Archive for the ‘Baseball's Best 2009’ Category

Baseball’s Best Infield: Midseason…

July 13, 2009

In the fourth and final installment of the “Baseball’s Best: Midseason” series, I am going to take a look at which team has had baseball’s best infield at the halfway point of the season.

Just when I did baseball’s best outfield, the best infield will be determined by four categories – OPS, Runs Created, UZR, and Fielding Percentage. Stats for the first baseman, second baseman, shortstop and third baseman were used. Catchers’ stats were not considered.

Stats were used for the player who played the most games at that position. For instance, Ian Stewart has played more games at third than Garrett Atkins for the Colorado Rockies, so Stewart’s stats were used.

Each category was worth 10 points. If a team didn’t finish in the top 10 in a particular category, that team received zero points.

Here are baseball’s best infields at the halfway point of the 2009 season…

10 – 6. Washington Nationals, Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers

5. Colorado Rockies – 23 points

Infield – Todd Helton, Clint Barmes, Troy Tulowitzki, Ian Stewart

OPS – Eight

RC – Six

UZR – Two

FP – Seven

Helton continues to rake

Helton continues to rake

Analysis – It all changed for the Rockies when they put Clint Barmes at second, Ian Stewart at third, and Troy Tulowitzki started hitting. And oh yeah, they still have some guy named Todd Helton at first base.

To nobodies surprise, the Rockies can hit with anyone as their combined .831 OPS suggests. Ian Stewart has given the Rockies a nice lift with a .794 OPS.

This is one of my favorite infields in baseball.

4 (Tie). New York Yankees – 28 points

Infield – Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez

OPS – Nine

RC – Ten

UZR – Zero

FP – Eight

Analysis – The most expensive infield in baseball is also one of the best. The Yankees finished in the top three in three out of the four categories.

Newly acquired Mark Teixeira has been doing it with the bat, as well as the glove. Teixeira has a .920 OPS and has created 66.3 runs so far this season.

Teixeira has been lights out with the glove. If he wasn’t so good at scooping the ball out of the dirt, the Yankees infield would have maybe 20 more errors. I don’t think there is anyone better at scooping the ball out of the dirt at first than Teixeira.

Jeter and Cano have been steady up the middle for the Yankees. Cano has enjoyed a nice bounce year this year, after pretty much taking last year off.

I won’t talk about Rodriguez’s accomplishments because he is a cheater.

4 (Tie). Philadelphia Phillies – 28 points

Infield – Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Pedro Feliz

OPS – Five

RC – Seven

UZR – Seven

FP – Nine

Analysis – The Phillies would be higher on this list if Jimmy Rollins didn’t take the first half of the season off. Can you believe that through over 80 games Rollins has only created 36.7 runs? That is mediocre at best.

While Howard and Rollins have won MVP’s, it’s Chase Utley who has been the real MVP of this group in the first half of this season.

Utley has a sweet 1.004 OPS and has created 77.4 runs this season. The 77.4 runs created is tops of the players on this list.

Pedro Feliz has been very solid defensively with a 6.2 UZR and a .975 Fielding Percentage.

1 (Tie). Tampa Bay Rays – 32 points

Infield – Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist, Jason Bartlett, Evan Longoria

OPS – Ten

RC – Nine

UZR – Eight

FP – Five

Longoria leads the best infield in baseball

Longoria leads the best infield in baseball

Analysis – Like the Phillies’ outfield, I guess when you send your entire infield to the All-Star game you are going to be tops this list. Longoria, Bartlett, Zobrist, and now Pena (taking the place of Pedroia) will be packing a suitcase for St. Louis.

The real story of this group is Zobrist. Zobrist is second in the AL with a 1.012 OPS and if the season ended today, he would finish in the top three in MVP voting.

Jason Bartlett is having a career year offensively and actually has a higher OPS than Evan Longoria (.937 to .903).

The Rays have the highest infield OPS in baseball with a .943 mark.

1 (Tie). Toronto Blue Jays – 32 points

Infield – Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill, Marco Scutaro, Scott Rolen

OPS – Seven

RC – Eight

UZR – Seven

FP – Ten

Analysis – The Blue Jays’ infield can do it all. They can get to the ball, when they get to the ball – they catch it, and they can flat out hit.

The Blue Jays have gotten career years out of Aaron Hill and Marco Scutaro. Like Zobrist of the Rays, if the season ended today, Aaron Hill would be an MVP candidate.

Scott Rolen has enjoyed a nice comeback year. Rolen has a .858 OPS and has played his usually solid third base. Rolen is fourth amongst all third baseman with a .976 Fielding Percentage.

Lyle Overbay should be more like Mark Grace, but instead he hits like Mark Davis pitched for the Kansas City Royals.

So that is all for the baseball’s best series for now. I will do a final baseball’s best series at the end of the year. It will be interesting to see if the teams who were No. 1 at the halfway point, stay No. 1 by the end of the season.

*All stats were calculated for this post before Sunday’s action.

Baseball’s Best Outfield: Midseason…

July 12, 2009

In the third of the four part “Baseball’s Best: Midseason” series, I am going to take a look at which team has baseball’s best outfield.

In order to figure out which team has had baseball’s best outfield in the first half, I used four categories – OPS, Runs Created, UZR, and Fielding Percentage. It’s just not all about offense. In order to be tops on this list, you also need to be a quality defender.

