush joins a competent offense that does a little of everything but is superlative at none. 2B George Kipling picked up his 2nd Silver Slugger last year and is the best overall hitter on the squad. LF John Li (29 HR, 28 SB) and 3B Matthew Ryan (28 HR, 23 SB) both bring power and speed to the attack. C Jason Griffin is quietly building a near-.300 lifetime batting average. Although not much of an offensive contributor, SS Julio Jose has won 4 straight Gold Gloves. Gary Ramsay is slowing down a little at 36 but still commands "ace" status. After him the rotation is a grab-bag of #4 types - the Jinxed will hope for 1 or 2 to get hot. Eric Langston looks like a starter, but has excelled in a middle relief/super setup role. Russ Guthrie was superb as a setup man last year...Emmanuel Matos was shaky in his closer trial. There are some potential reinforcements at AAA: RF Nick Mottola (Sea 15 supplemental) is ready if Bush falters and RP Joseph Kidda (Sea 16 IFA) looks like he could be a boost to the 'pen.

PAWTUCKETT welcomes #1 starter Mike Franco back from a season lost to elbow surgery. Is Franco worth 7 wins (# of games they finished behind Jacksonville last year) to the Slater Paws? Like the Jinxed, the rest of their rotation is sketchy, although Vinny Suzuki has been pretty consistent (4.10 career ERA) over his 3 seasons. Jesus Diaz really came into his own as a closer last season (35-of-38 saves, 2.22 ERA). If he can repeat that the race could tighten up considerably, although he could really use some better setup help. Derek Foster's power is slipping, but he loves McCoy Stadium and his HR totals should still be impressive for a year or 2. Lefty-throwing Ricardo Delgado would be better off defensively in CF, rather than 2B, but is verging on superstar status either way. CF Luis Diaz is also a 40-HR threat, and rookie DH Eliezar Rivas (Sea 15 IFA) should be able to more than replace the production lost with the departure of Joe Rivera. Rivera apparently ends his career #1 on the all-time HR list (710) and #2 in RBI's (1907). Pawtuckett has some nice prospects in AAA - IF Amp Faulk (Sea 17 #4), SP Jerry Strong (Sea 17 #8), and RP Yovani Velazquez (Sea 18 IFA) - but they're all likely to stay in the minors all season.

: the Lake Monsters' no-name pitching staff has always been pretty good in cavernous Mustain Stadium - this year should be the same. They usually end up working in 6 starters - R.A. Everett, Sammy Canseco and Jim Mitchell may be the best bets for breakout seasons. Closer Carl Hume and setup men Tommy Fabregas and Carlton Locko are quietly effective. You wouldn't expect Burlington to be a big run producer in that ballpark, but they need to find a way to manufacture more runs. RF Theodore Beckett defected to Chicago; replacing him with Rule V draftee Rich Foster is a big step back. The LF platoon of Harris and Bell should be pretty good in the on-base department. 1B Wilt McDowell and C Daryl McDonald are about the only threats to drive the ball...there are a few too many holes in this lineup for any offensive improvement.

has some interesting new faces, both from free agency and promotion. SP Jesus Javier and RP Victor Sosa will bring some veteran talent to the pitching staff. Season 15 #2 overall, Matty Coco makes his much-awaited full-season debut - he's the pre-season favorite for ROY. Season 14 2nd-rounder Phil Feller and Season 17 #2 overall Alexander Browning will also break camp with the big club. It might be a season early for Browning, but the Mud Hens hired him a good pitching coach and are settling back to watch him grow up on the job. Closer Tomas Martin rounds out a pretty nice bullpen. This isn't a great team yet, but they'll give Hens fans some exciting moments this year...keep an eye on their record in 1-run games.


This looks like a dead heat between Jacksonville and Pawtuckett to me. Franco's return narrows the gap for the Slater Paws, but I don't think it's quite enough to get them over the top...Jinxed take their 4th straight by a narrow margin. Burlington gets 3rd again; Toledo makes a big jump and might give the Lake Monsters a scare.

Will contend for the MVP: Ricardo Delgado (PAW), Matty Coco(TOL)
Will contend for the Cy Young: Gary Ramsay (JAX), Mike Franco (PAW)
Will contend for the ROY: Matty Coco (TOL), Eliezar Rivas (PAW)

Friday, April 8, 2011

AL North Season 19 Preview

Season 18 Recap: Detroit won 85 (up 7 wins) for its first division crown in 10 seasons. Cincinnati (down 18 wins), Columbus (down 28 wins) and Rochester (down 10 wins) all had their seasons fall apart and won 62. The Gangstaz upset Cleveland in the first round before falling to Pittsburgh in the DCS. The North picked up one of the post-season player awards, with Detroit's Miguel Rivera winning the ROY.

