Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Baseball predictions for 2011 (Cleveland Indians)

(This post is pretty rough and I've had no time to go through and take a look at it's formatting or layout, so bear with me, I'll be cleaning it up in a couple days or so, but I wanted to get the content out there prior to the start of the season and then get working on the NL preview, so my apologies for the sloppiness of it, but at least I wanted to let you know I had a reason for doing it this way.)

My home town (well previously) team, the Cleveland Indians. I've followed them throughout my life and experienced the awful years between 1978 and 1990. It was truly bad then. Thankfully there have been a lot of good years since 1990, a lot of excitement and a lot of talent that has made it's way through the city.

I'll get to the team, but let me start with the front office. Hank Peters came in during the early 90's and changed the face of the organization. He focused on implementing the "Oriole" way (which Peter Angelos has ruined during his ownership, but that's another discussion). The "Oriole" way was meant to build an organization, develop it's own coaches, managers, front office people, and to apply a philosophy to the minor league development of players. John Hart was Peter's hand picked successor to his spot and Hart continued to build on that philosophy and did some amazing things that many small market teams utilize today to stay competitive. They built a strong organization as evidenced by the success during the 90's and 00's and by the number of players and organizational people that have passed through the Cleveland and branched out to other Major League teams. (Dan O'Dowd, Neal Hunnington, Bud Black, John Farrel, Josh Byrnes, Eric Wedge, Buck Showalter, Paul DePodesta, etc.) Now some like Showalter were not developed by the organization or given their chance by the team, but they came through and were advisers, scouts, coaches, or front office people and were used to contribute their knowledge to the organization. Here's a 2007 article on the disciples of John Hart.

When John Hart left, he appointed Mark Shapiro as his successor. Shapiro's teams have had some limited success on the field and he has continued developing front office people for other organizations. Shapiro moved up to Vice President last season and looking at the organization right now it's readily apparent that the success of this team was due to a couple of very successful trades and mostly the strength of the minor league organization during Hart's tenure. The minor league organization under Shapiro has been a complete disaster, the pipeline for talent to the majors is as bad as it was during the 80's and while there is some hope that it's improving, it's no where near where it was during the 90's. Add in the fact, that the biggest trade where Shapiro was successful involved Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, and Cliff Lee acquired for Bartolo Colon and the fact that the Indians completely fumbled the development of Phillips and lost him for nothing and almost screwed up the development of Lee and did the same and you have to seriously question the ability of Shapiro to run a team.

Right now, we are seeing a new wave of prospects in the organization, I have some reservations on whether they are high ceiling prospects or merely average major league ball players. (average players would be a step up) This is supposedly do to some changes Shapiro made with his president of Minor League Development a couple years ago. If they can start developing some players it will help, but I do believe they are still focusing on the wrong type of player.

In my opinion the organization seems to shy away from what I consider "power players" my definition of a power player is a hitter with potential for major league power or a pitcher that has the physical tools to throw with power. The team seems to focus on drafting players that have other talents (left handed pitchers, who typically throw slower, but are a commodity since they throw left handed, contact hitters with some speed and average power, and right handed pitchers that have success in college, but don't necessarily have good major league 'stuff')

If they draft power players, they do so in low numbers and hold out hope that those players will make the major leagues (Adam Miller). Never mind the development issues they have with those types of players (Adam Miller). The fact is most minor prospects do not make the majors, many get injured during their minor league career, some wash out, and some don't develop as they are supposed to. The way you get around this is to draft greater numbers, and if you draft greater numbers of players with high upside in the power categories, you have a better chance of seeing those players get to the majors. The reason I suggest they focus on the power players is the fact that those traits are a commodity at the major league level and if you wind up with too many prospects at one spot, then you can trade those prospects for greater returns then you can for a soft tossing right hander or a slap hitting contact hitter.

It will take a couple years to see whether the current changes to the drafting philosophy makes a difference, I'm not optimistic at the moment though. Players like Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, and Hector Rondon seem like possibilities, but in looking over their minor league progression so far, there is nothing that jumps out at me that says future star. Chisenhall especially is getting a lot of press, but as I look at him, I see a slightly above average hitter with a little bit of pop and bad defense. He's Shin Soo Choo without as much power. And that power makes a difference when you are playing a corner infield spot and if you don't have it you need to be spectacularly defensively. There are some bright spots, after 10 years of failing on 1st round picks, it appears that Alex White and Drew Pomeranz have the type of talent you expect to have from 1st round picks, now it's a matter of the Indians developing them and keeping them healthy. For some more thoughts on the Indian's prospects, here's an interesting list fromm Baseball America, note that only 3 of the top 10 Indian's prospects were drafted or signed by the team. On top of that, on other lists I respect, those top 10 outside of Carlos Santana aren't making a the Top 50 or 100 lists of prospects in baseball. I will also note that the Baseball America article lists the last 10 1st round picks of the Indians, it's a fairly disgusting list. They've hit on 0 of those 10.

My last rant on the front office, there isn't a lot of discussion about how bad things have been it seems like most reporters view the current front office as good. I'm encouraged that at least one writer isn't drinking the Cleveland Kool Aid. The current power rankings by Sportsline take a shot at the front office and although a little late to the party Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has come around to understanding that there have been severe draft problems by the team. (I do wonder why Terry Pluto's 3/27 article though isn't listed in his most recent columns though, see that detail here)

Enough of a rant on the organization, let's talk about the current season. I have little optimism for the current season, in order to be a decent team the Indians are going to need to have a number of players develop into major league quality players, in order to contend for anything they are going to need a minor miracle.