The stats were calculated for all three individual outfielders, then added together, and then I divided the stats by three to figure out the team’s total in that particular category.

Each category was worth 10 points. If a team didn’t finish in the top 10, that team received zero points.

For teams that use a platoon in an outfield position, such as the New York Yankees with Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera in centerfield, I used the stats for the player who has played the most games at that position. In the Yankees case – Brett Gardner.

In the preseason edition of this, the Milwaukee Brewers had the best outfield in baseball. Let’s see who is No. 1 at the midway point in the season…

10 – 6. Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros

5. Los Angeles Dodgers – 23 points

Outfield – Juan Pierre, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier

OPS – Six

RC – Four

UZR – Seven

FP – Six

Analysis – Of course the Dodgers were hurt in this by the 50-game suspension of Manny Ramirez. I am guessing if Manny had played in 47 of those games, the Dodgers would be a little higher on the list.

Kemp should've been an All-Star

Kemp should've been an All-Star

However, Juan Pierre stepped in nicely in left. Pierre’s OPS is very similar to Ethier’s (.805 to .807) and has played a tremendous leftfield as his 1.000 fielding percentage and 6.2 UZR suggests.

Matt Kemp has been solid, both offensively and defensively. Kemp has created 52.7 runs and has a very impressive 10.1 UZR playing centerfield for the Dodgers.

I still think Kemp should have been an All-Star this year.

4. Milwaukee Brewers – 27 points

Outfield – Ryan Braun, Mike Cameron, Corey Hart

OPS – Eight

RC – Seven

UZR – Eight

FP – Four

Analysis – The Brewers’ outfield can hit with anyone. They finished third in OPS (.844) and fourth in Runs Created (52.3). When you have a player like Ryan Braun (.954 OPS)  in your outfield, you will usually finish towards the top in most offensive categories.

The outfield is rounded out by one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game, Mike Cameron and one of the top up-and-coming players in the game, Corey Hart.

This is one of my favorite outfields in baseball. They have the offense in Braun, the defense in Cameron, and a guy who can do a little of both in Corey Hart.

3. Boston Red Sox – 30 points

Outfield – Jason Bay, Jacoby Ellsbury, JD Drew

OPS – Seven

RC – Eight

UZR – Five

FP – Ten

Analysis – While the Milwaukee Brewers have an outfield that offers a little bit of everything, so do the Boston Red Sox. Bay, Ellsbury and Drew each bring something different to the table.

Bay is the bopper (63.2 Runs Created), Ellsbury is the speed and defense guy (.994 Fielding Percentage), and Drew is the steady rightfielder who seems to do everything well (.858 OPS, 5.0 UZR, .993 Fielding Percentage.)

While the Red Sox’s UZR is in the middle of the pack, when they have the opportunity to catch the ball, they do. Their Fielding Percentage of .996 was tops on this list.

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – 31 points

Outfield – Juan Rivera, Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu

OPS – Nine

RC – Nine

UZR – Nine

FP – Four

Analysis – The Angels’ outfield has really carried the team throughout the first half of the season. Not only have they gotten great a contribution from the newly acquired Bobby Abreu, but they are getting a career year from Juan Rivera, and an MVP type season from Torii Hunter.

The Angels ranked second in OPS (.888), Runs Created (54.6), and UZR (6.0).

How smart do the Angels look for signing Bobby Abreu to that discounted contract in the offseason? Almost as dumb as they look for giving Gary Matthews Jr. that ridiculous contract a couple of years ago.

1. Philadelphia Phillies – 33 points

Outfield – Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth

OPS – Ten

RC – Ten

UZR – Four

FP – Nine

Ibanez leads the best OF in baseball

Ibanez leads the best OF in baseball

Analysis – I guess when you send three outfielders to the All-Star game you have to be No. 1 on this list. Ibanez, Victorino, and Werth will all be participating in the mid-summer’s classic in St. Louis.

The star of this group have been Ibanez. Ibanez’s 1.027 OPS ranks fourth in baseball and is higher than anyone mentioned in this post. If he hadn’t gotten hurt, his stats might be even better.

Victorino and Werth are gritty, gamers, who oh by the way can really hit. Werth has been responsible for creating 60. 5 runs, which ranks him fourth (Braun, Bay, Crawford) out of any of the players on the teams in this post.

Like Werth, Victorino has gone from solid contributor to All-Star this year. With Jimmy Rollins struggling, Victorino has been the spark plug for the Phillies this year. Victorino has put up a very solid .858 OPS so far this year.

So that’s it for baseball’s best outfield. The next and final installment of this series will cover baseball’s best infield.

*All stats were calculated prior to Saturday’s action.

Baseball’s Best Starting Rotation: Midseason…

July 8, 2009

In the next installment of the Baseball’s Best: Midseason” series, we are going to take a look at baseball’s best starting rotation. The starting rotation is the backbone of any team and now we are going to see which team has had the best starting rotation for the first half of the season.

Baseball’s best starting rotation will be judged on four categories – ERA, Innings Pitched, WHIP, and OPS. As you noticed, I did not include wins as a category. My reasoning is that wins doesn’t necessarily reflect how good a pitcher – or a rotation for that matter really is. Just look at Javier Vazquez’s  and Dan Haren’s years for proof of that.

Each category is worth 10 points. If a team isn’t in the top 10 for that particular category, that team received zero points.

In my preseason edition of baseball’s best starting rotation, the San Francisco Giants had the No.1 rotation in baseball.

