Friday, October 28, 2011

Congratulations Cardinals!

Sorry St. Louis, I gave you absolutely no chance to win.  I actually slammed the quality of your roster a few posts ago.  Still, the St. Louis Cardinals are the 2011 World Series Champions. I will take nothing away from the new champs however, I think St. Louis were aided greatly by some bad managerial decisions even before the first pitch of Game 7 was thrown.  I'm not going to nitpick all of the managerial decisions in game that were made by Rangers manager Ron Washington.  The biggest problem I had was with his choice of Game 7 starter, Matt Harrison.  I realize C.J. Wilson would have been pitching on short rest but he was the obvious and best arm that was available.  That being said, when Matt Harrison barely survives the first two innings because of lack of control, I think that was the point in the game to take him out.  I realize this is completely unconventional but this is the last game of the season!  Yet, this decision wasn't what floored me.  It was that Harrison pitched 4 barely palatable innings and then Washington brings in his long man and 5th starter Scott Feldman?  I'm not sure what he was thinking at that point.  Maybe I'm thinking about this too simply but in my opinion, I want the best pitcher I have in the bullpen out there in the 5th inning of a 3-2 game for the championship. That was clearly C.J. Wilson and even getting two solid innings out of him would have possibly kept the game closer.  Who knows though right?  Wilson could have come in and blew it just like Feldman did. This was the Cardinals year after all.  Still, Washington just needed a good pair of innings out of somebody.  The Feldman inning will go down as one of the most embarrassing bumbles of a championship game.  The Cardinals got one hit in the inning and scored 3 runs!!!

Ok let's be fair.  I've never managed even a tee ball game so I really don't understand player ego management, fatigue etc. There would also be a large amount of pressure on the manager that I probably will never ever feel.  In the end, its more than managerial blunders that contribute to a championship win.  The Cardinals were blessed with some remarkably clutch hitting throughout the series.  Ultimately, the bullpen which had failed them several times in this series was incredibly steady when it mattered.  Congratulations St. Louis!  You definitely earned it.

Game 7 of the World Series - Pregame

Alright, as I mentioned in an earlier post, it totally makes sense for the Cardinals to have Chris Carpenter start Game 7.  The starter has yet to lose in the 2011 post season.   However, I'm still questioning Rangers manager Ron Washington's decision to go with lefty Matt Harrison. I guess in a few hours we'll know but to me this is Game 7 suicide for the Rangers.  Carpenter has easily been the Cardinals best pitcher in the playoffs and Harrison flat out blew game 3.  The Rangers don't really have one ace starting pitcher but it would surprise me if we didn't see C.J. Wilson very early in this game.  Either way, all hands will be on deck as both managers try to win a single game which can be a very difficult task for managers who are used to playing an 162 game season.  It will be an interesting 'chess match'.

Health issues abound for the Rangers as catcher Mike Napoli (ankle) and outfielder Nelson Cruz (what injury doesn't this guy get) are on the mend.  Both will likely play but are not at 100%.  I'm pulling for the Rangers who have yet to win a championship but the odds are against them.  It must really sting to have been on strike away from the championship TWICE last night.  Hopefully they have the mental makeup to ignore yesterday's heartbreak and play at an elite level tonight.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Joe Saunders - 2012 Avoid

Let's be honest, you're not excited about Joe Saunders right?  Really?  Ok, so Saunders had 'on paper' his best season since 2008.  He had a nice 3.69 ERA, a slightly robust 1.37 WHIP and won 12 games for the NL West Division winners.  However, next season when you're doing up your draft list I'd just put Saunders near the bottom.  Why?  Well, let's look at what he brings to the mound: a low 4.58 K/9, a high 1.23 HR/9  and a decent 44.5% GB rate.  Saunders skills suggest that he's a below average major league pitcher.  These skills are not about to change either as he does not have nasty stuff (89 MPH average fastball).  The main reason he boasts a sub - 4.00 ERA is his lucky BABIP (.271) and ridiculously high strand rate (77%).  The only reason you want Saunders on your roster is if you play in a deep NL only type league where a pitcher getting regular innings is going to be useful.  Don't buy a pitcher for wins and don't draft Joe Saunders in 2012.