DETROIT continues to recycle over-the-hill vets while their prospects mature. They lost last year's entire opening-day rotation to free agency or trade, and only 2 of them have contracts elsewhere. On a historical note, it looks like the end of the line for Teddy Nelson, a long-time fav in Burlington who ends up with 113 wins and a 3.97 ERA; and Denny Perisho, who banged 442 career homers and picked up 3 Series rings with the Austin organization (as the old Jackson Holes). The Gangstaz will try to catch lightning in a bottle again with oldtimers SP Dan Cirillo (36), 3B William Kwon (37), C Harry Encarnacion (37), and SP Jacob Martin (37). They join a core group of youngsters who have some promise: LF Bonk Liniak (Season 17 ROY), 1B Miguel Rivera (Season 18 ROY), SP Burke Jordon (Season 16's #9 pick), and RP Blaine Knight (Season 15's #9). Prospects Tomas Park (Season 17 #1 overall), Fernando Belliard (Season 18 #17) and SP Yadier Eusebio (Season 18 IFA) will spend the entire season in AAA but could see the Show next season.

saw most of their lineup dip below career norms last year - runs were down by 50 from Season 17. But it's a solid crew that's mostly well under 30. 1B Martin Munro has 35-40 homer potential, DH Norberto Pujols (.258/32/90 as a rookie) has 50+ homer potential, and COF's Solano and Munoz can both put up .300+ with 20-30 homers. SS Midre Dunn had a breakout .282/23/80 (with 43 SB's) season as a sophomore, and is on the verge of superstar status. The staff went from middle-of-the-pack in Season 17 to last in Season 18 (Team ERA of 5.45) - big improvement needed. FA agent Amos Christians is only marginally likely to help (4.78 career ERA)...same with rookie Howie McMasters. Carlos Javier may be the most likely starter to give the Waster Managers a breakout season...Matty Maduro and Edgar Perez both could on the relief side, but are anything but sure things.

COLUMBUS might be the most inexplicable story of Season 18. After a long winning tradition they went through rebuilding seasons from years 13-15, then improved to 80 and 90 wins in Season 16 and 17. A return to form and a couple of power prospects should get them back on track. The new-look lineup starts with 1B Craig White (Sea 15's #4 pick), a switch-hitting big-time power prospect, and LF Ben Flynn (Sea 14's #33 pick by Oakland), another power hitter who came over from Syracuse in last year's Theodore Maxwwell trade. 3-time Silver Slugger Fernando Espada is probably heading back to 2B, where he should be an All-Star and SS for another 6-7 years. CF Fred Watson joins Espada as a top-of-the-order speed threat, and DH Pascual Pena is almost a sure bet to improve on last year's .257/27/107. The Criminals scored 933 runs in Season 17 and 763 last year; you can bet the farm they'll be over 850 this year. Out of Al Escobar, Daryl McCorley, Eduardo Pena, Khiry Robinson, William Innoue and Hector Romo, Columbus should be able to find 2 or 3 decent starters. In the bullpen, Rolando Gomez and Julian Lopez are just adequate.

seems content to keep their payroll low this year and score an IFA or 2. Their ML roster is currently incomplete to say the least, with no OF's. Among the hitters that are there, rookie C/DH's Einar Gonzalez (Sea 14 2nd-rounder), Earle Nash (Sea 12 2nd-rounder), and Ivan Sobkowiak (Sea 13 2nd-rounder) are the best. Among the pitchers, SP Edgard Hernandez (Sea 13 2nd-rounder) and RP Carlos Jacquez (Sea 14 #24) look like the best bets to be ML contributors. The Riot is expected to fill out their ML roster from their ample supply of AAA 2B shortly.


Well, I'd get accused of sandbagging if I counted myself out, so I'll refrain. I do think the Gangstaz are likely to take a step back this can get lucky on scrap-heap FA's only so often, and there's no 3rd straight ROY coming. Cincy and Columbus would both be better even if they didn't have any promising rookies coming up, and they do. So it looks to me like a 3-team race...I honestly expect Columbus to win it. Detroit noses out Cincy for 2nd, with Rochester exiting the race early.

Will contend for the MVP: Midre Dunn (CIN), Fernando Espada (CLB)
Will contend for the Cy Young: none
Will contend for the ROY: Craig White (CLB), Ben Flynn (CLB)

NL South Season 19 Preview

Season 18 Recap: New Orleans won a franchise-high 107 and cruised to its 3rd straight South title. San Juan won 88 for second. Mexico City dropped off 8 wins (67), while Louisville improved by 5 wins to 56. had its second straight sub-.500 year (74 wins). The Senators knocked out Vancouver and lost to Chicago in the DCS; the Privateers topped Jacksonville in the DCS before bowing out to Chicago in the NLCS.