10. – 6. Kansas City Royals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs

5. Seattle Mariners – 22 points

ERA – Five

IP – Zero

WHIP – Ten

OPS – Seven

"King Felix" has been an ace this year

"King Felix" has been an ace this year

Analysis – Before you saw this post, if you had to guess who was the only American League team to finish in the top five who would it be? The New York Yankees? Boston Red Sox? Detroit Tigers? Well, as you can see it is the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners are led by their version of the “Big Three.” Felix Hernandez has become a legitimate ace and has gone 8-3 with a 2.62 ERA and 114 K’s in 116.2 IP. Free-agents to be Erik Bedard (2.50 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) and Jarrod Washburn (3.06 ERA, 90 hits in 105.1 IP) have really stepped up and pitched well for the Mariners in the first half.

4. Atlanta Braves – 25 points

ERA – Seven

IP – One

WHIP – Eight

OPS – Nine

Analysis – The Braves spent the entire offseason trying to revamp their starting rotation, and it has paid off. The Braves rotation goes five deep and features three starters who have sub-three ERA’s.

Javier Vazquez, who was acquired in the offseason from the White Sox has really been the ace of this staff. Despite a lack of run support which has cost him plenty of wins this year, Vazquez has a 2.95 ERA and has been one of most consistent pitchers in baseball. He has 12 Quality Starts in 18 games.

The Braves also have gotten a solid season from Jair Jurrjens (2.91 ERA) and have gotten a nice lift from top prospect Tommy Hanson (2.25 ERA, 1.25 WHIP).

Offseason free-agent signings Derek Lowe (4.56 ERA) and Kenshin Kawakami (4.46 ERA) round out the rotation.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers – 27 points

ERA – Nine

IP – Zero

WHIP – Nine

OPS – Ten

Analysis – The Dodgers’ starters rank second in ERA (3.67), second in WHIP (1.26), and first in OPS Against (.684). It might be really nice to pitch in Chavez Ravine. Dodger Stadium can even turn Jeff Weaver and Eric Milton into respectable pitchers.

The Dodgers have been really led by three pitchers in the first half – Chad Billingsley, Randy Wolf, and Clayton Kershaw.

Billingsley is the ace of this staff and has pitched like it so far this year. Billingsley is 9-4 with a 3.14 ERA and has held right-handed batters to a ridiculously low .588 OPS throughout the first half of the season.

The Dodgers have also gotten Hiroki Kuroda back from injury and he has chipped in with a respectable 3.94 ERA and a very good 1.01 WHIP.

2. St. Louis Cardinals – 28 points

ERA – Eight

IP – Ten

WHIP – Four

OPS – Six

Analysis – I was shocked to see the Cardinals so high on this list. I wouldn’t expect a staff that features the likes of Todd Wellemeyer and Brad Thompson to be one of the best in anything. It just goes to show you how valuable Pitching Coach Dave Duncan really is to the Cardinals’ organization.

As long as the Cardinals can keep Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright healthy, this staff will give the Cardinals a chance to win. Carpenter has been lights out this year with a 2.32 ERA, a 0.82 WHIP, and nine Quality Starts in just 12 starts.

Wainwright has also been impressive this year. The Cardinals’ righty is third in baseball with 122.1 IP and sports a 3.09 ERA in those 122.1 IP.

Lincecum leads the Giants' staff

Lincecum leads the Giants' staff

1. San Francisco Giants – 34 points

ERA – Ten

IP – Eight

WHIP – Six

OPS – Eight

Analysis – The Giants’ starting rotation was the preseason No. 1 and at the midway point in the season, they remain No. 1. I guess it helps to have the two leading Cy Young candidates on the same staff – Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.

Lincecum and Cain have been the best one-two punch in baseball with a combined 19-4 record with 1.14 WHIP, 234 K’s, and a 2.33 ERA in 236.1 IP. If they keep this up we might have to change “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain” to “Lincecum and Cain and pray for rain.”

The Giants also can turn to two former Cy Young award winners to start games in Barry Zito and Randy Johnson. Zito has pitched better this year and has held batters to a .247 batting average this year.

Johnson, even at the age of 45 can still get it done. Johnson has a WHIP of 1.32 and has still been able to strike out 80 batters in 90.1 IP this year.

Tomorrow I will take a look at baseball’s best outfield.

*Please note all stats were calculated before today’s action.

Baseball’s Best Bullpen: Midseason…

July 7, 2009

Before the start of the 2009 season, I did a “Baseball’s Best” series. Based on a scoring system, I graded each team’s bullpen, starting rotation, infield, and outfield to find out which team had baseball’s best in each aspect of the game.

Now that most teams have played around 80 games, I think it’s time to give an update to my baseball’s best series. We will start with baseball’s best bullpen at the midseason point in baseball.

Before the season started, I had the Boston Red Sox having the best bullpen in baseball. That was based on four categories – 2008 ERA, left-handed relievers, right-handed relievers, and closer.

Now that we have some stats to play with, we will determine who has the best bullpen with these four categories – Bullpen ERA, Holds, Save Percentage, and Batting Average Against. It’s not all about ERA. There are other factors which determine how good a team’s bullpen is.

Each category is worth 10 points. 10 being the best and one being the worst for that particular category. If a team was not in the top 10 baseball in that particular category, that team received zero points.