The Outfield: Shin Soo Choo is the only proven piece right now that is healthy and established. Grady Sizemore is attempting to comeback from micro-fracture surgery and Michael Brantley has yet to translate his talent into a quality major league season. The reserves are garbage, filled with the likes of Travis Buck, Austin Kearns, and Shelly Duncan. The front office continues to talk up Travis Buck, like there is something for the fans to be interested in, he's a former prospect that finally had a mediocre year last year for the Oakland A's and in reality has very little upside. Kearns and Duncan are the definition of journeyman and wouldn't be on the roster for a contending team. There is little to no imminent help in the minor leagues. If Grady Sizemore isn't able to fully come back, this might be the worst outfield in baseball (Oakland gives them a strong run for that distinction).

The Infield: I have nothing positive to say about the infield. Matt LaPorta has been bounced around like a yo yo by this organization and needs to play a full season to see if he can turn his minor league success into big league success. Outside of him the infield is filled with light hitting, average fielding (that's a generous statement) players. Asdrubal Cabrera could potentially start for other teams in the league, but after being billed as a solid contact hitter and potentially spectacular defensive player, we've come to find out he's a fairly average defensive shortstop. Second Base and Third Base are filled with more journeyman, Orlando Cabrera and Jack Hannahan. The Front Office in the preseason talked up their plethora of options at third base with players such as Jason Donald, Jason Nix, and possibly Lonnie Chisenhall. Donald and Nix wouldn't make the roster of most bad teams in the league and Chisenhall while considered a prospect by the Indians and publications has a lot to prove still and appears to me to be a decent contact hitter, with light power, and poor defense. Kipnis appears to be another prospect, again with decent contact numbers, little power, and average defense. That's not a prospect it's a utility player.

Catcher: I separated catcher from infield only because I don't want to lump Carlos Santana in with the rest. He's potentially a special player. I don't necessarily believe he should be a clean up hitter, but like Eric Wedge before him, Manny Acta is intent on putting the potentially best hitter on the team in the number four spot, rather then in the traditional number 3 spot in the order. I'm less disappointed in this move since Choo or Sizemore will likely bat third, I'll get to my thoughts on the batting order in a bit. Santana could potentially be one of the top three offensive catchers in the league. The issue I have and one that has plagued this front office, is that Santana as a catcher is a spectacular hitter, in other positions he might only be above average and if your other positions are average or below average, having a spectacular hitting catcher is sort of like having a sports car with no gas in it, it doesn't do you a lot of good.

Pitching Rotation: There is some potential here, which is more then I can say about other parts of the team. Fausto Carmona has shown at times that he can be dominant and if he can continue to improve, he has Cy Young ability. This is absolutely required for a small market team such as the Indians, having a true ace takes tremendous pressure off of your staff. The other members of the staff are all projects. Justin Masterson is at the point where he needs to establish himself as a starter, he started his major league career as a reliever and the book on him said he didn't have enough pitches to be an effective starter, he had a decent year last year as a first year full time starter, and I believe he has enough talent to be a solid #2 or #3 starter over his career. If he continues to progress as he did last year, this is a very good thing. Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, and Mitch Talbot round out the rotation. Carrasco has the highest ceiling of the players and it's time he's given a full chance to succeed or fail in the major leagues. There is no reason that if healthy he should not be allowed to pitch 150 innings this year as a starter. He needs the work to figure out how to pitch in the big leagues and develop and this team isn't going anywhere anyway. Carrasco has a lot of talent that hasn't translated at the big league level yet, but he's very close to being permanently categorized as a reliever or bouncing between organizations as a potential salvage job. The Indians need to let him mature this year. Tomlin and Talbot are innings eaters, for those fans of the Indians in the 1980's I've dubbed them Scott Bailes and Rich Yett. Players that are on a major league roster, but really only on the roster as the talent in the system stinks.

The Indians pitching prospects in the minors is a mixed bag, the two they are relying on most from trades Nick Hagadone and Jason Knapp have had some injury issues and still need a ton of seasoning before they make it to the majors. Players such as Alex White and Drew Pomeranz have potential but are still big question marks. There is a lot of buzz on Drew Pomeranz and as a large hard throwing lefty he has tools to succeed, but he's also never pitched an inning of pro baseball.

The Lineup and Manager: The lineup like the minor leagues lacks power hitters. The Indians consider La Porta, Santana, Choo, Sizemore, and Hafner their power hitters. Hafner hasn't been a power hitter in 4 years, Sizemore's game isn't based on power, La Porta has had little success in the majors and Choo and Santana project to about 25 homers in a career year. This stinks and will not put a lot of fear into opposing teams plans. Power in a lineup is about forcing teams to make adjustments and make mistakes. Even one bona fide power hitter would make a huge difference in this lineup. A bunch of contact hitters with doubles power is nice, but even the Twins as an organization (who Shapiro clearly thinks his organization is like from previous comments) have always had a tent pole style power hitter in the lineup. (Morneau, Hrbek, and they wanted David Ortiz as the bridge between those but he never developed there). Matt La Porta absolutely has to develop into that power hitter and dangerous bat. If he can, a lot of the offensive woes go away, because he can slot into the 4 spot. Here's potentially what this lineup should look like, and I've added commentary of traditional baseball thoughts as well.

