Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Perhaps the oddest stat seen so far this year

Albert Pujols doesn't lead the Cardinals in HR-Lance Berkman does (17-15). If you'd predicted that this spring, people would've called you nuts.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

J-Roll-better leadoff guy hitting third than first?

The Phils are defying expectations, I suppose you could say, scoring runs like crazy (2nd in the NL so far, with 6.3 RPG) while exhibiting so-so pitching (14th, 4.80 ERA). Of course, they're not exactly facing the cream of the league in the Astros and Mets, but still...the run production has to be a pleasant surprise, even if the pitching, especially Cole Hamels' first start, hasn't been.

But perhaps the most heartening thing about the early season results is how well Jimmy Rollins is playing. J-Roll is sporting a .478 OBP, good for 16th in the league among qualifiers. He's actually taking pitches-he's 11th in the league in P/PA, at 4.35. In the past Jimmy might see 4 pitches in three or four times up. He's looking like a better one hole hitter hitting third than his usual first!

In truth, though, this could be seen as a continuation of last year's pattern, where, despite an OBP of only .320, Jimmy had more walks (40) than strikeouts (32), putting him in an elite club typically occupied by the likes of Chipper Jones and Carlos Ruiz.

So, it looks like Jimmy is maturing as a hitter (finally). It also looks like he wants at least one more big contract. More power to him.

I don't know Amaro plans to do-the organization has at least two big glove/no hit guys to play SS, in current rosteree Michael Martinez, and Reading's Freddy Galvis. Neither of these two can touch Rollins' combination of strong SS play, great base-running, and elite power for his position. The key may well be whether the last great "tool" Rollins had typically shown-great durability-returns this year, along with the power. This will leave Reuben with a very tough call come this winter. My guess is that the brass will cut costs and go with Martinez or Galvis, but an outstanding year from Jimmy might well change some minds.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The rumors of Dominic's Brown's death are premature

Funny piece by "wet luzinski" at the Good Phight about Dominic Brown's struggles and how fast people are writing him off- Bang the Dom Slowly: Domonic Brown's Baseball Obituary.

Yes, Dominic is totally lost right now-he doesn't know what his stance is, where the ball is coming from, or maybe even his own name. And yes, he did poorly in winter ball, and in his (few) PA's with the Phils last year. But Dom is an uber-prospect for a reason-he can hit. And he is just 23 years old.

Late last year, Amaro and Manuel probably figured that keeping Dom on the bench in Philly was better than having him "prove" he could hit AAA pitching-an already settled question. Sure, this is not the typical strategy, and maybe it backfired here. But Brown will be fine. It might be a different story if he was 27. He may need a few months at LV to re-establish his swing, and identity, though.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Welcome to spring!/NL East predictions

Last year I had the order in the NL East exactly right in my March prognostications: Phillies-Braves-Marlins-Mets-Nationals.

While it may be a bit much to get things spot on two years in a row, I'm going to try again.

I basically see the East as running pretty much as it did last year, with the Nationals as the only team with a big change in its talent (major improvement). The Phils will miss (the Nats') Jason Werth, obviously, but I expect several players to have improved offensive years-Utley, Rollins, Howard-to make up for much of the loss. The Phils 'pen looks shallow as hell (beyond Ryan Madson, the setup guy but really the team's elite reliever, and closer Brad Lidge), but club GM Reuben Amaro (MLB's first really great Jewish/Hispanic executive!) has made a change or two in the rotation that you may've heard about recently, so bullpen depth won't be a huge issue, likely.

The Mets are still the Mets, a study in high-priced mediocrity, and, possibly, criminal malfeasance-team ownership is mixed up in the Bernie Madoff mess. The Marlins are finally behaving like a small-market team-I guess conserving cash till they finally get their new park built-so they don't figure to make much of an impact in '11.

The team to talk about in the East is the Braves-the Heyward-Freeman-Prado-Chipper-Hudson juggernaut. The Braves may well be good enough to knock the Fightins off their NL East perch. Consider that Jason Heyward will only get better-he was actually too patient a hitter last year, if you can believe that from a rookie-and arguably should've won the ROY. Freddie Freeman, the team's smokin' new first baseman, may win the ROY this year.

Craig Kimbrel (sounds like a late night talk show guy, doesn't he?) is the new closer, replacing the now-retired (and much-loathed in Philly) Billy Wagner (pronounced Vagner). Kimbrel pitched a bit last year in The Show, and you wouldn't exactly say he failed to impress-he struck out 40 in 20 IP. Still, not to sound excessively old school, you do have to wonder at trusting the closer job to a rookie, no matter how talented.

Anyway, I see the Phils just barely hangin' on to the East, very possibly for the last year in this cycle:

Phils 95-67

Braves 94-68

Mets 83-79

Nationals 75-87

Marlins 74-88


Baseball Prospectus has the division Phils (91 w), Braves (87), Marlins (84), Mets (79), Nats (69). I'll add those projections to the sidebar.