Snow Day Link Dump

Giants-related links of interest:

1) While scrolling through some fox sports fluff  I saw this article…Andres Torres is the best center fielder in baseball!!!

2) Crazy Crabbers has a video that will warm your heart on even the coldest winter day…the last 27 outs!

3) I wanted to write about this but Bay City Ball’s got it locked down. Introducing my new favorite Spring Training invitee Marc Croon.

4) Brandon Belt was named one of MLB’s top 50 prospects. Of course, I’d probably like to see him higher, but he definitely belongs on the list.

5) ObsessiveGiantsCompulsive wrote an apologetic for Madison Bumgarner this week. Personally, I don’t buy the “country strong” argument, but I do hope he is right in his overall analysis!

6) Finally, McCovey Chronicles starts the batting order debate

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Libro!

Busy week, so apologies for the lack of posts. Rest assured, the monks are hard at work!

In the meantime, I was excited to discover that the great Andrew Baggarly is writing a book about the 2010 season. Love his work on the Giants’ beat and I’m looking forward to reliving the season in my favorite of all mediums: the printed word.

Here’s a link so you can pre-oder if so inclined.

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Why the Red Sox Will Not Win the World Series

If you are paying attention you will note that earlier this week I picked the red sox to win the WS (although, to be fair, I was just trying to keep things fresh). Nonetheless, I would like to spend a post on tearing my pick apart.

Earlier in the month I wrote about the importance of pitching to post-season success and also how most of the teams that won in the last 10 years had a huge jump in pitching strength as a result of a major addition to the staff. The Red Sox themselves did this in 2004 (adding Schilling and Foulke) and again in 2007 (healthy Beckett, Lester, Dice-K, Okajima, etc).

We all know the big names the Red Sox have added, but they have primarily been on offense (I’ll discuss the bullpen additions a little later). I’ve also heard a lot about how injured the Sox were last year (and they were ridiculously hampered by injuries), and how being healthy this year might make them unbeatable.

I have no doubt this lineup is going to score a crazy amount of runs and I feel the Sox are a lock to win 100 games. But will they succeed in the post-season with their pitching?

Here’s what they did last year: ERA 4.20, ERA+ 104, K/9 7.5, WHIP 1.36.

That’s not bad…slightly above league average, but still possessing good stuff. The problem: when you break it down they were HEAVILY reliant on great seasons from three guys: Lester/Buchholz/Bard. Everyone else was about average or below league average.

Here’s my assessment of these five guys:

  1. John Lester: some in Boston still think Beckett is the ace, but come on people! At this point Lester is the only real stud in this rotation and I expect him to be great for a while. That being said, Giants’ fans would agree that 2010 was a down year for Lincecum and he and Lester had very similar years when you look at the numbers (similar K/9, ERA+, IP, K). Lester is the only guy I trust in this rotation.
  2. Clay Buchholz: Awesome year kid, but you were a little lucky. I agree completely with this assessment and feel that he will be good in 2011 but come back to earth a bit. I’d take any of the Giants’ first 4 over Clay.
  3. Josh Beckett: This is where it gets ugly. Beckett is a huge name and has a huge contract so he’s an ace, right? Nope. This article suggests that a return to form for Becket is not only unlikely it would be historically unprecedented. What’s even more alarming is that even when Beckett was dealing he struggled against the AL East (read: good teams). That said he is still only 30. But the uncertainty is startling: will he make a full season of starts? Will he stink? Will he bounce back? No one knows!
  4. John Lackey: as a Giants fan I really don’t like Lackey at all. That said, he’s been a good pitcher for a while. When he came over to the Sox a lot was made of his struggles at Fenway and then he went out and was below average (ERA+ of 97) in 2010. My feelings are that Lackey might look pretty good if he were on the Padres or Giants, but in the AL East he is quickly going the way of Zito (or AJ Burnett).
  5. Daisuke Matsuzaka: and then there’s dice-k. For whatever it’s worth I’ve never been a fan and always thought the hype WAY overstated the reality. But here’s something that is actually interesting. Japanese pitchers tend to come over, make a splash for a while, and then flame out. Matsuzaka could buck that trend, but probably not.

Every team enters a season with “ifs”…if they stay healthy, if so-and-so bounces back, if this prospect emerges, and on and on. However, the Red Sox have significant ifs with four of its five starters (the part of the team that is most closely tied to post-season success), and I think that will be a serious problem for them, especially in October.