1. Michael Brantley: Potentially a prototypical leadoff hitter. He needs to learn to get on base more, but his speed and contact ability are what you look for in a number one.

2. Asdrubal Cabrera: perfect spot for him, he's an above average contact hitter, that allows you to start runners and advance runners by hitting the other way. He also doesn't strike out a lot and has the skills necessary (bunting, taking pitches) to thrive in this spot.

3. Grady Sizemore or Carlos Santana, Sizemore is the preference here, he's an established hitter, good on base percentage and has decent power, he could up the average a bit, but if he's put here and allowed to adjust to the role, he should fill it nicely. This is the spot you want the best hitter on the team. Santana still has to develop, but based on his minor league numbers (great average, decent power) it's a good spot for him especially if Sizemore has to go back to leading off if Brantley fails.

4. La Porta or Hafner. Hafner's done, but outside of La Porta he's the prototype here (at least what he was). La Porta's power makes a difference here with three of your high on base % players in front of him. It sets up to put people on the bases and gives him more fastballs to hit over the fence. This is baseball 101. La Porta needs time to grow though, so I'll forgive the team for batting others here for the time being. Hafner is only mentioned in the outside chance he returns with the ability to hit 30 home runs and .280. (Unless Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds trainer is available, I doubt that's going to happen)

5. Shin Soo Choo, he's perfect for the number 5 spot. A dangerous enough hitter that can hurt a team that decides not to pitch to the #4 batter. He's a perfect fit here.

6-9 this is for players developing or playing because they are defensive players, put them in any order you like.

Manny Acta did ok in his first year, he doesn't have a lot to work with but the consistent year by Carmona along with the development of players like Choo and Santana is a positive sign. If he can get players like La Porta, Brantley, Carrasco, and Masterson to further develop he's done his job. I stand by my statement last year that he's keeping the seat warm for Sandy Alomar. I do hope the Indians understand how important it is to their fan base to retain a candidate like Alomar and what he could do for the perception of the team. In addition to possibly being a very good manager for many, many years. (Something rarely seen in this town for any sports team).

My prediction for this team is that they finish in 5th place this year, there are just way to many question marks on the team. The Front Office needs to allow Manny Acta to play the players he needs to and allow them to develop. Even if the team stinks, the front office and ownership need to remember that the fans have no interest in seeing journeyman lose, we'd much rather see players get their licks in and start to come around. There is a strong disconnect between the team and the fans and it's partially due to the fact that we haven't developed any players for the fans to follow and the ones that were here were traded away before they became too expensive. A baseball team and it's players is something fans associate with and that relationship develops over time, continuing to bring in players by trade or free agency means there is no bond developed and it's even worse if you are losing, as you lose the fans interest. All fans in Cleveland want is something to get excited about. 1994, the year before Jacob's field opened, fans saw talent coming and they wanted to be a part of it. Take a lesson from that, that minor leagues and drafting matter for reasons other then it's how you get good.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Baseball predictions for 2011 (AL)

Every year, I like to take a post and take a look at the new baseball season. I've found it helps me keep up on the league overall, although I find myself struggling to keep up on all the rookies and young players. Years ago I could have told you the top 10 list of prospects for each team. Now I'm lucky if I can give you the impact rookies for a team. Getting old and having more responsibilities suck.

American League

Eastern Division Winner:

1. Tampa Bay Rays: Did you know the Tampa Bay Rays won the division last year, or that they've won it 2 of the last 3 years? It's hard to believe for those that have followed the franchise since their inception in 1998. Their first 10 years ranked up there with some of the worst organizations in baseball. Unfortunately for them, they still can't draw regular season crowds to their stadium. Forget about what the pundits are telling you, this team is still dangerous and is my pick to win the division.

The pitching staff even with their youth is still potentially the best staff in the American league and with some experience will potentially be one of the best seen in baseball in sometime (yes that includes the current Phillies). They have two potentially spectacular hitters in Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton, and they have who I consider one of the top 3 managers in the Major Leagues Joe Maddon. Last year the team struggled to get their offense running through the year and that was when they had Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford, neither of whom had a spectacular year. Upton is poised to break out in a contract year and Longoria is on the verge of being the best player in the American League and with some others aging a bit potentially the best hitter in baseball. There are some holes in the bullpen and lineup but this farm system has talent in it and with a manager like Maddon who has a knack for figuring out how to fit talented players into those fringe spots, this is the team that will win the division.

2. Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox reloaded over the winter, they brought in first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres and they signed free agent outfielder Carl Crawford.

There still could be offensive problems on this team though. David Ortiz continues to have long slumps where the media speculates about how he's at the end of the year, and then he breaks out and puts up serviceable numbers, those numbers though appear to be happening when the pressure's off, which leads me to believe he's not hitting good pitching, but taking advantage of mistakes, which is fine for numbers and bad for winning.

