Lost in the Red Sox’s collapse was how well Adrian Gonzalez did on the Red Sox. Even more lost was how devastated the Padres were without him. Let us not forget, this was the team dominating the NL West for most of the season just a year prior. In 2011 however:
Houston Street, Yonder Alonso, John Baker, Andrew Cashner, Mark Kotsay, Micah Owings, Carlos Quentin, and Edison Volquez.
Heath Bell, Aaron Harang, Mat Latos, Wade LeBlanc, Pat Neshek, Chad Qualls, and Anthony Rizzo.
Why?: While it is true that there were more “notable” players added than were lost, this seems like one of those “quality over quantity” situations. In the aggregate, the quality level of the players lost was just that much higher than that of the players gained to merit a D+ as a grade for their offseason.
It appears, though that the additions have a lot of potential to be integral parts. Huston Street is coming from the park most associated with being hitter friendly to the one most recognized with being a pitcher friendly park, so that can only serve to help him, as far as his statistics are concerned. Andrew Cashner are more obvious in that they are just high-potnetial prospects that could or could not pan out for the Padres. Micah Owings is a sort of double-edged sword of potnetial. The first is that he has the potential to become a great pitcher, but he is probably better known for his hitting, so if he isn’t pitching that well…hey, Babe Ruth was once a pitcher. Both Carlos Quentin and Edison Volquez are great talents that actually have shown themselves to be great players. Now it may be tougher for Quentin to do so in the monstrousity that is PETCO Park, but anyone remember when it was said that the EdisonVolquez-Josh Hamilton deal was said to be a win-win, because Hamilton and Volquez were doing so well for their respective teams?
The reason, though, that I gave the Padres the grade I did is that all this potential is just that, potential. The guys they lost were more consistently proven than those they gained. So it is *possible* that the subtractions show this grade to be unsure, but as of now, the additions are enough worse than the subtractions (as a whole) to earn a D+ grade. For those of you who don’t know, a C means the team gained/lost no talent, a C+ would mean they made a slight addition to the talent of the previous year, and a C- would mean they lost a bit of talent-not to be confused with potential. So if a team traded Bryce Harper for someone like Jonny Gomes, and Bryce Harper was not going to play that year, the team would probably get a C+, because Harper would not have helped their team that year anyway, but Gomes could help the team in that year. Except it would be done for all of the team’s additions and subtractions.
Predicted Record Range: 70-75 wins. I realize that I have the talent on the team getting worse, but I have this feeling that they were a little unlucky and shouldn’t have lost as many games as they did.
For the Dodgers, it was the year of the star player. First there wa Andre Eithier making noise with his big hitting streak at the beginning of the year:
Then there was Matt Kemp with extraordinary MVP-type season:
Finally, who could forget the amazing season Clayton Kershaw had that won him the Cy Young Award:
(That is actually a picture from a game that I went to, I made sure it was specifically for the guest I had during that game, because he almost called a no-hitter before the game started. So, Chris, as in Cositore, if you are reading this, that picture is for you.) Chris Capuano, Todd Coffey, Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston Jr., Aaron Harang, Adam Kennedy, and Matt Treanor.
Hiroki Kuroda, Rod Barajas, Casey Blake, Jonathan Broxton, Jamey Carroll, Hong-Chih Kuo,and Vicente Padilla.
Why?: This is a pretty sticky situation to try and decipher. No, not because of the whole “sale of the team” thing, but because the Dodgers rid themselves of two guys that, if they perform up to what the have shown previously, could make this a very bad offseason for them. Those two would be: Jonathan Broxton and Vicente Padilla. Think about it, if those guys get back to how they were not too long ago, the Dodgers would have gotten rid of a front-to-middle of the rotation starter and a bona fide closer.
Even outside of the offseason AND the sale of the team situation, the Dodgers are a mystery. Take Andre Eithier for example, this is a guy that we have seen hit 30 HRs in a season and drive in 100 runs before. If he does this last year, the Dodgers are probably in 2nd place in their division. He is just one example, but this team could easily be a contender in the division if all the players on their team matched what they have shown they can be. I realize that any team would be better if they did so, but it seems to apply to the Dodgers much more so than to any other team (last year the team I ascribed this trait to was the Arizona Diamondbacks).
Predicted Record Range: 81-86 wins
The Braves’ story of 2011 should have been their historically great bullpen back three:
Sadly, it was their semi-historically great collapse at the end of the season:
Nothing. They really added absolutely nothing notable to their team. They *re-signed* a couple of notable people, but they added nothing that wasn’t already on the team.