Now, the bullpen. Aside from injuries this was the major downfall of the 2010 team. They have definitely fortified the pen: Wheeler and Jenks will help, Papelbon is back, and Bard is the man. With the depth they now have in the ‘pen there will be pressure taken off the rotation. Some would argue that a better bullpen would have especially helped Laceky who stayed in too long in too many games. (This article is more about the starters, but I also have some qualms about Pap and Jenks: signs of health issues and decline with both.)

The question, though, is are these the kind of moves that help a pitching staff make the jump that can propel a team to a championship?

Statistically the Red Sox profile almost exactly like the 2008-2009 Yankees. If they get the same production from their staff this year that they got last year, with their superior lineup they should prevail.

The key, though, is getting the similar production, and I just don’t think that’s a given. The Red Sox are locked in to two declining pitchers for a lot of time and money (Beckett and Lackey) and I just don’t see this staff holding up and dominating in the playoffs.

I may be way wrong on this one, but I do not think the Red Sox will be holding a trophy over their heads and pouring champagne on each other at the end of October.

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January Predictions

The monks offer our very early, very unofficial first shot at predicting the 2011 season. Enjoy and comment away!

1) Why will the Giants’ Repeat?

  • Jon: Because they are awesome. After not winning the WS for 56 years, they are due to win at least 4 times in a row! Don’t argue…it’s a game of statistics and this stat only makes sense.
  • Tim: Giants repeat because: Our pitching staff is strong as ever, and we are getting all the big guns back. It was just announced today that Cody Ross is pulling on the orange for another year, and with him and Huff swingin’ the lumber, and Panda already 15 pounds lighter, we’ll finally have some consistent run support for our amazing pitching staff.
  • Josh: The Giants will defeat the New York Yankees in the World Series.  I think it would be really cool to knock off the team I hate more than any other… besides the Dodgers.
  • Steve: They win again because the youth of the staff means the pitching holds up for another deep run, plus the offense is improved with pablo bouncing back, full seasons of posey/burrell/ross, the emergence of belt, and more goodness from huff/torres/sanchez.

2) Favorite to Win (Non-Giants Division)

  • Jon: Phillies…it feels strange picking a team the Giants’ made to look like weepy little school boys in the NLCS, but their pitching and above average hitting will be tough. Despite their solid lineup they didn’t perform to potential last year. If their pitching stays healthy and their hitting meets potential, they can take it in 2011.
  • Tim: Twins…I was initially leaning towards the Phillies, but I’ve decided on this was too rational. Minnesota Twins. Doesn’t sound rational? With Justin Morneau looking to be healthy at the start of the season, and Joe Mauer locked up for all eternity, all these small town boys need to do is finally get by the Yankees in October.
  • Josh: New York Yankees vs. Phillies. How can you not pick these two teams at this point in the year? Injuries can change everything but the sound mind says these two teams will meet. Oh and Vegas thinks so too!
  • Steve: Red Sox…I actually think it will be the Phillies, but they’re covered, so I’ll go with the semi-homer pick. I do have legitimate concerns about the pitching, but if the rotation is healthy they have PLENTY of offense to get them to the post-season where Lester and an improved bullpen will carry them through.

3) Sleeper Picks (NL and AL)

