This was the season of three of the four players in the next picture. There was Jose the perfect, Justin the MVP, and Miguel the MVP candidate:
Prince Fielder, Collin Balester, Ocatvio Dotel, and Gerald Laird.
Carlos Guillen, Wilson Betemit, Ryan Perry, and Joel Zumaya.
Why?: The temptation would be to say their good offseason grade came from Prince Fielder. While this is partially true, it was not only him, but all of the players in the “Notable Additions” category that brought this grade to a B+. True, there are only four of them, but that is why it is a B+ and not a grade in the “A”s. Let’s just compare the two sides very briefly. They gained: One of the best 1st Basemen in the game, two bullpen hands, and an above-average replacement for their injured catcher who was an All-Star (I believe) the last time he was on the team. They lost: a declining utility player, a young underperforming utility player, an Outfield prospect, because they had a surplus, and an oft-injured reliever. These are some solid additions they have made.
However, there is a hidden part to this story. There are two free-agents still on the market that were Tigers last year: Magglio Ordoñez and Brad Penny. Both would certainly be more “Notable” than any player on this list if they were to sign with another team. If they both were to do so, I might downgrade the Tigers.
Also, if this grade were for the impact this offseason had on the next few years, it might be higher. I mean the Tigers have a chance to win the World Series, but the move will be more for the years when Victor Martinez, because the lineup will be a mine field to navigate for pitchers.
Predicted Record Range: 94-99 wins
What more can be said about the Cubs 2011 season than any other season:
Actually, this streak is so bad and long it deserves both a picture describing the Cubs’ 2011 season/last 103 years AND a video doing the same. Check it out:
Anthony Rizzo, David DeJesus, Paul Maholm, Andy Sonnanstine, Ian Stewart, Chris Volstad, and Kerry Wood.
Carlos Zambrano, Andrew Cashner, Tyler Colvin, Sean Marshall, Carlos Peña, Aramis Ramirez, and John Grabow.
Why?: First, I realize that the pictures I chose may not be the best ones to put up. I just really put up the most hyped transactions this offseason for the Cubs. Also, now that I realized I probably made a mistake, I don’t feel like pulling the pictures and putting new ones up.
Anyway, the common theme in my comments on Cubs fans’ MlBlogs was that I was glad for them that the Cubs finally decided to go into full rebuilding mode, because the “in-between” stage they have been in for the past few years has really been hurting them. So you may say, “Well, Mateo, then why do you have them at such a low grade in a D+ if you think they are actually doing a good job?” This is a valid question. The answer is that I did give the Cubs brownie points by bumping their grade up from a D (which is usually the protocol when I can’t give the team a high grade, but like the way they handled things). However, I couldn’t give the Cubs a legitimate grade, because the majority of what goes into it is how it improved the team for winning in 2012. The Cubs set themselves up well for the next few years, but I don’t know what planet you’d have to live on to think paying $15 million+ for Chris Volstad is helping the Cubs win in 2012.
There are other examples, but I think you get the gist of things.
Predicted Record Range: 62-67 wins
Things definitely regressed for the Reds a year after winning the NL Central by a comfortable margin:
Mat Latos, Andrew Brackman, Ryan Madson, Sean Marshall, and Dioner Navarro.
Francisco Cordero, Yonder Alonso, Ramon Hernandez, Edison Volquez, Dontrelle Willis, and Travis Wood.
Why?: I just matched up all the additions and subtractions, and it looked like, in my opinion, that the Reds did add some big names, but the people they lost were marginally better (for this upcoming year). The two main examples are Volquez for Latos and Madson for Cordero.