Friday, October 21, 2011

World Series Game 3 - Preview

I'm not certain of much but if you like baseball games with lots of scoring tonight's game will be for you.  Nothing against the starters Kyle Lohse and Matt Harrison, but neither starter boasts nasty stuff.  Add to the fact that they will play the game at the Ballpark in Arlington, one of the most hitter friendly parks in the league, and you have yourself a barn burner in the making.  I've already slammed Lohse in an earlier post but let's just say I don't like his chances against the Rangers in Texas.  His 2011 K/9 of 5.30 and his relatively high FB% (36.7) do not bode well for success in Arlington. Sure he hasn't faced many of the hitters in their current lineup (Michael Young the lone standout), so he will have a slight element of surprise going for him.  Still, the Rangers boast a multitude of power bats and the stadium caters to them.  The key for the Cardinals will be if Lohse can allow slightly less runs than Harrison.  The Rangers Game 3 starter had a solid season and all of his skills suggest he may be for real.  The highest K/BB of his career (2.21) has lead to easily his best season as a big leaguer.  Harrison does a good job of keeping the ball on the ground (47%) and striking out batters (6.11 K/9) which are key skills for winning games in the cozy confines in Arlington.  I don't see this one ending 1-0 but I've been wrong before and will be again.  Look for a big scoring game which I think the Rangers win.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rangers Win Game 2!

The Cardinals are the hottest team (maybe other than the Rays) that came into the playoffs.  They very nearly won this game as closer Jason Motte just couldn't shut the door.  My prediction at this point?  I like the Rangers going home for three games and possibly winning the series.  Texas has an incredibly talented offensive club and I just don't see 3rd and 4th game potential starters Edwin Jackson , Kyle Lohse or Jake Westbrook getting it done.  If I'm in Tony LaRussa's position (yay!  I'm not) I would certainly be looking at getting Carpenter out there in Game 4 rather than risk Lohse.  This means Garcia starts Game 5, Jackson again in game 6 and Game 7 back to Carpenter.

Looking at the Cardinal's roster does it not seem like a bit slapped together?  The first thing that stands out is who thought Kyle Lohse was worth 12,000,000 a year?  Wow.  Secondly, their organizational philosophy must have been to acquire as many utility eligible players as possible.  Craig Allen, Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and Ryan Theriot have all played some role in getting St. Louis to the World Series.  Still, how can this mixed bag of players really compare to the bats of the Rangers? 

I guess I would think differently if the Cardinals win the next game but Texas on paper appears to be the better ball club.  Stranger things have happened though...

Jeff Karstens - 2012 Avoid

As you analyze players you begin to notice trends.  Some of these are more common and often I will mentally toss a player under the bus even before looking at the statistics.  This isn't fair of me, but heck that's just how my mind works.  That being said, Jeff Karstens' name alone was screaming at me even before I looked at his numbers.  Let's look at his career numbers first: 4.52 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 4.48 K/9 in just over 500 IP during his MLB career.  Its safe to say Karstens' has been a slightly below average major league pitcher over his short career.  Did 2011 change the Pirates starter into a fantasy relevant pitcher?  Well, if you look at his body of work (3.38 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 2.91 K/BB) it would appear to be so right?  Still, it always pays to look under the hood and there's not a whole lot to like here.  He benefited from a highly lucky .275 BABIP and his xFIP is actually a full run higher than his ERA.  Not convinced?  Well, take a look at some of his base skills: Karstens 5.32 K/9 and average 89 MPH fastball are far from interesting.

Yet, he did manage to keep the ball on the ground at a higher percentage than any other point in his career (46%) and his BB/9 (1.83) or control was excellent.  However, its rare where these types of skills make for long term success in the big leagues.  At 29 years old, you could argue he's reaching his prime years but what are you really getting here?  A pitcher who will not repeat his 2011 numbers and should be avoided in 2012 drafts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ryan Vogelsong - 2012 Avoid

It probably goes without saying that a 34 year old journeyman pitcher coming off a miraculous season should be on our avoid list for 2012.  Still, we should break it down further.  The Giants starter returned from Japan a 'new man' but essentially he was just really fortunate in 2011.  His 80% strand rate is about 5% above league average and his .280 BABIP is begging for a bit of a regression in 2012.  Now to be fair, Vogelsong actually does boast some nice new skills.  His K/9 is nearing a very respectable 7 and his walk rate although not elite (3.06 BB/9) is quite good.  He also kept the ball on the ground at a solid clip (45%).  Essentially we're looking at a pretty good pitcher not a 2.71 ERA and 1.25 WHIP type though.  Think an ERA closer to 3.5 and a WHIP closer to 1.3 and you'll be closer to the mark.  Don't pay for the ERA folks!