Crawford is looked at as a Top 10 player and I disagree that he'll have that kind of impact in Boston. Crawford's game is based on speed, a concept that the Red Sox have never been well known for (save Jacob Ellsbury over the past couple years). The Crawford signing looks like a team trying to put a round peg in a square hole, I think it's an attempt to out Yankee the Yankees and instead of signing a player that fits their profile they went after the shiniest object on the shelf.

The trade for Gonzalez is a different story, he should help and provide some stability and fear to the lineup that has not been there since Ortiz and Ramirez were tearing things up. I do have some concerns though whether Gonzalez is going to make a smooth transition though, there are many career National League players that get over to the American League to find that pitchers throw a lot less fastballs and even though the park he's playing in now has shorter dimensions then his former park, I have a hunch that Gonzalez's numbers could look similar to his last couple years of .300, 30hr, and 100rbi. Not awful, but I think the feeling in Boston is he'll hit 50 in that park.

The other hitters on this team are mediocre in my opinion, while they get a lot of hype due to being in Boston, the fact is Pedroia, Youklis, and Ellsbury are nice parts, but on other teams they wouldn't be considered stars, they'd be considered above average players.

The pitching staff is getting better. Lester and Bucholz have developed nicely, however this teams championship aspirations hinge on Josh Beckett, if he has a big year, they'll go far, if he doesn't they probably won't. I don't think it's a coincidence that Beckett's two best years have coincided with his teams winning the World Series (Marlins in 2003 and Red Sox in 2007).

In the end, I give the Red Sox the edge for second place over the Yankees due to their stronger starting pitching.

3. New York Yankees: The Yankees are always perennial contenders and this year will be no exception. This team still fields arguably the strongest lineup in baseball with Alex Rodriguez and Mark Texiera leading the way. Robinson Cano would potentially be the best offensive player on a lot of teams but is overshadowed here and the other hitters on this team complete the lineup nicely.

Texieria had a down year last year in his second year with the Yankees and it's entirely possible that what we saw last year is what we are going to see in the years to come. His average was down over the previous years and so were his RBI and Home Runs, but they still fell in the upper echelon of hitters in the league.

Alex Rodriguez doesn't hit 50 home runs anymore, as a matter of fact, he's never come close to his explosive numbers since he admitted using performance enhancing drugs (albeit for only one year according to him). Whether Rodriguez's numbers during his prime were a result of the drugs or his talent, it's evident that he's slowing down a bit as a hitter. However, he's still extremely dangerous and has enough pop to carry this team during the season.

The pitching staff starts with C.C. Sabathia and pretty much ends with him as well. Every other spot in the rotation is a question mark. A team like the Yankees though can go along way with their hitting and it makes things a lot easier on a staff that potentially could give up a lot of runs. This works well for the long season, but is exactly what you don't want in the playoffs. The bullpen should be solid and it will need to be as it's going to get a lot of work through the year.

(Side note, C.C. Sabathia will win 300 games in his career. I've always been amazed that after Maddux got his 300th victory everyone bemoaned the fact that there wouldn't be any others. It's not easy nowadays with 5 man rotations, focus on bullpens, and so many teams in the league, but Sabathia has the combination needed, advance to big leagues at young age, superior talent, and be on good teams throughout most of your career)

4. Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays are getting better and they are young, if things develop as they expect them too, this organization could potentially win 2-3 pennants during the 20teens.

Over the past two years, management has done a fantastic job of moving bad long term contracts out of town (Alex Rios and Vernon Wells). By doing this they've provided the organization with some financial flexibility and they've opened up the positions where they have some of their best prospects. Young hitters such as Adam Lind, Travis Snider, and Aaron Hill have the potential to be very good. Add in likely performance enhancing drug star Jose Batista with the potential of catcher J.P Arencibia and this offense is potentially very exciting.

The pitching staff is young, but a number of the players have a high ceiling, prospects such as Brandon Morrow and Kyle Drabek project as potential aces, add in Ricky Romero, Jesse Litsch, and Bret Cecil, who have all gotten their feet wet already and their is the potential for a very solid pitching staff over the next couple years.

This team is still a year or two early to be put in the mix for great teams in the American League, but if you are a Blue Jays fan I'd be very excited.

5. Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles are getting a lot of press, they made a number of acquisitions in the winter (Vladimir Guerrero, Derek Lee, JJ Hardy, and Mark Reynolds) and they have some young talent (Brian Matsuz, Nick Markarkis, Adam Jones, and Matt Weiters). The team should be better, but I'm not entirely sold on the acquisitions having big years or for their kids ready to turn the corner.

The ceilings of their prospects looks a little low too, until they wind up with a bona-fide star that's brought up through their system, I don't think they'll turn the corner.

Final result, teams making progress, but still too many question marks.

Central Division

1. Minnesota Twins:

The Twins are my pick to win the Central based on their solid star base (Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and up and coming Delmon Young) along with the fact that their five starters are the best in the Central division.

The Twins will hit, this team is built around Joe Mauer, but the rest of the lineup is very solid players like Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyler, Delmon Young, and Justin Morneau all have solid pedigrees and they are young enough to still improve. Add in the fact that the Twins as an organization preach defense and fundamentals and this team is dangerous with average pitching.

The pitching staff is better then average. The starters are for the most part young and they have a potential Cy Young award winner in Francisco Liriano. Players like Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, and Scott Baker are still growing and potentially could break out this year.

