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:
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
I know the more hardcore Orioles fans might not like it, but the highlight of their season, from a national perspective was game 162:
Wilson Betemit, Luis Ayala, Endy Chavez, Armando Galarraga, Jason Hammel, Matt Lindstrom, and Pat Neshek.
Luke Scott, Jeremy Accardo, Jeremy Guthrie, Mark Hendrickson, Felix Pie, Jai Miller, and Ronny Paulino.
Why?: This is almost the opposite of the Blue Jays’ situation in that the best players the Orioles lost were better than the best players they gained, but ue to the sheer number of players gained, did they end up improving on their team. As for the pictures, if you don’t know, I usually put up the picture of the player I perceive to be most notable in both the addition and subtraction categories. For this entry I put up Wilson Betemit and Luke Scott.
Betemit I really have no defense of other than that there really was no player that stood out to me. I could have just as easily put any of four players up as the picture, but I was feeling indecicive and Betemit was at the second on the alphabetically ordered list and he signed for the most years of any of the players. Luke scott on the other hand, I did pick more carefully. I know that for many, the instinct would be to put Jeremy Guthrie as the pictured subtraction, but I took into account the opportunity cost of losing Scott. With Guthrie, he would have been here for another year and the Orioles would have lost him for nothing (well a draft pick, but you know what I mean). With Scott, they probably would have signed him for a few years, and they also would have been getting a better player than they saw last year where as Guthrie has a potential to improve, but would have been less likely to.
Anyway, that’s pretty much all I have to say on the subject.
Predicted Record Range: 62-67 wins I just see the rest of the division getting that much better that there won’t be enough wins for the Orioles to win more games even with their roster improvements.
The Rays were the beneficiaries of (reportedly) the greatest day in baseball last year:
Carlos Peña, Burke Badenhop, Jeff Keppinger, Josh Lueke, Jose Molina, Fernando Rodney, and Luke Scott.
Casey Kotchman, John Jaso, Kelly Shoppach, and Andy Sonnanstine.
Why?: Really every thing they lost, they replaced, and they also added talent. They replaced Casey Kotchman with what I believe to be a better first baseman in Carlos Peña. They downgraded a little by replacing Shoppach with Molina, but also added a very good player in Luke Scott, who I see most likely to be the Casey Kotchman of this year for the Rays in that he will over-perform his contract.
Andy Sonnantine would have been a reliever for the Rays (because of the depth of their rotation), so they over-replaced him with Fernando Rodney, Burke Badenhop, and Josh Lueke. This was a huge bolster for a bullpen depleted from their form two years ago.
I haven’t even gotten to what may be their best move of the offseason. Okay, so it really wasn’t an addition, per say, but signing Matt Moore to a 6- year, $14 million (or something in that range. I’m sure of the money, but not the years), contract was probably a good move, potentially a spectacular. For those who don’t know, Matt Moore is ranked in the same echelon as Stephen Strasburg. This is $2+ million a year for an ace-type pitcher for six year. They then have a secondary part of the deal made up of club-options that make the deal a total of 8 years and $40 million (this I am sure of).
You may or may not remember that Evan Longoria signed a similar contract (6 years 17.5 Million on his seventh day in the league, or something ridiculous like that). Well, doesn’t that look like an incredible deal now? They can’t really lose that much. At worst, they are losing the $16 Million over the first part of the contract if he stinks, or injures himself. Even for the low-budget Rays, that isn’t a huge blow. The upside on this deal is enormous, though.
Predicted Record Range: 92-97 wins
The Yankees season was really a culmination of surprise seasons from players. Including, but not limited to, the guys in this next picture:
Michael Pineda, Russell Branyan, Bill Hall, Hiroki Kuroda, Hideki Okajima, and Dewayne Wise.
Jesus Montero, Andrew Brackman, Bartolo Colon, Hector Noesi, Jorge Posada, and Scott Proctor.
Why?: Ok, I know that everyone wants to know how the Yankees and Mariners could possibly both end up being better. I *do* think that the Mariners got the better talent. However, I think the Yankees did what was best for the team. The Yankees have long been an offensive powerhouse, but they needed cheap pitching. The Yankees may have been able to effectively use Montero, but what we know they needed is to get more pitchers in their rotation. That is what all the Yankees fans were complaining about. I realize that being a GM is mostly about winning and not pleasing people, but when you operate your own network like the Yankees do, it has an elelment of pleasing the crowd to it, because hype surrounding the team going into a season boosts the rating early on in the year.
While this may be a short-term benefit, there is also a long-term one to this trade. As you may or may not have heard, the Yankees are trying to get under the luxury tax threshold within the next two years, as MLB is hiking up the penalties for being over it. The goal being to try and save about $100 million over the three years after that with the raised penalties. Pineda satisfies this goal, because he will cost about $7 million a year for what appears to be a number 2 starter. Starting Pitching usually cost more on the open market than hitting. So the Yankees will be both trading a surplus category for a stregnthening of a weakness and will be getting a pitcher for less than a pitcher of his talent would have cost on the open market. So if they had to sacrifice some talent and take on some risk, so be it. This is my take on it, anyway.
As for the other players, I really don’t feel much like analyzing EVERY one of the players added and subtracted. I mean like “Hiroki Kuroda is better than Bartolo Colon, but is he given the fact that Scott Proctor went to Japan?” Yeah, that stuff, I don’t see as that important when looking at the Yankees’ offseason this year. I just looked at the aggragates and thought it seemed like they a B/B+ job this offseason. The aformentioned, Montero, Pineda trade seemed like a C+/B- trade so I averaged.
Predicted Record Range: 94-99 wins Yeah they did win 100 games last season, but I also think that a bunch of players over performed what they usually do and the Yankees will come back to earth this year.
2011 was truly a fun year for the Cleveland Indians…the first half anyway:
Casey Kotchman, Jeremy Accardo, Jose Lopez, Derek Lowe, Felix Pie, Kevin Slowey, and Dan Wheeler.
Jim Thome, Adam Everett, and Austin Kearns.
Why?: This is a weird entry/grade. The addition far surpass the subtractions. That said, I usually don’t put in more than one or two players in the “Notable” lists that have been signed to a minor league contract. In this entry, however, I have five players that were signed to minor league contracts on the list. This serves as an indicator that a lot of the players aren’t game changers. In other words, the subtraction players aren’t that far away from equaling the value to a team that the addition players present, a fact which reflects itself in the grade I gave their offseason.
Also, Kosuke Fukudome and Chad Durbin have yet to sign, which may bring the Indians’ grade down as they were on the Indians last year.
Predicted Record Range: 77-82 wins