Here are the best bullpens at the midway point of the 2009 season…

10 – 7. Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, San Francisco Giants

4 (Tie). Seattle Mariners – 21 points

ERA – Seven

Holds – Six

BAA – Four

Save Percentage – Four

Analysis – The Seattle Mariners’ bullpen is the surprise of this group. Coming into this season there wasn’t much expected out of this unit, but they have gotten amazing performances from some of their relievers.

Led by David Aardsma (17 saves, 1.41 ERA), Sean White (2.84 ERA), and Miguel Batista (3.30 ERA) this group has helped the Mariners stay in contention in the AL West.

 4 (Tie). Los Angeles Dodgers – 21 points

ERA – Six

Holds – Five

BAA. – Ten

Save Percentage – Zero

Analysis – 80 games into the season and Joe Torre hasn’t blown out any reliiever’s arm yet. That must be some sort of record. In all seriousness, what makes the Dodgers bullpen so effective is that they have a hammer at the end of the game in Jonathan Broxton.

Broxton has had a solid year so far with a 6-0 record with 20 saves and a 2.72 ERA. Surprisingly, even with Broxton at the end of the game, the Dodgers aren’t in the top 10 in save percentage.

The Dodgers have also had great contributions from 26-year olds Ramon Troncoso (1.87 ERA and eight holds), Brett Leach (3.06 ERA), and Roland Belisario (2.42 ERA and 10 holds).

4 (Tie). Milwaukee Brewers – 21 points

ERA – Three

Holds – Seven

BAA. – Eight

Save Percentage – Three

Analysis – The Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen has a 16-9 record with a 3.58 ERA at the midway point. Their success can be attributed to the signing of future Hall of Famer and a guy who should be an All-Star, Trevor Hoffman.

Hoffman has been lights out this year to the tune of a 1.93 ERA and 18 saves. The Brewers’ bullpen has also been paced by Mitch Stetter (2-0 with 14 holds and a 2.28 ERA), Mark DiFelice (4-1 with eight holds and a 1.95 ERA), and big Todd Coffey (3-1 with 12 holds and a 2.63 ERA).

Papelbon is a hammer for the Sox

Papelbon is a hammer for the Sox

3. Boston Red Sox – 23 points

ERA – Ten

Holds – Zero

BAA. – Five

Save Percentage – Eight

Analysis – Despite having the best bullpen ERA in baseball (3.18 ERA), the Boston Red Sox fell a little short of mainaining their baseball’s best bullpen status as they did in my preseason edition.

The Red Sox have power arm after power arm in their bullpen. Like the Dodgers, the Red Sox also have a hammer at the end of their bullpen in Jonathan Papelbon (20 saves and a 1.75 ERA).

The Red Sox bullpen also features Hideki Okajima (3.25 ERA and 15 holds), Manny Delcarmen (1.97 ERA), Ramon Ramirez (2.25 ERA) and Daniel Bard (3.10 and 20 K’s in 20.1 IP).

2. St. Louis Cardinals – 25 points

ERA – Zero

Holds – Ten

BAA. – Six

Save Percentage – Nine

Analysis – Dave Duncan is a master at getting the most out of other team’s castoffs. You know he is doing a great job when Ryan Franklin has 20 saves and a 0.84 ERA in 31 games. Franklin is a well deserved All-Star and has really helped stabilize the Cardinals’ pen.

Despite their ERA’s north of four, Jason Motte and Dennys Reyes have a combined 28 holds for the Cardinals. The Cardinals also feature Trevor Miller, who has held lefties to a .118 avg in 51 AB’s.

Cordero leads the best bullpen in baseball

Cordero leads the best bullpen in baseball

1. Cincinnati Reds – 36 points

ERA – Nine

Holds – Eight

BAA. – Nine

Save Percentage – Ten

Analysis – I know the Reds’ pen was having a good season, but they really ran away with this. The Reds were top three in all four categories – very impressive.

The Reds have four relievers – Nick Masset (1.67), Francisco Cordero (1.80), the ageless Arthur Rhodes (1.88), and Danny Herrera (1.97) who have ERA’s under two. That is pretty amazing this late into the season.

The Reds also have another ageless wonder in David Weathers who has a 2.63 ERA in 31 appearances. The Reds’ bullpen has helped them keep pace in the competitive NL Central.

Tomorrow, I will take a look at baseball’s best starting rotation at the midway point of the season.

* All stats were calculated before Monday’s action. The Reds’ 22-1 loss on Monday night to the Phillies did not factor into this.

Baseball’s Best Outfield….

March 7, 2009

In the next installment of the “Baseball’s Best” series, it is time to take a look at Baseball’s Best Outfield. In order to determine which team has the best outfield, we have used some advanced statistics for both offense and defense to help us out. Here are the 4 categories that were used.

1. OPS – On Base Percentage + Slugging Percentage. This is a good way to determine a player’s ability to not only get on base but to drive in runs as well. 10 Points

2. Runs Created – This is a runs estimator created by Bill James. A runs estimator attempts to quantify the entire contribution of a player’s statistics to a team’s total runs scored. 10 Points.

3. UZR – Ultimate Zone Rating. Number of runs below or above average a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined. 10 Points

4. FP – Fielding Percentage. Is calculated by the sum of assists and putouts divided by the number of total business. 10 Points.

Total points for OPS and Runs Created were based on Bill James’ projections for 2009 and points for UZR and FP were based on last years statistics.