This team has too many pieces not to be the prediction to win the division. They are the most complete team in the division, and if they don't win the division, I'd say it's more a matter of them losing it rather then someone else winning it.

2. Chicago White Sox: The White Sox have a lot of maybes. Maybe their hitters click and have good years, maybe their pitching stays healthy, maybe outspoken Manager Ozzie Guillen doesn't say anything to awful this summer.

The hitting is a mix of pieces parts, they've added Adam Dunn, which for a team that already had a fair amount of power hitting, but potentially has contact issues is a strange addition in my opinion. Paul Konerko needs to keep putting off father time, previous to last year he seemed to be on the downside of a nice career, but he rebounded with very solid numbers. It's time for Alexei Ramirez, Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios, and Gordon Beckham to live up to their potential and do it on a consistent basis. (As a side note on players, I do believe in three years, Gordon Beckham will be a super star.)

The pitching staff continues the theme of having a lot of question marks. There is a lot of talent on this staff, but there are some players recovering from injuries, some getting older, and some that have yet to show they can be consistent on a year in year out basis. Jake Peavy is a huge key to this staff, if he can come back from injury and regain his Cy Young form, the pitching staff's effectiveness grows exponentially.

This team has a lot of parts, I'm just not sure they all fit together, there seem to be too many question marks at this point to think they'll win the division or do any damage in the playoffs. The team certainly has the potential to win it all, but a lot of things have to fall right for that to happen.

3. Detroit Tigers:

The Tigers are like a firecracker, there are a couple big pops and then just smoke. The talent level on this team goes from one extreme to the other. At the high end you have players like Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. At the low end you have players like Brandon Inge, Jhonny Peralta, and Carlos Guillen. As good as Cabrera and Verlander are at their positions the others are as bad as it gets at theirs.

Hitting wise the Tigers should be fairly good, Miguel Cabrera is the type of offensive powerhouse that makes everyone else in the lineup better by default. Adding Victor Martinez in the off season will help, as Victor is a highly competent hitter, although over the last couple years he's been subject to power slumps. It also should be noted that catchers tend to age in baseball terms faster then other positions, so Victor could approach the downside of his career faster at an earlier age, the fact that the Tigers are planning to have him do little catching should help. The other players worth mentioning here are Austin Jackson and Magglio Ordonez. Ordonez continues to decline, but seems to have enough left in the tank to make himself a better then average starter. Austin Jackson is a young player that needs to continue to improve.

The pitching staff is good, it's lead by Justin Verlander, who is the ace of the staff and one of the best pitchers in the American League. The rest of the starters, save Brad Penny, are young and have been considered medium to high range prospects over their careers. Max Scherzer is a fireballer who has Cy Young level talent and based on his year last year, he could be at that level as early as this year. Rick Porcello has had some troubles, but he is still very young and was rushed a bit early to the majors leagues, which has impacted his development. He still has a load of talent though and should develop over the next couple years.

This team will score runs, Miguel Cabrera maybe the second best player in baseball and is a special talent. He's the type that comes along once a decade and is a triple crown threat every year. Last year he kept his personal problems in check, he had a set back early this year, but if he can keep his issues in check, he's a perennial MVP candidate. Pitching is anchored by Justin Verlander who is coming into his prime. When you have two superstars like this in pitching and hitting, it's fairly easy to build a team around it, the only problems are the question marks of the low end talent, which I worry may not be enough to let the Tigers complete at a high level.

4. Kansas City Royals: The Royals last won a World Series in 1985, since then they've been the dormat of the American league. That's about to change. This team has built an impressive farm system with high potential players through out, add in a fair number of young players that still have not lived up to expectations (and potentially still could and you have the makings of a future powerhouse).

Hitting wise, the Royals have begun to purge their team of the average players that have been put in place to hold the positions for the youngsters, they have some players on their last shot at making it in the big leagues (Jeff Francouer, Melky Cabrera) mixed with players who haven't fully blossomed (Billy Butler and Alex Gordon) who at one point were considered some of the best prospects in the minor leagues. Add in rookies like Kila Ka'aihue who has tremendous power potential along with OF in the minors that have the same and this lineup while not great this year is shaping up to be.

The pitching staff is currently made up of journeyman veterans (Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, Bruce Chen) and for this team to round into a contender the minors are going to have to provide some quality arms. Trading Zach Greinke was probably required due to the fact that he would likely either leave by the time the hitters are ready or become cost prohibitive. A couple of the current staff probably have a chance of sticking around in a couple years (Jeff Francis and Luke Hovechar) but ultimately they will need to find some top of the line starters either by development, trade, or free agency.

There is a lot to look forward to for the Royals, it's just not going to happen this year. I've put them in fourth based on potential, although they easily could finish in the cellar again. I'll admit that part of my pick here is due to my disappointment with the Indians organization and the fact that the Royals potentially have a lot more to look forward to.

5. Cleveland Indians: I'll post a link to my thoughts on the Indians, but I'm not thrilled with the organization or the team at the moment, there are some bright spots, but a lot of question marks.

Western Division

1. Texas Rangers: The Rangers won the American League Pennant last year, in the meantime they did lose their ace Cliff Lee. It's important to remember that Lee was only there for half the season though, but he was a significant part of their run through the playoffs.

