Thursday, January 27, 2011

California Dreamin' 2011 Part I

During last year's free-agent's period I wrote a post called California Dreamin'...or is it where I basically noted how the California teams had seemed to be trumped by other teams in terms of free-agent signings. Now, as we saw with the culmination of the World Series, the San Francisco Giants had the last laugh on all the naysayers (including myself). So in keeping with the theme of last year's post, here I go with my California Dreaming.

- San Francisco Giants
I've got to start off with the World Series Champs who finally brought the trophy to San Francisco after 58 years without a championship. My main gripe about the Giants last season was though the team could pitch, they lacked offensive. Though they showed in the stretch run and the postseason that their pitching could offset their offensive woes, there were times during the early season that their offense was their achilles heel. This season their offense hasn't really improved, yet.

I think the Giants will feel the loss of Juan Uribe more than the loss of Edgar Renteria. While both players came up big in the postseason, Renteria was mainly a non-factor during the season while it seemed that Uribe played everywhere in the field. For now Miguel Tejada seems to be starting shortstop while a Mark DeRosa can fill Uribe's utility man spot on the roster if he can remain healthy. Pablo Sandoval's weight issues will also be a major news story especially if he fails to regain his form from the 2009 season. Aside from those two free agent departures and the Tejada signing the team is not much different offensively than last season. I think that changes in May when Brandon Belt is called up from the minors.

Belt is a 22-year old 6'5" 195lb left handed hitting first baseman who in one season in the minor leagues for the Giants hit a combined .352 with 23 HR and 112 RBI. In 492 at-bats, Belt had 173 hits (43 2B/10 3B/23 HR) with 99 strikeouts, 93 walks and 22 stolen bases. His OPS was 1.075 (.455 OBP/.620 SLG). Now keep in mind that the majority of those numbers were achieved in single A California League but having started in single A and finishing the season in AAA Belt performed at each stop. I believe that it is a matter of time before Belt joins the Giants and solidifies the lineup.

In terms of pitching, when you have a rotation Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Johnathan Sanchez and Barry Zito with a bullpen of Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez and Santiago Castilla there's not much that needs to be said. I know the talk of the National League's pitching is going to center among the fearsome foursome in Philadelphia but these guys in San Francisco have already done it together while the Philadelphia quartet has to do it together. I believe that Giants will still be the team to beat in the National League.

- San Diego Padres
The Padres are the California team that has made the most changes to its team for the 2011 season. The big move was the trade that sent All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox but it wasn't the only move made by the Friars. The Padres added the following players through trades and free agent signings:

1B Brad Hawpe
2B Orlando Hudson
SS Jason Bartlett
CF Cameron Maybin
C Rob Johnson

Both Bartlett and Hudson are signed for two years and Maybin is arbitration eligible in 2013. Add these players to Chase Headley and Ryan Ludwick and the Padres seem to have a good core nucleus to play alongside their strength which is their pitching.

The Padres rotation is made up of starters Matt Latos, Clayton Richard, Tim Stauffer, Wade LeBlanc, Adam Harang (who was signed in the offseason from Cincinnati) and youngster Cory Luebke. The bullpen is anchored by closer Heath Bell and supported by Luke Gregerson, Mike Adams, Joe Thatcher, Ernesto Fieri and free agent signing Dustin Moseley (formerly of the New York Yankees). The Padres faithful might be saddened by the loss of Gonzalez but on paper based on their offseason moves, I believe the Padres will be a threat to contend for the National League Wild Card.

- Oakland Athletics
Billy Beane has once again put the pieces together for what I believe is going to be an Oakland Athletics team that will win the American League West Division. Why? First off, their rotation is solid. Even after trading Vin Mazzaro to the Kansas City Royals for David DeJesus, they have Trevor Cahill, Brian Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Braden, Brandon McCarthy and Rich Harden. Their bullpen might be the best in the league with the signing of Brian Fuentes who will be either the 8th inning option or the closer if Andrew Bailey has issues from his recovery from last season's elbow injury. The A's also added reliever Grant Balfour (formerly of the Tampa Bay Rays) to go along side Michael Wurtz, Craig Breslow, Jerry Blevins, Brad Ziegler and Joey Devine.