Also, keep in mind stats were calculated for the 3 projected starting outfielders for each team. If a team, such as the Angels that have an OF as the DH (Juan Rivera), his stats were not included.

Here are Baseball’s Best Outfields…

10-6. Arizona DiamondBacks, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays.

5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – 22 Points

Outfield – Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero

Category Ranks – OPS (4), RC (2), UZR (11), FP (5)

Analysis – With the addition of Abreu and the returning Hunter and Guerrero, the Angels have one of the best offensive OF’s in the game. Though they struggle in UZR, they catch the ball when it is hit to them as there combined .990 fielding percentage suggests. By the way, on the subject of Angels outfielders. Is the 5 year $50MM contract the Angels gave Gary Matthews Jr. one of the worst free agent contracts given to a position player in the last 10 years? Just brutal.

4. Philadelphia Phillies – 18 Points

Outfield – Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth

Category Ranks – OPS (7), RC (7), UZR (2), FP (2)

Analysis – While the newly acquired Ibanez is a mediocre fielder at best, the Phillies sure make up for him on defense with Victorino and Werth. Werth’s UZR of 13.7 in RF was one of the highest of any player and Victorino had a solid UZR of 9.3. Ibanez will help the Phillies on offense where in a better lineup and a friendly hitter’s ballpark might improve on his .293/23/110 he posted with the Mariners in 2008.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers – 17 Points

Outfield – Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier

Category Ranks – OPS (1), RC (1), UZR (9), FP (6)

Analysis – With every “Baseball’s Best” post we do, we will revisit the rankings after every 40 games during the season. I am going to predict that by years end, the Dodgers will have the #1 outfield in baseball. This threesome is so good offensively it outweighs everything they don’t do defensively. We all know about the offensive ability of Manny but it might be Matt Kemp who will be the Dodgers outfielder who is talked about the most this season. All signs point to Kemp taking it to the next level in 2009. A .315/20/85/.375 with 30+ sb season is not out of the question for this talented outfielder.

2. Texas Rangers – 16 Points

Outfield – Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, David Murphy

Category Rankings – OPS (2), RC (4), UZR (8), FP (4)

Analysis – The expected breakout season of Nelson Cruz really fuels the Rangers in OPS and Runs Created. Cruz in 31 games last year hit .330/7/26 and Bill James predicts a .279/31/92 season for Cruz in 2009. The Rangers also have some Hamilton guy playing CF. Though Hamilton slowed down a little bit in the 2nd half last year (.296/11/35), he still managed to drive in 130 runs and have a .940 OPS. With a full year under his belt, Hamilton will be right up there with the league leaders in hr and rbi in 2009.

Surprisingly, the Rangers did very well in the defensive categories. Defense is something the Rangers are not known for. The trio of Cruz, Hamilton and Murphy finished 4th in fielding percentage and Murphy had a good UZR of 6.2.

1. Milwaukee Brewers – 15 Points

Outfield – Ryan Braun, Mike Cameron, Corey Hart

Category Rankings – OPS (3), RC (5), UZR (5), FP (2)

Braun powers the Brewers OF

Braun powers the Brewers OF

Analysis – Quick, raise your hand if you knew Ryan Braun had a 1.000 FP in 2008? For a guy who never played the outfield before 2008, a 1.000 FP was a pretty remarkable accomplishment for Braun. And oh yeah…he is one of the best hitters in the game as well. The 25 year old Braun is on track for a 40 hr and 115 rbi season in 2009.

The other young star the Brewers have in the outfield is Corey Hart. Unfortunately for Hart, most fans remember him for his horrific 2nd half in 2008 (.239/5/33/.263) and his equally worse performance in the NLDS (.231/0/0 in 4 games). However, Hart is a very good player. A player who even at 6’6″ can steal a base (23 in 08) and can hit the long ball (20 in 08). Rounding out the outfield is Mike Cameron. With his 12.2 UZR and .997 FP, Cameron is one of the better defensive CF’s in the game.

So there you have Baseball’s Best Outfields. What do you think? So far we have covered the Best Bullpen, Starting Rotation and Outfield. The next and last installment of the “Baseball’s Best” feature, will cover the infield.

Until then, enjoy Spring Training and the WBC. Speaking of the WBC, the Netherlands beat the Dominican Republic today, 3-2. Unreal.

Santana’s Season May Be In Jeopardy….

February 28, 2009

According to NY Newsday, Mets ace Johan Santana is out indefinitely with a sore elbow. According to the report, Santana met with Jerry Manuel and and GM Omar Minaya this morning about the best way to handle his situation.

Santana will throw a bullpen session tomorrow and if he still feels pain in his elbow, the Mets will send him back to NY for tests. If Santana is out for an extended period of time or perhaps the season, it would be a devastating blow to the already fragile Mets. The loss of Santana would end the Mets season before it even starts.

The Mets need to get off to a good start this year to erase the painful memories of last season’s collapse. The potential loss of Santana would only add to Mets pain.

Updates on this story as they break.

Baseball’s Best Starting Rotation….