The Ranger's lineup is one of the best in the league, led by Josh Hamilton, who has overcome a lot of personal issues and become a superstar. He's the type of hitter that makes everyone around him better. Although he's 29 he may only have begun to tap into his talent, which is scary as he's an MVP candidate right now. Add in established players like Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, and Mike Napoli and the lineup has a lot of pop and a lot of potential to score runs. They also have a power prospect in Mitch Moreland at first base, that has the opportunity to ease into a lineup and bat low in the order, which should provide him with an easier path to development.

The pitching staff doesn't scare you, but it's very serviceable. The team relies on solid starters to get them through 6 innings and bludgeon their opponents with their offense. They will miss Cliff Lee as their ace, but I anticipate it will affect them more in the post season then during the year.

The Rangers have a collection of hitters that's unparalleled in the Western Division, their home park also caters to hitting and is the reason they are my pick to win the West this year.

2. Los Angeles Angels: I constantly wonder why this team is not regular contenders for the American League pennant. Their farm system is constantly stocked with players, they spend money on free agents and they always seem to have a core base of players to rely on. Fundamentally they are sound and they have perhaps the best manager in baseball in Mike Scioscia. The reason they aren't constant contenders though is the fact that their prospects aren't typically developing into stars and they spend money on free agents that are poor fits.

Their lineup is a bit of a mess, their outfield has players that at one time were stars (Tori Hunter), but have either regressed over the years or put up big years in contract years and never managed to duplicate (Bobby Abreu, Vernon Wells). They are serviceable players and their is hope that Vernon Wells resurgence last year in Toronto is what they should expect this year, rather then the 2-3 down years previous to 2010. Kendrys Morales makes this team go and he's still recovering from a broken leg. The offense crumbled last year without him and likely will struggle if he can't return to 2009 form. The rest of the infield is a mix of prospects that are either raw or approaching the point where they just aren't going to make it as major league ballplayers.

The pitching staff has two very good starters (Jered Weaver and Dan Haren) one potentially good starter (Ervin Santana) and some question marks (Scott Kazmir and Joel Pineiro). Jered Weaver is the staff ace and continues to get better every year. Dan Haren has had some consistency issues during the past couple years, but is still a top starter, although not necessarily an ace. Santana still has a load of potential to harness and Kazmir is working his way through issues, since a great start to his career.

Morales and Weaver give this team a chance to compete as they are stars, add in some career type years from a couple other players and this team could make some noise, but it's absolutely necessary for this organization to start getting their prospects to develop into major league players.

3. Oakland A's: I think Moneyball is dead. That is if Moneyball ever in fact existed if you consider the A's success during the Moneyball hey day had a strong correlation with three outstanding pitchers they had at the time. (Mulder, Hudson, and Zito). The lineup and position players for this team seem to be filled by cast offs and rejects from other teams. The pitching staff is the big difference and gives the team the best chance to win.

The outfield for this team is full of cast offs that in most cases were third or fourth outfielders on other teams anyway. The infield is average at best, there's just not a lot to get excited about here for hitting.

The pitching staff has a lot to be excited about, Bret Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, and Dallas Braden are the front four starters. Cahill, Gonzalez, and Anderson have high end talent.

If the offense hits a little bit, this pitching staff can carry them along way. As the team is set now though, I don't expect much more then a second place finish.

4. Seattle Mariners: This team is in bad shape, they are at the point where they are adding small time flawed free agents (Jack Cust, Brendan Ryan) and believing it will improve the team. They need an influx of talent across the board and it's going to take some focus on drafting and development to get them there.

The one positive for the team is the fact that it has possibly the best pitcher in baseball in Felix Hernandez. He's young and depending on how long the team takes to rebuild, could conceivably lead a rejuvenated team in a couple years. Finding an ace with Cy Young talent is the most difficult piece of the puzzle, now the Mariners have to provide the other pieces and get this team back in contention.

American League Wild card: Boston Red Sox, they finish behind the Rays but manage to knock off the Yankees, White Sox, Tigers, and Angels for the wildcard spot.

Surprising team: Toronto Blue Jays, most sports pundits have singled in on the Orioles and they will be better, but I still think they are farther away then the Blue Jays. With the Yankees having pitching problems, it's not inconceivable that the Blue Jays make a strong run this year in the Eastern Division or for the wild card. They'll need a couple things to fall their way, but this should be an exciting team to watch.

Most Valuable Player: It's hard to pick against Miguel Cabrera or Josh Hamilton, possibly the two most talented players in the league. I'm going to go out on a limb though and predict a big year for Joe Mauer. Mauer's done things in parts over his career, great average one year, power the next, he's also had to deal with injuries as most catchers too, I'll make the prediction that this year he puts it all together in one monster year.

Cy Young: I believe I picked Justin Verlander last year, I'm going to choose him again. Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver, and CC Sabathia should round out the other top contenders. Verlander has a team with a ton of offense and he's always been on the brink of dominance. This year he puts it together.

Rookie of the Year: Some of the best potential rookies may not make it up to the majors this year. Since this is an award for the rookie that has the best year rather then who will have the best career it's a bit difficult to predict as well. As a shot in the dark, I'll choose Kyle Drabek. I think the Blue Jays are going to hit a ton and based on their commitment to their young players, Drabek should get a full season of work. Look for 12-14 wins, a 4.00 era, 175 innings, and 150 strikeouts.

