Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Three Non-Rookie Pitchers Poised for a Breakout in 2010

Looking at last season's rise of Adam WainwrightMatt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez as legitimate top of the rotation starters I decided to look for some common traits these pitchers had and see if I could spot some of next season's possible breakout candidates.

Some could argue that Adam Wainwright's breakout came in '08 after posting an 11-3 record in only 20 starts (his 2008 was cut short by a sprained middle finger on his pitching hand) but significant strides made in his K/9 (going up from 6.2 to 8.2 in one season) along with the consistent command of his above average curveball induced more opposing batters to hit groundballs (rose from 45.9% to a career high 50.7% from '08 to '09) as well as an increase in swings outside the strikezone.  Matt Garza was another beneficiary of what can happen when your K/9 goes up almost two clicks (from 6.9 in '08 to 8.5 last season) thereby solidifing his status as a valuable part of Tampa Bay's rotation.  Ubaldo Jimenez always had a promising fastball but his high BB rates kept him from being a legitimate MLB option.  Wisely, the Rockies knew Jimenez had the arsenal to be a starting pitcher (they could have easily took his 4 seam fastball that can touch 100 mph and threw him in the bullpen hoping he could be an immediate closer).  Last season, Jimenez put it all together and the advancements made to his slider and changeup helped to increase his K/9 (from 7.79 to 8.17) and, most importantly, decreased his BB rate (from 4.67 in '08 to 3.5 last season).

Of course other pitchers made considerable leaps from their 2008 to '09 seasons (Zach Grienke, Jon LesterJosh Johnson and Edwin Jackson come to mind).  However, most of these leaps were expected given the status of each of these pitchers going into last season. Below, I have posted three players I expect to breakout after showing some promising traits last season.

Monday, March 22, 2010

WAR and the Joe Mauer Extension

Yesterday Joe Mauer signed an 8 year extension worth $184 million dollars.  By all acounts with Target Field set to open early next month this was a deal Minnesota had to get done if they wanted to be perceived as dedicated to their fanbase.  Breaking down this contract, Mauer will be paid $23 million dollars annually from 2011 till 2018 and will receive full no-trade protection through the duration of this deal.

Now the question is: Will Joe Mauer be worth it? 

This is the fourth largest contract in the history of baseball and one that could financially strap a small to medium market team like Minnesota if this deal goes sour.  Looking over the past four seasons we can break down Mauer's value in terms of wins he generated over that of an average replacement player.  The stat I'm using is called Wins Above Replacement or WAR for short and it seems to be a favorite among the statistically inclined.  Over a year ago, Dave Cameron at FanGraphs wrote a series of articles explaining how this stat is measured and how it can improve in the future and it's highly suggested that you read it to get a detailed explanation.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Remaining Free Agents

Reading Tim Dierkes post yesterday about MLB transactions at this time last year; I decided to examine a few of the remaining free agents and speculate on where they may end up.  Although I don't expect much action to occur from now till Opening Day, but as more pitchers experience soreness and other injuries and platoon possibilities seem likely, it's expected a few teams may be in need of their service.

Hank Blalock: He is listed at 1B but DH may become his true position.  Last season he posted .234/.277/.459 in 462 AB's (which were the most he has seen since the 2006 season).  Besides hitting 25 HR's, Blalock saw career lows in his BB% (5.3) and a major increase in his K% (23.4).  Below I have listed a few other reasons as to why he is still available as well as a few likely scenarios for Blalock as the preseason develops.

Monday, March 1, 2010

2010 Team Analysis: Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles:

2009 Record: 64-98

General Manager: Andy MacPhail

Manager: Dave Trembley

Organizational Philosophy: in summer of 2007 the Orioles finally said enough is enough and hired a bonafide baseball mind in Andy MacPhail.  Growing up in Baltimore I'm sure it's been a lifelong dream for MacPhail to run the O's and with his the glowing resume yet unassuming demeanor, I'm not surprised that he has quietly and swiftly put this team on the right track.

Early in 2008, MacPhail made a key move by trading popular starter Erik Bedard to Mariners for a slew of key prospects (of which included Adam Jones, George Sherrill and Chris Tillman).  During the '08 season Sherill was featured as the Baltimore closer and, despite his lousy control, was flipped in 2009 to the Dodgers for promising 3B prospect Josh Bell.  Since MacPhail was hired the Orioles have been commited to unloading any valuable palyers that do not fit into their longterm plans and drafting and stocking up on young talent.  In 2010, they may have the best young outfield in all of baseball with Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones and Nick Markasis; however, their division does pose a huge struggle but they could very well soon be adding their name to the list of why the AL East is so dominant.