February 15, 2009

In the next installment of “Baseball’s Best”, we are going to take a look at the backbone of any team. The starting rotation. So which team has baseball’s best rotation headed into 2009? We hope to figure that out today by ranking the teams in 4 categories :

1. Depth – A team needs to go at least 4 deep in their starting rotation. No 1 ace, 4 average pitchers teams on this list. Sorry Blue Jay fans

2. Ace – A great starting rotation needs an ace. A pitcher who can stop a losing streak and a guy we have no problem giving the ball to in Game 7 of the World Series

3. Innings Pitched – The mark of any good staff is to have the ability to go deep into games and save the bullpen. A great staff has pitchers who can pitch into the 7th inning

4. ERA –  Staff era is always a factor in determining who has the best rotation

Rankings for both Innings Pitched and ERA were based on Bill James’ 2009 projections. Here are the 10  best starting rotations headed into 2009:

Category ranking is in ( ).

6 – 10. Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Arizona Diamondbacks, Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays

5. Philadelphia Phillies

Rankings – Depth (9), Ace (3), IP (3), ERA (10)

Rotation – Hamels, Myers, Blanton, Moyer, Happ

Analysis – The Phillies bring back the same staff, included the ageless Jaime Moyer (who might pitch until he is 70) that led them to the World Series in 2008. Led by Cole Hamels, the Phillies should once again have one of the better staffs in baseball. In my “Looking at 2010 to Predict 2009” post, I believed Brett Myers was a pitcher who could have a breakout 2009 based on his pending free agency in 2010. If Myers does have a breakout season, the Phillies rotation and the rest of the team will have a chance to defend their World Series crown.

4. Chicago Cubs

Rankings – Depth (6), Ace (7), IP (3), ERA (9)

Rotation –Zambrano, Harden, Dempster, Lilly, Marshall

Analysis –Though the Cubs are high on the list of best rotations, some of their starters will be hard pressed to duplicate their 2008 seasons. The Cubs got 17 wins each out of Tedd Lilly and Ryan Dempster last season. That will not happen again. Especially from Dempster. Dempster led the Cubs in wins, era and K’s. I am not sure if that is a good thing or bad thing. Rich Harden will be the key to the staff in 2009. When healthy, he is one of the most dominant pitchers in the game. The problem is, Harden is rarely healthy. He has only made 30+ starts once in his 6 year career. Sean Marshall is an upgrade over Jason Marquis.

3. Boston Red Sox

Rankings – Depth (1), Ace (1), IP (4), ERA (4)

Rotation –Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Penny, Wakefield

Analysis – Boston’s ranking was earned by having the most depth out of any starting rotation in baseball and by having the best big-game pitcher in the game today in Josh Beckett. When newly signed John Smoltz joins the club in June, the Red Sox rotation could go 6 deep. 7 depending on the development of Clay Buchholtz. The key to the Red Sox rotation will be the continued development of Jon Lester and the health of Brad Penny. If Penny can regain his 2006 & 2007 form (16 wins each season), the Red Sox will once again be in the hunt in the tough AL East

2. New York Yankees

Rankings – Depth (2), Ace (4), IP (1), ERA (2)

Rotation –Sabathia, Wang, Burnett, Pettitte, Chamberlain

Analysis –Out are Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Sidney Ponson from the 2008 rotation and in are CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Joba Chamberlain for 2009. No team in baseball spent more money on improving their rotation during the offseason than the Yankees. The Yankees coughed up $243.5MM for Sabathia and Burnett in hopes of bringing a World Series title to the Bronx for the first time since 2000. Burnett is the key to the Yankees rotation. Other than his 2 free agent years (2005, 2008), Burnett has been nothing more than a mediocre pitcher. It will be interesting to see how Burnett handles NY considering he has pitched in no pressure places like Florida and Toronto in his career. In case Burnett does flame out or goes down with an injury, the Yankees do have depth with Phil Hughes waiting in the wings.

1. San Francisco Giants

Rankings – Depth (3), Ace (2), IP (2), ERA (1)

Rotation –Lincecum, Cain, R. Johnson, Zito, Sanchez

Analysis – The Giants go into 2009 with the majors best rotation. They have everything you can ask for in a rotation. A staff ace in 24 year old Tim Lincecum, 2 outstanding young pitchers in Matt Cain and Jonathon Sanchez and an all-time great in Randy Johnson who is motivated to get to the 300 win mark this year. Even Barry Zito who has been nothing short of a disaster so far with the Giants, did have a 6-5 record and held batters to a .232 average in the 2nd half last season. So there are signs of improvement from him. If the Giants could ever score some runs, then these pitchers’ records will reflect how good they really are. Take a look at this comparison:

Matt Cain, 2007 & 2008 – 15-30, 3.70 era

Chien-Ming Wang, 2006 & 2007 – 38-13, 3.67 era

Amazing what run support can do for a pitcher. Practically the same era and a difference of 23 wins. If you had to start a team with Cain or Wang, I am pretty sure the overwhelming majority, including myself would pick Cain.

So the Giants go into the 2009 season with baseball’s best starting rotation. Can they stay there? That remains to be seen. Like with all the categories in the “Baseball’s Best” series, we will check back in after the quarter mark in the season.

Baseball’s Best Defensive Catchers…

January 28, 2009

In the next installment of “Baseball’s Best” we’ll take a look at baseball’s best defensive catchers. Having a great defensive catcher behind the plate makes all the difference in the game of baseball. Having a guy behind the plate who can block balls in the dirt, throw out runners and can handle a pitching staff from top to bottom is a luxury few teams have.

However, there are 10 teams that have guys behind the plate who I consider the best at what they do. In order to see who the best is, I used a point system based on 4 categories. Unlike the baseball’s best bullpen post where the highest point total determined the best, in this case the lowest point score determined the best.