Comeback Player of the year/Most improved player:
I've added most improved player to this list, as I don't see many comeback player candidates. I think Alex Gordon and Billy Butler of the Kansas City Royals are about to make the jump from average major league players to stars. Look for both of them to improve greatly on their previous offensive numbers.

Manager of the year: Joe Maddon, outside of Mike Scioscia, I think Maddon is the best manager in the American league. Big surprise that he used to serve as Scioscia's bench coach. The Rays has lost some players over the past year and they are completely rebuilding the bullpen. Add in the fact that they've brought in some unique personalities (Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon) on the downside of their career and that the core of this team is still young, and Maddon has a pretty large task ahead. My prediction is he'll have this team in shape by the 1st of May and through out the summer they'll be one of the better teams in the league.

American League Champion
: Minnesota Twins, the Twins problems over the last couple years is that they can't beat the Yankees, remove the Yankees from the playoff picture and it opens the door for the Twins. They are the most balanced team in the American league and potentially have 2-3 super stars to drive them toward the pennant.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Thoughts 3/25/2011: (100 things 2 of 10) Oops and Fear

In looking over other blogs I've seen other blogs do posts with lists of 100 things about me. It loses my interest at 10 or 20. However, I like the idea of it, so I'm going to break it up and merge it with my typical Friday list. (side note, the 1st of the 100 can be found here)

1. As a child, I was hit by an icicle in the face, which required 6 stitches, it's actually made a nice scar as I've grown up, right above my lip on the right side of my face. I was collecting icicles and used a shovel to knock one down, which turned into a launch ramp for the icicle right into my face.

2. As a child, I bit a live electric cord, clamped down on it and once I hit the connection I couldn't let go. In retrospect it's sort of fascinating to be electrocuted, as you lose the ability to move muscles (unclench the jaw) and your eyes shut and you experience a rainbow of colors. Luckily the cord shorted out, and I just was pale white as I walked into the room to see my mom, and had a burn mark on my lip. I have a scar on the inside of my lip on the lower right side where I was burned the worst.

3. I have an unusual fear of getting my hands or fingers cut. The thought freaks me out. I attribute this to punching a glass window as a child when I was upset at something and completely cutting up my hand (none serious).

4. I wasn't the brightest child on the block (as evidenced by my first three reveals). I'm pretty sure I prematurely aged my mother as well.

5. I'm still experiencing a mid life crisis, or fear of getting older, I obsess over it at times.

6. I despise millipedes and centipedes, anything with that many legs is simply unnatural. (It should be noted, that using the term despise here is just my clever, masculine way of saying, I'm terrified of these things."

Look at this sick looking thing, blech.

Image taken from here: (Arizona Bug Company)

7. I fear that which I cannot control. One of the things I've found over the years is that part of my obsession of planning and research is due to the fact, that I have a fear of failing in things I cannot control. My planning and research are my counters against this and an attempt to control things.

8. I wonder sometimes whether I'm going down the correct path, whether the choices I'm making today are good or whether I'll pay for them in the long run. There are times I recognize that the hard choices I make today will result in consequences down the road, however I also realize that those consequences are inevitable or a better option then the alternative.

9. I'm often concerned that I don't do enough for the people I care most about. I do wish at times I was more open and engaging with people. I wish at times I could be 'happy go lucky' and let things in life bounce off of me, I'm constantly working on letting go of my inhibitions when it comes to things like this.

10. I still have a fear of being overweight again, while I'm not svelte by any measure, I'm in relatively good shape I suppose, and very good shape considering where at times in my life I've been. I am sort of amazed that at times I'm comfortable with the weight I'm at and at other times despise it, I suppose that is actually progress though. I'm in a period right now where I've not been in my regular workout schedule and I'm planning on starting up again next week (birthday gift of gym membership).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Liar, Liar

I have a tendency to lie. It's not something I'm proud of, but it's something I do.

Wait, stop! Let me start over. I lie, I find it a useful tool, and I've done it for as long as I can remember. I encounter too many situations where lying is far to valuable to discard as an option.

My lies are not intended to be sinister, they serve a purpose, whether it's to spare feelings, make someone feel better, save time, or for the occasional small personal gain. My intent while using them is not to harm. Whether or not they actually serve the purpose I believe they do would be an interesting topic for discussion another time. I recognize that my belief on their value and whether or not they are harmful is purely subjective and possibly rationalized.

I'm not here to talk about my burning pants though, this post is about Boof and a characteristic I see developing.

Recently Bronwyn has been caught in two lies, the first one was when she decided to take a pair of scissors to her jeans and then claimed she got a hole in them when she got up from kneeling by the cupboard and they caught her pants on the corner and ripped. The second is one where she didn't technically lie, she asked for her allowance after helping me around the house, the day after her mother told her she wasn't getting one for the week due to something she did wrong. (I wasn't aware that her allowance had been taken away for the week). There have been others over the past couple of months, but these two stand out as the most recent and most interesting examples.