Offensively, the A's have had a year together to gel into a solid unit. The addition of DH Hideki Matsui will only help the development of players due to his veteran presence and baseball experience. The acquisition of Josh Willingham from the Washington Nationals also adds depth to an outfield that will be made up of Coco Crisp and David DeJesus. The infield of Daric Barton, veteran Mark Ellis, Cliff Pennington and Kevin Kouzmanoff along with catcher Kurt Suzuki to me is one of the best in baseball and they can only get better.

Like I said before, I think the A's will win the American League West. The Rangers are not the same team they were last season. The Mariners are in rebuilding mode and I'll get into the reasons why the Angels won't win the division in my next post. I'll also touch upon the Los Angeles Dodgers and their made for Hollywood divorce drama.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Reds, Rockies and Brewers Invest in Their Futures

With 27 days to go the Baseball juices are flowing within me at a strong pace. Sorry football fans, but I wish I can fast forward to February 14, 2011 (and no it is not for the corporate "holiday" Valentine's Day) which is the voluntary Spring Training reporting date for pitchers, catchers and injured players. Hurry up and get here already, LOL. Ok, enough of that. Let's get to business.

In recent weeks the Cincinnati Reds, the Colorado Rockies and the Milwaukee Brewers have done right by both their teams and their fans by locking up some of their young talent and trading for important pieces to help them compete in 2011. Let's look at the Reds first.

- Cincinnati Reds
The 2010 National League Central Champions have been busy this offseason in signing integral pieces of their team to multi-year deals. Reported earlier today on the Reds and the 2010 National League MVP Joey Votto have agreed to a 3-year $38 Million dollar deal. This signing ensures that Votto will be reading Cincinnati Red through the 2013 season. Add the 6-year $51 million dollar contract extension to outfielder Jay Bruce, the 3-year $35 million dollar contract extension to starter Bronson Arroyo with the core group of Scott Rolen, Brandon Phillips, Edison Volquez and Aroldis Chapman make the Reds a team to contend against in a NL Central division that has become a tougher place to play in with the recent improvement of the Milwaukee Brewers. I'll get to the improved Brew Crew in a few.

- Colorado Rockies
One of the most exciting teams in the National League made plans to stay that way for a few more years. Last week the Rockies announced that they have signed outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to a 7-year $80 million dollar contract extension which keeps him in Colorado through the 2017 season. Add the signings of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to a 7-year $134 million extension through 2020, pitcher Jorge de la Rosa to a 3-year $32.5 million dollar contract to the core group of rotation ace Ubaldo Jimenez (signed through 2012 with club options for 2013 and 2014), Todd Helton, Eric Young Jr., Ryan Spilbourghs and Huston Street and we see a team that is poised to contend with the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.

My only reservation with the Rockies' moves is that they have invested heavily in Gonzalez who only has two years of experience at the Major League level and in Tulowitzki who has only played in over 150 games twice in his five years in the league. Don't let me rain on their parade, the potential for the Rockies in unlimited with their young studs, hopefully the investment in these players pays off in a big return.

- Milwaukee Brewers
I believe that the Brewers are hoping to go for broke with the moves they made this offseason. Out of the three teams I've profiled here, the Brewers have the most cloudiest of futures. There is no guarantee that superstar players Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder will play together after this season. Management made moves, especially on the pitching front, to make sure that the team is in the best position to compete with the division champion Cincinnati Reds.

The biggest move was the trade for former Kansas City Royals ace Zach Grienke. The Brewers also traded for Toronto Blue Jays starter Shawn Marcum adding him and Grienke to a rotation that already included Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf. The Brewers have Braun signed until the 2015 season, outfielder Corey Hart until 2013, third baseman Casey McGehee and second baseman Richie Weeks are both signed for a more years before arbitration kicks in ensuring that the Brewers will have a good core nucleus together for a number of years even if Prince Fielder is traded or decides to leave Milwaukee after this season.

It is good to see some of the teams that people would refer to as being "small market" teams making the effort to invest in their future. Baseball needs more owners who are willing to take the chance and lock up their players ensuring the their teams remain competitive and their fanbases remain interested in their team. Now if the owners of Pittsburgh and Kansas City can take notes as see how it can be done from the small market perspective.