The 4 categories are as followed:

1. Errors – 10 points

2. Passed Balls Allowed – 10 points

3. Caught Stealing % – 10 points

4. CERA (Catchers ERA) – 10 points

10 – 7. Yadier Molina, Bengie Molina, Brian Schneider, Kurt Suzuki

5 (tied). Chris Snyder, Diamondbacks (24 Points) – Not only did Snyder arrive at the plate in 2008 (.237/16/68/.348 ) but Snyder also arrived withthe glove as well. Snyder was the only catcher in baseball last year who qualified for the fielding % title to have a perfect fielding % of .1000 and Snyder also finished 4th in CERA with 3.85

5 (tied). Dioner Navarro, Rays (24 Points) – Navarro isn’t spectacular in any category but is good in all 4. One of the keys to the Rays World Series run last year, Navarro threw out 38% of would-be base runners in 2008.

4 (tied). Joe Mauer, Twins (19 Points) – As we all know Mauer is one of the best hitters in baseball. His 2 batting titles in the last 3 years prove that. But what many people don’t know is that Mauer is one of the best defensive catchers in the game as well. Mauer won his 1st Gold Glove (I’ll talk about the Gold Glove later) in 2008 and only made 3 errors in 886 total chances.

4 (tied). Jason Kendell, Brewers (19 Points) –  If there was a workhorse award for a catcher, Kendell would win it going away. Kendell caught more games than any other catcher in baseball last year (149) and caught more innings than any catcher in baseball (1,328.1). Catching the most games doesn’t make you a great defensive catcher but throwing out 42% of base runners does. Kendell also had an outstanding CERA of 3.86 in 2008

2. Jose Molina, Yankees (15 Points) – Living in NY I have had the opportunity to watch a lot of Yankee games in the last couple of years and I can tell you first hand the difference between Jorge Posada and Jose Molina defensively is the difference in looks between Oprah Winfrey and Heidi Klum. Molina had a banner year defensively in Posada’s absence in 2008. Out of these 10 catchers, Molina finished 1st in caught stealing % (44%), 2nd in CERA (3.70) and 7th in errors (3). It will be interesting to see how many games Molina plays in 2009 due to a returning Posada. One thing you can’t argue, the Yankees are a much better defensive team when Molina is in the lineup.

1. Rod Barajas, Blue Jays (13 Points) – Barajas had an amazing 2008 behind the plate. Barajas finished 1st in CERA (3.31), 10th in passed balls allowed (2) and 7th in errors (4). What is impressive is that those 2 passed balls came in 785 innings. Barajas started 90 games last year but should see more playing time in 2009 with the departure of Gregg Zaun to the Orioles.

A couple of things that I realized as I was doing this:

1. How amazing are the Molina brothers? To have 3 brothers who are all in the major leagues and to have all 3 brothers play the catching position, one of the hardest positions in sports is truely amazing. Are there any 3 brothers in any sport who played the same position?

2. How on earth did Yadier Molina win the Gold Glove last year? As I was doing this I started to realize that Molina was actually pretty bad defensively last year. In just 114 games behind the plate, Molina made more errors (10) than any other catcher in baseball not named Russell Martin, had one of the worst CERA’s (4.25) and had just as many passed balls as Jason Kendell and Giovani Soto in 200 less innings caught. I guess the Gold Glove doesn’t mean as much as it used to

Baseball’s Best Home Field Advantage….

January 24, 2009

I woke up this morning and turned on the MLB Network to watch their “Hot Stove” program. During the show Harold Reynolds said the Twins had the best home-field advantage not only in baseball but in all of sports. That is a pretty bold statement. Now I am not sure if I agree with the Twins having the best home-field advantage in ALL of sports, as you can make the case for Duke’s Cameron Indoor,  Green Bay’s Lambeau Field or Seattle’s Quest Field. However, this got me thinking…who has the best home-field advantage in all of baseball?

There are a lot of teams in baseball that have no home-field advantage such as the Marlins, Rangers and Padres but there are 10 teams that when a team steps on their field there is a definite advantage. Let’s see who they are

10 – 6: Orioles, Indians, Phillies, Brewers, Cardinals

5. Coors Field, Rockies – Since Coors Field opened in 1995, the Rockies have been one of the best home teams in baseball as their lifetime record of 628 – 518  at Coors Field indicates. But what gives the Rockies a tremendous home-field advantage is what gives all teams from Colorado (Broncos, Nuggets, Avalanche) an advantage….The altitude. Coors Field is 1 mile above sea level and when teams come in for a short 3 game series, it’s hard to adjust to the altitude change.

4. Angels Stadium of Anaheim, Angels – Angels Stadium(previously called Edison International Field) really came alive during the Angel’s 2002 World Series run. That year fans and the Yankess, Twins and Giants were introduced to the Rally Monkey, 43,250 fans wearing red and thundersticks. Those factor make Angels Stadium a nightmare for teams to play.

3. Yankee Stadium, Yankees – The tradition, the ghosts and raucous new yorkers give the Yankees the ultimate home-field advantage in October.  I don’t think there is a pitcher on the planet who would find it easy to get the final 3 outs against the Yankees in October. Just ask Byung-Hyun Kim. I would have the Yankees higher if A. 2004 didn’t happen and B. they weren’t moving into a new stadium. It will be interesting to see if the ghosts moved over to the new stadium or if they were left behind.