Derek Lowe, Brooks Conrad, Alex Gonzalez, Wes Helms, Scott Linebrink, Julio Lugo, Nate McLouth, and George Sherill.
Why?: I get the fact that I created this category and made its title the rhetorical question that it is, but honestly, I cannot imagine why anyone would ask “Why” I gave the Braves such a bad grade. They added NOTHING! In addition to that, their subtraction list is almost a two-liner. Sure they’re not franchise-makers that are on that list, which is why I didn’t give the Braves an “F”, but it’s enough to say they lost a whole lot more than they brought in, which is the qualification for a “D”.
That silly little self-responsive rant said, the Braves are a young team, whose starters are on the upswing. I mean Jason Heyward can only bounce back from his past season. Any worse and they would just have to replace him with a replacement-level player.Freddie Freeman showed amazing spouts of talent that could make him into a very good 1st Baseman, Tommy Hanson still has to show us what he can do with a full season of work, my favorite Braves player, Julio Teheran, still has to show us what made him their top prospect. I could go on but those are the major names.
What it comes down to for the Braves in the end is that they have the potential to have a VERY good rotation (Jurrjens, Hudson, Hanson, Teheran, and another), they already have the best back end -if not entire bullpen- in the major leagues (O’Flaherty, Venters, and Kimbrel), and they can have an explosive offense if their pieces come together (Jones, Uggla, McCann, Heyward, Freeman, Bourn, and Prado). This team could actually surpass their season win-total from last season this year.
Predicted Record Range: 87-92 wins
Next Up: Los Dodgers de El Pueblo Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula
I think the story of the Nationals’ 2011 season could very well be one person:
Michael Morse. Now he might not be that much of a household name, but as a person that went to Nationals Park pretty frequently last season I can say the dude is a monster. Just look at his spray chart,
For that reason he was a bittersweet person to have in the cage during bp. You knew he was going to hit the ball a ways, but deciding whether to play him as a lefty or a righty was a whole other frustrating deal.
Gio Gonzalez, Mike Cameron, Mark DeRosa, Chad Durbin, Edwin Jackson, Brad Lidge, and Ryan Perry.
Laynce Nix, Collin Balester, Todd Coffey, Alex Cora, Jonny Gomes, Livan Hernandez, Tom Milone, and Brad Peacock.
Why?: With this past offseason, it may seem like the Nationals did really well. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been around the Nationals so much, but it seems to me that they lost a bunch of players that, yes, were not starters, but they are just below that cusp. Mind you, a B is still improving the team a bit, but I think most everyone christened their ship to a much improved season because of the additions. For me, they will improve if those that were already in the organization improve, because I am a little bit skeptical about whether Gio Gonzalez can stay healthy after building up such an innings count for the first time.
All that said, it still can be a great season in that the talent on the team surpasses the record they had last year if they can just *solidify* their rotation. I’m not talking about making it a strength of the team, but if they can just not lose games because of their starters, their lineup could win them 85 games. I kid you not, the only offensively deficient spot in that lineup is the Short Stop position with Ian Desmond. The next closest position to being offensively below-average is the Catcher position with Wilson Ramos (aka the guy every Twins fan wishes had never been traded in order to get Matt Capps).
Predicted Record Range: 85-90 wins. I say this tentatively, though. For whatever reason, I have this strange feeling in my gut that SOMEthing will go wrong with the Nationals this year. My first thought was that Gio Gonzalez will be injured, but now I’m starting to think that it might be Strasburg again. Whatever, enough of my crazy feelings, that’s it for this entry except that you need to vote on the poll below.
Next Up: Atlanta Braves, then the NL West
First team in NL West:
First of all, let me wish you a happy Leap Day. It is always nice to have an extra day in the year, no. Is it just me, or is it weird to see them as the Miami Marlins? I typed in Florida in the title but then had to erase it, and this coming from a person that saw the preliminary sketches of what is now the Marlins logo in the Summer of 2010 (it’s sort of a longish story, but I met the “Director of Creative Services”, Alfred Hernández, or at least that is what it say on his card,and he was/is in charge of the Marlins logo and authorizing its use anywhere. It was through a program I’ll mention later on in the entry.) So why am I writing the Marlins’ entry on this day? That would be because March is National Optimism Month and I want to get all my pessimism out before then. Most of it surrounds this $650 million beaut:
Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle, Cahd Gaudin, Wade LeBlanc, Aaron Rowand, and Carlos Zambrano.
Chris Volstad, Burke Badenhop, John Baker, Mike Cameron, Clay Hensley, Jose Lopez, and Brian Sanches.