For Further Reading
- Click Here to read Mark Sheldon's article Reds reward MVP Votto with three-year deal from dated January 16, 2011
- Click Here to read Thomas Harding's article CarGo hold: Rox ink Gonzalez to $80M deal from dated January 11, 2011
- Click Here to read Adam McCalvy's article Greinke trade caps Milwaukee makeover from dated December 19, 2010

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Trevor Hoffman Retires

I've been saying this for years: If Trevor Hoffman had been playing in a major media market like New York, Boston, Chicago or Los Angeles there would be no doubt in anyone's mind that he would be a first ballot Hall of Famer. I believe that Hoffman through his pitching cemented himself as being the second best closer in the history of the game (after Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees) and in five years he will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. That is my point of view and I know there are some who would disagree. Let's take a look at Trevor Hoffman.

In a career that spanned 18 seasons, Hoffman was a model of consistency in the closer role which has led to his being the Major League Saves leader. Hoffman was originally drafted in 1989 by the Cincinnati Reds. He would later be selected by the Florida Marlins in the 1992 expansion draft, reaching the majors during the 1993 season. Hoffman's career would forever be changed by his being traded to the San Diego Padres with Andres Berumen and Jose Martinez for Rich Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield. It was in San Diego that Hoffman's career would flourish.

Aside from missing the majority of the 2003 season with shoulder injuries, Hoffman saved 554 games for the Padres including a career high 53 saves in 1998 helping the Padres make the World Series for the second time in their franchise history. Hoffman saved another 47 games with the Milwaukee Brewers including his 600th and 601st career save making him the only pitcher to pass the 600 save mark. For his career, Hoffman was 61-75 with a 2.78 ERA. In 1089.1 innings pitched, Hoffman struck out 1133 while walking only 307 and giving up 846 hits for a WHIP of 1.058. His 88.8 career save percentage ranks sixth all time.

Arguably his best season came in 1998 when he 4-2 with a 1.48 ERA in 66 games. In 73 innings pitches, Hoffman struck out 86 while walking 21 and giving up 41 hits for a WHIP of 0.849. What seems to stand out the most about Hoffman is not his statistics but his affect on his team with his professionalism. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig puts it as so:

"All the great statistical accomplishments of a marvelous 18-year career on the mound do not tell the story of Trevor Hoffman. He is retiring from the game with a Major League record total of 601 career saves and seven All-Star selections, but it is Trevor's class and leadership that has always stood out to me. He earned the universal respect of his peers and the people throughout our game, and he built a profound legacy in the city of San Diego and in his two years in Milwaukee.

"Trevor Hoffman has been the consummate professional, representing all the best of our national pastime. I am delighted that he is setting out on a new course in a role with the Padres, the club with which he will be forever linked. I have truly appreciated Trevor's friendship over the years, and on behalf of Major League Baseball and his admirers throughout the game, I wish him and his wonderful family all the best in the years to come."

As Hoffman ends his playing days, he joins the San Diego Padres as a part of their front office.

I asked my buddy Mickey Koke of the Friarhood Blogpage for some insight on Trevor Hoffman from the point of view of a San Diego Padres' fan and here is what he had to say:

Trevor Hoffman and the "Hells Bells" song, transcended the sport of baseball and the way that closers come out. Uplifting the crown in such a way of entertainment and excitement he bestowed upon fans, his fellow peers, managers and anyone who watched him pitch, realize just how truly extraordinary he was on and off the field. Starting the true trend of the walk in closer songs throughout baseball. There was nothing in baseball like listening to "Hells Bell's" in San Diego at Qualcom Stadium or Petco park, Nothing. The excitement was unparalleled to anything I have witnessed as a Padre fan, or a baseball fan. Trevor Hoffman was and still is a class act and a the exemplar player to look up to as a role model. He was not "Mr Padre", (Tony Gwynn) but he will always be remembered as a Padre through and through right into Cooperstown. He will be forever loved and remembered by the great fans in San Diego, Trevor, you were the best!