NEW ORLEANS lost a chunk of pitching in free agency (#1 starter Jesus Javier, swingman Tomas Cruz and setup man Tuck Barkley). Don't think they'll manage a 3.25 team ERA again, but they should still be good. Magglio Nunez, Fred West and Omar Chavez anchor the rotation. Wesley Telford is one of the NL's best closers (88 saves the last 2 seasons) - he's setup capably by Theodore Curtis and Kelly Nelson. If William Kim would pitch the way his rating suggest he could, the Privateers' staff might be special again. Former MVP Sid Selby (CF) ignites the offense; another former MVP, Richie Scheffer (.276/34/110), RF Kevin Grabowski (.280/46/118), 3B Clarence Richard (.313/35/99) and 1B Nap Myatt (.287/30/121) supply the power. The unheralded catching duo of Quilvio Nunez (a former 2nd-rounder) and Juan Vazquez (a former IFA who commanded a whopping $1.6MM bonus) combined for a remarkable .324/22/81 with 117 walks last year.

SAN JUAN didn't do a lot in free agency (although adding C Brendan Keeler for less than $2MM a year was a coups) because they didn't have to; they have one of the best young nuceli in the NL. It starts with the front 3 of the rotation: Season 17 Cy Young and ROY winner Rex Gragg (24), Season 14's top IFA Ramiro Fuentes (25), and Season 9's #6 overall Vince Cross. It continues with setup man extraordinaire Pascual Moya, 23, who notched 7 wins and 10 saves in 132 innings. It extends to the offense with 1B Phillip Cooke, who has 3 All-Star appearances, 2 Silver Sluggers and 2 Gold Gloves in 3 seasons; LF Kenneth Scoroposki (.270/27/99) and finishes up with rookie 3B Pablo Ortiz, a Season 14 supplemental pick. Mix in oldtimers Tim Murray (2B, age 38), SP Nick Rando (33, 2.80 ERA last year), SP Midre Jose (30) and the 3-headed catcher committee of Keeler (versus RHP), Ryan Adcock (versus LHP), and Marlon Linden (defense), and the Senators may have themselves a 95-win team this year.

MEXICO CITY is struggling with the out-year effects of big free agent contracts. They went all-out in Season 15, signing Gary Goodwin to a max deal and CF Wally Reid to a near-$10MM a year deal (it worked, they won the division), then added SP Frank Huff in Season 17 on a $50MM+ deal. Goodwin's still good at 32, although his power and durability (not high to stat with) are on the decline. Reid and Huff, though, have declined badly...Reid hasn't been a CF for a couple of seasons, and will barely hit 90 games this year. The team elected to re-sign FA starters Pedro Encarnacion and Luis Redondo (favorable contracts both), but the net result is they're maxed out on payroll, have no C's or SS's on the big-league roster, and have the 38-Dur Dicky Hudson at 1B and the 46-Dur Reid in CF. SO the Red Hots are incomplete at the moment...I think they'll end up trading Encarnacion, Redondo and Goodwin to get some cap space and prospects, but that remains to be seen.

LOUISVILLE will be leaning on some rookies to get things headed in the right direction. Timo Owings (Season 14 Supplemental pick) showed some nice power (26 homers) in his Season 18 LF audition. John Sauveur (Rule 5) could be the best bet at SS. Jair Barrios (Sea 14 IFA) and Brad Johnstone (Sea 17 #24) join the rotation but are probably just placeholders until they hit arb. Most of the ML roster is young and of marginal talent, so the payroll is headed down for awhile. The real focus for a couple of years is going to be on prospects like Damian Schmidt (#1 overall last year) and whoever they take at #2 this year.


New Orleans has had their way with the division the last few years, but this could be the season San Juan catches up. Season 17's rookie sensation (ROY and Cy Young) Rex Gragg has recovered well from last season's injury and is poised for a big comeback year; his supporting cast is generally young and on the way up. The Privateers' key players, on the other hand, are starting to see a few nicks in the ratings due to age - given their free agent losses, I think they'll slip a few games. I see a close race, with San Juan pulling it out. New Orleans be a close 2nd and will contend for a wild card. Mexico City is impossible to predict at this point; Louisville should improve a little but the focus is on building the minors.

Will contend for the MVP: Phillip Cooke (SJU), Sid Selby (NO)
Will contend for the Cy Young: Rex Gragg (SJU), Ramiro Fuentes (SJU)
Will contend for the ROY: Pablo Ortiz (SJU)