Why?: Yeah, yeah, I know that the Marlins gained a bunch of talent and lost essentially nothing. I agree that based just off of talent, their grade should be higher. Let me also set the records straight that I have nothing against the Marlins they are one of the middle-of-the-pack to front-of-the-pack teams when it comes to favorite teams with me. Now that we’ve gotten these things established, here is the real reason why I gave them the grade I did.
The Marlins’ plan as I interpret it is: get a bunch of players and hope it attracts a big crowd. There is some merit to this. First of all, Dolphins Stadium or whatever the heck you want to call it, is the equivalent of the Medowlands to New York in that it is fine to get to for a weekly event such as a football game, but it is 35 miles north of downtown Miami, so it was a pain in the neck to get to. Secondly, the new stadium is a much nicer one from what I saw while I was in Miami and the location also has the side effect of playing more towards the baseball-oriented Cuban residents that reside in the City closer to the new stadium (which happens to be the old Orange Bowl site).
However, the Marlins have a couple things that could mess this whole experiment up. First, the Marlins ticked a LOT of people off when they asked for public funding for the stadium. I personally know a couple Miami natives that just refused to go to games the last two seasons for this simple fact. Second, the Marlins got a lot of money from Miami-Dade County to fund their stadium (the total cost of the stadium was around $650 million and Miami-Dade raised about $500 million by selling bonds to help pay for the stadium. That’s almost 80% (76.9 is close enough, right?). I was in Miami for a three week course in Sports Administration a the University of Miami right when it was announced most of the stadium would be publicly funded. So, in addition to looking at how people in South Florida fudge the numbers to convince committees to let them hold the Super Bowl there so often, we also looked at how skewed the numbers the Marlins were using to convince the county to help fund the stadium. Now of course we weren’t using the real numbers, but we were estimating using numbers we did now, and if those number held any truth, the numbers were fudged quite a bit to convince people they needed help with the funding. Interestingly enough, it was announced December 3rd that the SEC would be investigating the Marlins’ use of public funding to build their new stadium. Unless the Marlins can come up with some clever way around this, they will in all likelihood be punished. How much? I have no idea, but the numbers do not stack up well in their favor, let’s put it that way. Lastly, the Marlins are assuming their newfound players will result in a winning team. However, they did only win 72 games last season good for dead last in the NL East, so I don’t know if they are as automatically in contention as everyone thinks. They may very well be, but the Nationals are also on the rise, the Braves have a good young foundation that will probably get better, and the Phillies are the Phillies. So it might not be the case that they win for the foreseeable future (and have high attendance figures) like they are expecting.
Predicted Record Range: 85-90 wins Let’s see, this would mean they added 13-18 wins in the offseason. This is a big jump. I’m not so sure about this prediction.
Once again in the pitcher-friendly Citi Field, it was the Mets rotation that helped them stay afloat in 2011:
Why?: Let me put it to you this way, the Mets would have had a way worse team even if they had not lost Jose Reyes.
Now that I’ve said that, let’s compare the two columns side-by-side. Sure they got two good bullpen options in Fransisco and Rauch, but they don’t have either of their closers from last year (K-Rod and Isringhausen).
The other two additions the Mets made were to add an Outfielder and a shortstop via Torres and Cedeño. What they lost, however, were three Outfielders-two of which were starters- and quite possibly THE best (offensive) Shortstop in the game last year.
If all that weren’t enough, they also lost two starting pitchers and a decent bullpen option that happens to be the only player I’ve played catch with.
I think I might be a little too harsh with them due to them being my local over-shadowed team, but I’ll stick with it.
Predicted Record Range: 67-72 wins. I wouldn’t surprise me, though, if they surpassed this total. The Mets seem to be one of those teams that does the opposite of whatever is expected of them. When they are predicted to win the division, they falter at the end of the season. When they are predicted to stink, the go on a run in June where they are the best team in baseball.
I know I haven’t been watching baseball for THAT long compared to most people, but I can’t remember a team ever living up to the hype set in the preseason so quietly as the Phillies did last season. Their roatation was by far the best in the Majors:
Why?: I know that it may seem like a no-brainer to some people that the Phillies got better this offseason. However, once I actually looked at the list of names, they really added no value to their team at all, and you know what? They didn’t have to. This team won 102 games last season and that was WITH a ten game losing streak down the stretch. I distinctly remember tweeting something along the lines of “Whoa, the Phillies have won 97 games and still have 12 games to play?!” (this was amid their ginormous losing streak). So, they could still most likely win the division by just treading water and waiting for Ryan Howard to come back from the DL.
Predicted Record Range: 95-100 wins