As I stated earlier, I believe Trevor Hoffman to be a future Hall of Famer. No doubts. Regardless if Mariano Rivera passes him on the all time saves list, which can happen within the next two seasons if not this season since he is 42 saves behind, I believe Hoffman won't be tarnished. On the contrary, I believe that time will be generous to Hoffman, unlike how it has been to Lee Smith and John Franco in their attempts to join their peers in Cooperstown.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Trevor Hoffman's career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to read Bill Center's article Hoffman retires, will wear 'different hats' for the Padres from the San Diego Union-Tribune's webpage dated January 11, 2011
- Click Here to read Bailey Stephens' article Hoffman ready for next challenge with Padres from dated January 12, 2011
- Click Here to read Buster Olney's article Opening up on Trevor Hoffman from his blogpage at
- Click Here for Richard Dorsha's article Trevor's Time from The dated January 12, 2011
- Click Here to read Cyril Morong's blogpost Trevor Hoffman Retires With Highest Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio from the Cybermetrics blogpage dated January 12, 2011
- Click Here to read the article Is Trevor Hoffman a Lock for the Hall of Fame (or Even a Worthy Candidate)? from the Captain's Blog Page dated January 12, 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011 Baseball Hall of Fame Vote

Before I get started on this year's baseball blogging, I wanted to wish all you readers a Happy New Year. Thank you all for reading my page and for all of your comments here and on Facebook. I greatly appreciate it.

So to no surprise to me the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown added two new members with the announcement of this year's vote by the Baseball Writers of America (BBWAA). Elected in his 2nd year of eligibility was second baseman Roberto Alomar with 90% of the vote. Joining him is Bert Blyleven who finally eclipsed the minimum 75% of the vote in his 14th year on the ballot with 79.7% of the vote. They will be enshrined in Cooperstown with executive Pat Gillick, who was elected last month by the Expansion Era Committee, Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for baseball writing and longtime Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins voice Dave Van Horne with the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting. According to the Baseball Hall of Fame website, here are the results of this year's vote:

Like I said earlier, I was not surprised at Alomar and Blyleven being elected in. I felt it was a year late since I wrote on my post 2010 Hall of Fame Ballot dated January 3, 2010 that Alomar would have gotten in as a first ballot Hall of Famer. In terms of Blyleven, I've been saying for years that he belongs in the Hall of Fame and now after fourteen long years he is there. I want to shift gears a bit and focus on a few other players that were on this year's ballot.

- Barry Larkin
Last year I believed that Barry Larkin was good enough to garner first ballot Hall of Fame status. The voters on the other hand thought differently and Larkin received 278 votes for 51.6% of the vote. This year the prospects for Larkin's enshrinement have improved. Larkin received 361 votes for 62.1% of the vote in his second year putting him in a good position to keep garnering enough votes to reach the necessary 75%. I believe that he was the second-best shortstop in the National League (some may argue the best one when you consider his batting) behind Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

- Jack Morris
Where Larkin's position on the list of players eligible for Hall of Fame enshrinement looks promising, Morris' chances look dim. Where Morris received 52.3% of the vote in 2010, his rise in 2011 was minimal. This year Morris received 311 votes for 53.5% of the vote in his 12th year of eligibility. Can Morris get over 20% more in votes within the next three years? It remains to be seen.

- Jeff Bagwell
Bagwell seems to be the first player who played during the Steroid Era that will be stigmatized by it in his chances to get in the Hall of Fame. In his first year of eligibility, Bagwell received 242 votes for 41.7% of the vote. While that is not a shabby performance for his first year on the ballot, could he have gotten more votes had he put up the same numbers in another era?

In 15 seasons with the Houston Astros, Bagwell had a career .297 batting average with 449 HRs and 1529 RBI. He had a total of 2314 hits (488 2B/32 3B/449 HR), struck out 1558 times while drawing 1401 walks. Bagwell's career OPS was .948 (.540 SLG%/.408 OBP). He won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1991. He was in the top ten of the National League MVP vote six times winning the award in 1994. Bagwell won three Silver Slugger and one Gold Glove awards. Considering that he amassed these numbers in only 15 seasons I believe that Bagwell will eventually get in the Hall of Fame. How long it takes will remain to be seen.