I think that the Reds package sent to the Padres will be marginally better than Latos, because Volquez is on his way back up from the Tommy John surgery a few years ago ( I believe it was Tommy John, but I’m not 100% sure). He may still return to his form of 17 wins in. This was his only season where he has pitched in more than 20 games. This shows that if he is healthy, he has shown he can pitch. Latos’ struggles as of late, on the other hand, come from over-usage. Therefore, from my experience in seeing over-used pitchers, his struggles will mildly continue into 2012, because he has to get back into the rhythm of pitching. He may not, in which case all of this is null and void, but he probably will. Also, Volquez will be going to PETCO Park while Latos now gets to call the Great American Launch Pad his home. That said, once Latos does get over his <insert clever over-usage pun here> syndrome, I think he will be better than the Volquez group, but I think he won’t until after 2012, so I have Volquez and package being better than Latos this year.
Madson for Cordero is a bit more complicated. I think that Madson may be better than Cordero and it definitely was good to get rid of Cordero before he starts declining, but Cordero has been one of the most consistently excellent closers over the last half-decade, while Madson only has a year of closing experience. I do like Madson over Cordero, but I think the Reds would have been better served letting him go to another team for a year and getting what I think is the last good year before he really declines from Cordero, and letting Madson mature for another year and become a better closer. Either that or sign Madson to a multi-year deal, because I see Madson’s price tag only going up after this season. The only reason I could see them signing Madson to a one-year deal is if they think this is their last year of contention before Joey Votto leaves, either via trade in 2013 or free agency in the 2013-14 offseason.
Other than this, I don’t know what to say. Last year, I predicted their youth to be an advantage, and I got burned because they actually regressed a little. I guess I’ll just say that their youth gives them room for growth again and hope it actually does this year.
Predicted Record Range: 82-87 wins
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Yes, it truly was a tale of two seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011:
Casey McGehee, Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, Erik Bedard, Ryota Igarashi (because he’s the only Major Leaguer I’ve played catch with), Nate McLouth, and Doug Slaten.
Paul Maholm, Joe Biemel, Ronny Cedeño, Ryan Doumit, Nelson Figueroa, Ross Ohlendorf, Chris Snyder, and Jose Veras.
Why?: The Pirates have had the most transactions of any team I have done a recap for (the total number of names is probably double that of the list of notable transactions. That said, they also don’t have the big names going back and forth so its kind of hard to account how much all of these little gains and losses will affect the team in the aggregate. Some of these additions might not even give the Pirates an extra win. I mean will Doug Slaten have much of an impact of the Pirates? Probably not. I’m not that sure of how these things will pan out in most predictions, much less so many of them.
Anywho, they did make some higher impact changes. Paul Maholm was a big part of their rotation that has left, and the acquisitions of Erik Bedard and Casey McGehee are sure to help the team have their first winning season of the last 20.
However, this grade could possibly and probably should be lower. The reason the grade isn’t where it most likely would be had I done this recap in a month is because two Pirates (Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick) are still on the free agent market and I have to leave the possibility open that they will return to the Pirates-even if they probably won’t. If both of those are on the “Notable Subtractions” list, my grade for the team is probably a half a grade lower, if not more.
Predicted Record Range: 79-84 wins. The NL Central is depleted, but this number will go down if Lee and/or Ludwick don’t re-sign.
I think this next image pretty well descirbes the Astros’ 2011 season, no? (even if it is fr0m 2004):
Jed Lowrie, Jack Cust, Chris Snyder, and Kyle Weiland.
Mark Melancon, and Clint Barmes.
Why?: Let me get one thing clear. I know the Astros are not in the AL West yet, but I think it’s better that I make transition now, because it just makes my life slightly easiser to have 15 teams in each league and 5 teams in each division. Secondly, I know the “Notable” names aren’t that notable, because I lowered my standards for the category especially for the Astros and they haven’t had much happening this offseason.
The Astros aren’t exactly an offensive power house. So I like their improvements on that front, but their most feared hitter is still Carlos, which doesn’t doom the lineup, but makes it less imposing than 90% of the other lineups in MLB. Long gone are the days of the Astros contending for the even the NL Central (at times the weakest division in the league), much less contending for the World Series as they did in 2005. It also doesn’t help that they are moving into the most improved division of 2011. Unless there is an extreme shift in culture, they may be lucky to win a division title before 2020.