  • Jon: Brewers in the NL…I just have a feeling. Grienke, Gallardo, Braun, Fielder, and NOT Hoffman. A’s in the AL…no, this is not because I’m from the Bay Area. This team competes every year with guys I’ve never heard of (Mike Sweeney anyone?). This year they not only have a credible line up with DeJesus and Matsui and Willingham, but their rotation is top 3 in the league.
  • Tim: Although my Twins Prophecy sounds like a sleeper, the real sleeper here is the Rockies. They have so much young talent, and the rest of the league is finally taking notice. We were lucky to slip by them in our division last year, but Ubaldo Jimenez is throwing the heat, and he and his teammates will ride the flowing mullet of Troy Tulowitzki all the way to a ring. In the AL, this is the year of the year of the A’s. I am mostly basing this pick on the fact that their cross town rivals took home the glory in 2010, and it’s lit a fire under their butts. They signed Grant Balfour today, and he had a great year with Tampa Bay last year, which should help their struggling bullpen. Adding Hideki Matsui at DH was a smooth off-season pickup. I would love nothing more than a Battle of the Bay Vol. 2. Hopefully the A’s can step it up.
  • Josh: AL pick is the Twins.  I guess this isn’t much of a sleeper since they went to the playoffs last year, but they always build their team well.  Bill Smith (GM) is a smart cookie and he builds a great squad with a decent payroll of just under $100 million and  Ron Gardenhire  can get the most out of his rotation and lineup. In some ways, I see a lot of similarities to the Giants. NL…I think the Braves could creep up on some people. The first year without the legend of Bobby Cox should be intriguing and they could be a great story or this could be the dumbest pick ever. Their rotation could use some help in the back-end but the addition of Dan Uggla could be huge for them and Jason Heyward should only be getting better (scary). By the way, I hope this pick fails. I hate the stupid Braves.
  • Steve: I too like the Brewers…a lot, but I’m going to go with the Marlins as a true sleeper. If Vasquez pitches like he did in ’09 and the rest of the rotations stays healthy, they have as good a 1-5 as anyone in MLB. Plus they have a stable of young, athletic hitters who could come together around Hanley. I might be a year early on them, but watch out for FL. In the AL, I love the A’s, but again that’s been covered, so I’m touting the White Sox. Good pitching, power, defense, a crazy manager…they play in a winnable division and have the pitching depth to make a serious run if they get in.

There you go…second guess away!

The National League

All the monks are hard at work on a post for sometime in the middle of this week when we unveil our first (but not last) predictions for the 2011 season. My initial thought as I pondered my some early picks: OMG the National League is wicked loaded!

Not too long ago I posted about the centrality of pitching to post-season success and how the Champions of the last decade (almost to a team) made significant additions to their staffs that led to glory.

Yesterday, ROTO Authority offered a list of some of the key pitchers who have gone from the AL to the NL this offseason. There are a few good ones on there, adding to a league that already has a full slate of dominant arms.

In light of those moves and others that have taken place there are 8 teams with a legitimate shot at the playoffs (listed with their top two pitchers just for comparison’s sake):

  • East: Phillies (Halladay and Lee) and Braves (Lowe and Hudson)
  • Central: Reds (Volquez and Cueto), Cardinals (Carpenter and Wainwright), Brewers (Grienke and Gallardo)
  • West: Giants (Lincecum and Cain), Rockies (Jimenez and De la Rosa), Dodgers (Kershaw and Billingsley)

note how many good pitchers from these teams are still not mentioned (i.e. hamels, oswalt, hudson, jurjiens, arroyo, wood, bailey, garcia, westbrook, marcum, bumgarner, sanchez, hammel, lilly, kuroda, garland)

There are, in my estimation, five more teams that could at least make a run if the stars, sun, and moon line up right (i.e. perfect health and some career years). Here they are with their top two starters:

  • East: Marlins (Johnson and Nolasco), Nationals (Hernandez and Marquis), and Mets (Santana and Niese)
  • Central: Cubs (Dempster and Garza)
  • West: Padres (Latos and Richard)

that doesn’t include: vazquez, sanchez, volstad, strasburg, zimmerman, pelfrey, zambrano, wells, stauffer, leblanc, and harrang.

That leaves only three teams (the D-backs, Pirates, and Astros) who have NO chance (note: I really feel like I could put the D-Backs in the stars/moon/sun category but will not at this point).

look at some of the pitchers on those teams: saunders, hudson, kennedy, maholm, ohlendorf, rodriguez and myers.

That’s crazy! 13 of 16 teams have a chance and half the teams in the league have a legitimate chance. Bottom line: I am struggling with my national league picks right now. I would hate to be a hitter in the NL…

Stay tuned for our january prognostications coming soon!

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Spring Training Invites

here’s the list of the 22 players the Giants have invited to spring training. any thoughts?

obviously, belt is in there, who, along with crawford and mota, could be on the opening day roster if some things go right.

but beyond those guys who are you excited about? here are my three:

  1. Waldis Joaquin: actually was on the opening day roster last year. i still think there is some felix rodriguez in him yet.
  2. Tommy Joseph: he’s still a ways off, but a 19-year-old kid with crazy power=exciting
  3. Ryan Vogelsong: maybe we can trade him again for Jason Schmidt. seriously, though, perhaps he pulls a rabbit out of a hat and can be our “sixth” starter.

spring training invitees of interest, comment away!

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