2.Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox – 456 (and counting) consecutive sellouts, the crowd right on top of the players, and the presence of the Green Monster make Fenway Park an opposing place for visiting teams. Having a sold out crowd every game gives the Red Sox an advantage during those dog days of July and August. Red Sox captain Jason Varitek echoes those sentiments….

           “Just, every day, they’ve brought excitement,” Varitek said. “You have a lot of days throughout a season — you’re dragging, down, you’re tired, you’re sore, you’re hurt — and that energy sometimes brings you through those tough moments.”

While the Rockies, Angles, Yankees and Red Sox have good home-field advantages, they don’t have the best one. That honor goes to….

1. The Metrodome, Twins – One of my earliest memories of baseball was Kent Hrbek’s grand slam against the Cardinals in game 6 of the 1987 World Series. That game was played in the Metrodome and I remember thinking to myself as I watched that game, “wow, these fans are loud.” The Twins won that game and have won all 8 World Series games played in the Metrodome. The Homer Hankies, the fast turf, the white dome and of course perhaps the loudest fans in baseball make the Metrodome the ultimate home-field advantage for the Twins. Unfortunately, the Twins will be moving into a new stadium in 2010, Target Field which will be an outdoor stadium. Once the Metrodome closes its doors for baseball, the best home-field advantage will be closed with it.

It’s not often I agree with what Harold Reynolds opinion but in this case I believe he correct in saying the Twins have the best home-field advantage in baseball.

Baseball’s Best Bullpens…

January 21, 2009

First, I would like to congratulate noted Chicago White Sox fan, Barack Obama on becoming the 44th President of the United States of America. We all would agree he has his work cut out for him in the next 4 years. Second, I have added a new category called Baseball’s Best, where I will be taking a look at baseball’s best starting rotation, bullpen, infield, outfield and overall team. Rankings will begin in Spring Training and will be updated after every 40 games in the regular season. In the first installment we’ll take a look at who has the best bullpen heading into Spring Training.

Bullpens are hard to predict. One year a bullpen can be a disasterand the next it can turn out to be the strength of your team. Case in point….the Tampa Bay Rays. Look at their bullpen in 2008 compared to that of 2007:

                         W        L         ERA         S        BS        BAA

2007                 21       34       6.61        28      21         .303

2008                31        17       3.55        52      16         .220

A pretty remarkable turnaround. So as you can see anything can happen from one year to the next. So using 4 different categories – Closer, RH Set-up guys, LH Set-up guys and 2008 era, 10 teams were selected to determine who has the best bullpen headed into Spring Training. Each category is worth 10 points. 10 being the best and 1 being the worst for that particular category.

Points are in parentheses

10-6. Indians, Twins, Angels, Rays, White Sox

5. The New York Mets – 23 Points

RH – JJ Putz, Sean Green (9)

LH – Pedro Feliciano (5)

C – Francisco Rodriguez (7)

2008 bullpen era – 4.27 (2)

Analysis – There isn’t a team in baseball who has done more to improve their bullpen in 2009. Out are Aaron Heilman, Scott Schoeneweiss and Billy Wagner and in are JJ Putz, Sean Green and Krod. This bullpen should be much better than the disaster that was in 2008

4. New York Yankees – 24 Points

RH – Edwar Ramirez, Brian Bruney (2)

LH – Damaso Marte (6)

C – Mariano Rivera (10)

2008 bullpen era – 3.79 (6)

Analysis – With Joba Chamberlain slated to be in the starting rotation in 2009, the Yankees don’t have a dominate RH set up guy in pen. But when you have the greatest closer of all-time still on top of his game, you will always have a good bullpen.

3. Toronto Blue Jays – 26 Points

RH – Jason Frasor, Brandon League (3)

LH – Jesse Carlson, Scott Downs (10)

C – BJ Ryan (3)

2008 team era – 2.94 (10)

Analysis – The Blue Jays had the #1 bullpen era in 2008 and bring back everyone from the pen in 2009. The Blue Jays’ pen is a killer on lefty batters late in the game with Carlson and Downs. Ryan is a little shaky as the closer but he still knows how to close games.

2. Philadelphia Phillies – 27 points

RH – Ryan Madson (8 )

LH – Scott Eyre (4)

C – Brad Lidge (6)

2008 bullpen era – 3.22 (9)

Analysis – Ryan Madson emerged as one of the top set-up men in baseball last year and Brad Lidge regained his form that made him a top closer with the Astros. It will be interesting to see if Scott Eyre can fill the void left by the suspended JC Romero. I think he can. What I don’t think can happen is Brad Lidge going through the season perfect in save opportunities again. However, until he does blow a save the Phillies have the best bullpen in the NL.

1. Boston Red Sox – 28 points

RH – Justin Masterson, Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez (7)

LH – Hideki Okajima, Javier Lopez (9)

C – Jonathon Papelbon (8 )

2008 bullpen era – 4.00 (4)

Analysis – The Red Sox have everything you would want in a bullpen. They have power arms in Delcarmen, Masterson and Ramirez, 2 lefties in Okajima and Lopez who held lefties to a .183 avg last year and a dominating closer in Jonathon Papelbon. With the additions of Ramon Ramirez who had 70 K’s in 71.2 innings last year with the Royals and former Dodgers closer Takashi Saito, the Red Sox have the top bullpen headed into 2009