- Fred McGriff
I've always said that Fred McGriff was a player that hit 30 homers a season and drove in 100 runs when those numbers were important. He is the case of a player who put up productive number before and during the Steroid Era but he may have come up just short. In 2010 McGriff received 116 votes for 21.5% of the vote. This year McGriff actually lost votes by receiving only 104 votes for 17.9% of the vote. Granted, the addition of players such as Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker may have taken some votes from McGriff but for him to have gone down is disappointing.

In 19 seasons, McGriff had a career .284 batting average with 493 HRs and 1550 RBI. He had a total of 2490 hits (441 2B/24 3B/493 HR), struck out 1882 times while drawing 1305 walks. McGriff's career OPS was .886 (.509 SLG%/.377 OBP). He was in the top ten of the National League MVP vote six times and a five-time All Star. McGriff won three Silver Slugger awards. Compared to Bagwell, it seems that McGriff falls short. We'll see how the voters favor him in the upcoming years.

- Edgar Martinez
Where Martinez's showing in Hall of Fame votes was impressive, this year he seemed to lose ground. In 2010 Martinez received 195 votes for 36.2% of the vote, this year he lost votes. Martinez received 191 votes for 32.9% of the vote. With Martinez being the first true DH to come up for Hall of Fame enshrinement, I though that the Baseball writers would be as progressive in considering Martinez's place in the game as they were progressive with voting (outside the proverbial box) for Felix Hernandez as the American League Cy Young Award Winner. I guess I thought wrong.

Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy and Lee Smith
This trio of players just can't get any love from the majority of the voters. In 2010 Mattingly got 16.1%, Murphy 11.7% and Smith 47.3%. This year Mattingly 13.6%, Murphy 12.6% and Lee 45.3%. These players just seem to be stuck in the same place year after year not gaining the sufficient votes needed for enshrinement. Maybe they can benefit from the type of grassroots campaign that helped Bert Blyleven.

And now for the two players who currently exemplify the Steroid Era among those eligible for the Hall of Fame:

Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero
I'm not going to beat a dead horse here in terms of McGwire. I've said it before and I'll say it here again: casting the steroid issue aside, I don't believe that McGwire is a Hall of Famer. Apparently the voters don't think so either. Where most people believed that if McGwire came clean about his steroid use he'd gain more votes for the Hall of Fame, the reverse happened. In 2010 McGwire received 128 votes for 23.7% of the vote, his 2011 standing took a fall. This year McGwire received 115 votes for 19.8% of the vote. So much for the truth setting you free. If you want to read more into my point of view why McGwire isn't a Hall of Famer, read my blogpost The Return of Mark McGwire dated January 9, 2010.

Turning my attention to Palmiero. I believe this is the saddest case of them all. Five years have come and gone and Palmiero still says that the positive test result came from a "B12" shot that was given to him by then teammate Miguel Tejada. Even after the now infamous finger wagging session in front of the Congressional Committee where he adamantly stated that he never used steroids, Palmiero remains steadfast in his stance. Where it is sad is that I don't think Palmiero ever needed the juice and may not have taken it (if he did) until late in his career. Palmiero is one of 4 players to reach the magical 500 homeruns and 3000 hit plateaus (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray are the other three). He also holds the distinction of being the only person to fail a drug test for a Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) to be up for Hall of Fame consideration. Its a shame that Palmiero basically threw away his Hall of Fame career. In his case, time did nothing to aid his cause. With the 64 votes he received Palmiero will be on next year's ballot. We'll see how he does then.

Of those players who failed to receive the minimum 30 votes to keep their eligibility I'm surprised that Harold Baines, Kevin Browne, Tino Martinez and John Olerud did not receive more votes. Baines is even more glaring since he finished with 2866 hits in a productive 22 year career.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here to read the Press Release from the Baseball Hall of Fame on Alomar and Blyleven making the Hall of Fame
- Click here for the BBWAA webpage with the breakdown and analysis of the 2011 Hall of Fame Vote
- Click Here for the potential 2012 Hall of Fame Ballot from Baseball