I think I’ve covered the bases, right? The Astros stink, and they didn’t do much in the offseason.
Predicted Record Range: 60-65 wins
Up Next: In my last post, I put up a poll for what division you want next. You voted for the NL Central, for whatever reason. So, here is a poll of which team I should write about in said division:
I wrote in my blog description that I like to keep my writing positive. So, let’s focus on the fact that the Rangers got to the World Series for the second straight year:
Yu Darvish and Joe Nathan.
C.J. Wilson, Darren Oliver, Brandon Webb,and Taylor Teagarden.
Why?: For all the hype the Rangers have gotten, and all of the talks they’ve been in, they really have had an uneventful offseason. So, I actually have them losing talent as of January 26th when I write this entry. I see CJ Wilson as a superior to Yu Darvish in 2012, just because the strike zone in Japan is bigger and I don’t know how he’ll adapt. Then I see Darren Oliver and the other two subtractions as making up for the addition of Joe Nathan. I am a big Joe Nathan fan, but I don’t know how much more he can return to his former form, because not only is he dealing with the Tommy John surgery (which I predicted after seeing him in person in the last year of the Metrodome), but he is also dealing with age at this point. So he probably would be regressing anyway now.
Although, this situation could, and probably will get better. As I said, the Rangers have been in a bunch of talks for free agents, so they have money. Now maybe they just spend all of this money on re-signing Josh Hamilton, but either way I see them picking up at least another minor piece if not a major one.
Predicted Record Range: 92-97 wins- This can change if they get another player this offseason, but this is where I see them currently.
Up Next: Houston Astros, but what division would you like to read about?
Vernon, oh Vernon, where wert thou?
Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, Brad Mills, Chris Iannetta, Latroy Hawkins, and Jorge Cantu.
Fernando Rodney, Joel Pineiro, Jeff Mathis, Scott Kazmir, and Tyler Chatwood.
Why?: The Angels did do an A+ job in getting their team better for this year, but I am not a big fan of paying big dollars for players in their older years. Yes, Albert Pujols is worth $25+ million NOW. Actually, he’s probably worth more than that, but he showed signs of regression this year, having one of his worst seasons to date. Will he be worth $25+ million ten years from now? Ten years is almost half of a career for most players. Will he even be a $15 million player at that stage of his career? Well, it doesn’t matter, because the Angels will still be paying him $27.5 million.
I am more okay with C.J. Wilson’s contract, but I still wouldn’t do it myself. I liked him the first season he was a starting pitcher, and was amongst the first people to identify him as an ace as I actually said he was an ace in the first (real) entry I ever wrote on this blog. The main beef I have with it is that he does only have two seasons as a starting pitcher. He has been really good in those two seasons, but I predict that he will pitch less than 200 innings in one of the next two seasons due to injury. Another thing is that I think they over-paid for him, because it was a pitching starved market. I think they should have waited until next year to sign a pitcher. The only benefit I can see from signing a pitcher this year is that it takes away an ace from the Angels
primary only competition in the AL West in the Rangers and it probably led them to overpaying for Yu Darvish
Besides this, they did lose Fernando Rodney from a bullpen that was a far cry from those of the early 2000’s, but it is still pretty solid and the improvement in the rotation more than offsets his loss, because they might not need a stellar bullpen with their starters constantly going 7 innings.
Just something I want to throw in,I do think that Pujols’ impact on the offense is overrated, though. The offense may indeed be a good one, but if it is, it won’t be because of Pujols alone. Lost in all of this hoopla is that Kendrys Morales, the main anchor of the line up in 2010, will be back in 2012. Also, the line up last year wasn’t all that good to begin with. I saw them for three games last year (linked here, here, and here) over “Balhawk Fest” weekend. I think there was no Slugging Percentage over .500 in the line up and no OBP over .400. The two most feared bats in the line up were rookies!
Predicted Record Range: 92-97 wins
P.S. Sorry to the person who voted for the Mariners, but I had already written this entry when I saw your vote. So, to make it up to you, I will vote for the Mariners to give them an extra vote.