If I haven't stated it before, my daughter is an emotional child, that's not to say other children aren't, but I'm convinced my daughter's excellent behavior is due to the fact that she doesn't want to disappoint people, rather then just from having inherently good manners. She's well behaved to the extreme and while she has moments of child like fun, she's never disobeys or argues in a child like manner(to the point that I get worried sometimes). In her five years of life, I can only remember one temper tantrum and it happened around 2 years old, so I chalk that up as an aberration.

At the points where she would make what I would consider a misstep, where I discuss with her why she should do something a certain way, she's burst into tears more times then I can count from making the 'wrong choice'. I could almost understand this behavior if the environment she was being raised in was militant, but in truth the wife and I take a very conversational approach to raising her, believing there is more value in helping her understand situations then just punishing her for it. (very hippy like, I know)

This is why I'm intrigued by her recent lies. The two situations were self serving for her, which is a bit of a new trait for her. For the first one, she definitely anticipated she would get in trouble by her mother if she admitted to what she did and she was well aware that she did something bad. The second situation she was very aware that she wasn't suppose to get her allowance this week, but decided that she wanted it anyway. (She has an unhealthy love of money for a 5 year old). The intriguing part for me is how naturally she performed the lies. I just would not have expected it to be so fluid at her age. In the case of the jeans, I wouldn't have expected her to come up with a story to explain the hole.

It makes me wonder if this is an inherent talent or whether I'm nurturing the skill in her? If so, I wonder if it's a bad thing. I mentioned before that I find it a useful tool although I do think there are parameters needed around it. I do know for the development years and for the time being the message to her has to be that lying is wrong, it's not going to be tolerated, and that I'll have to punish her if it continues. (There are far to many situations a child could experience where truth is absolutely a must) I'm guessing though that she won't stop doing it, and I'm fully expecting her too, maybe that's how she'll develop the parameters and understanding of when it could potentially be ok to tell a lie. I need to learn to keep a straight face I think.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Thoughts 3/18/2011

1. Thoughts and (prayers) go out to Japan. Horrible situation across the board and I hope they are able to get things stable and take care of those affected quickly.

2. I did decide to drop out from the band I got together with last week. In the end their taste in music was just far too different from mine and the fact that they practice weekend afternoons, wasn't my idea of the best way to spend the weekends anyway. I'll probably be looking for more opportunities here over the next couple weeks.

3. I love the pass the buck mentality our Governor is doing with the budget over the next two years. (Read this with a sarcastic droll). He's essentially putting the burden on localities to raise their taxes and fund education as we continue to spend on other programs that should be cut during a budget crisis. And the newspapers wonder why Ohio's population still decreases. Here's a hint, property tax on $80,000 house last year was $2,700. We also have state income, sales taxes and all the other goodies. North Carolina property taxes for same price house, $700. They also spend less on gas and such during the winter. Not hard to understand why people who are able to be mobile continue the exile.

4. We are trying out the Melting Pot in Columbus tomorrow, I haven't told the wife where we are going yet. I'm excited to give it a try, I rarely get excited for restaurants anymore, and I think it's due to the fact that most dishes at restaurants don't excite me anymore and with a little work I feel like I could make a fair facsimile.

5. I posted this on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, so apologies if you are subjected to it again. My daughter was very excited to wear green for St. Patrick's day. She woke up Thursday and when she realized I wasn't wearing green, gave me a very sour face and told me that she was going to have to pinch me. I tried explaining to her, that she and I were of Scottish heritage and really should wear orange. She shrugged as she ignored me and pinched me. Upon dropping her off at school and waving to her at the window to her classroom, she made pinching motions in between waving goodbye, sigh.

6. I've booked the hotel for Disney our summer trip, we decided to stay at one of the Disney resorts for the trip, now I have to try and navigate the mounds of information on the internet about things to do at the park.

7. As much as I would miss NFL Football in the fall, there is a part of me that loves a good train wreck, and the current labor issues are definitely a train wreck at this point. There is something extremely satisfying in watching millionaires and billionaires argue about money, especially when their arguments are so public and potentially could cause them to lose revenue if fans get sick enough of it. This is like the appetizer for the NBA lockout, which promises to be much more entertaining, I'm hoping Latrell Sprewell is consulted by players for how to comment during the lockout, or perhaps Patrick Ewing.

8. Cleveland Indian's opening day (at home) is two weeks away, can't wait to be downtown for the day.

9. There isn't much I enjoy more at this time of year then opening up the windows at the house and getting some fresh air in during the work day.

10. For the first time ever I did a couple brackets for the NCAA tournament online, not sure why I've never done them before as I watch a fair number of games in the tournament. Not a bad start, 14 out of 19 on 2 of the 3 I did. I have UNC winning it all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Senate Bill 5 in Ohio

Wisconsin's got all of the headlines so far for their lawmakers assault on collective bargaining rights for public workers. In the meantime lawmakers in Ohio have been planning an assault of their own. In Ohio, it's referred to as Senate Bill 5. Here's an article with background information on the bill: Senate Bill 5

I have no idea on whether this will help the state balance the budget or whether this is just a Republican agenda to harm unions, I post my thoughts here in order to answer some of the rhetoric I've heard on the issue. I believe that the issue has become more about the political parties agenda (as is typically the case nowadays), rather then about the government arbitrarily taking current rights away from people.

I will make the following disclaimer in regards to my views on unions, my father was a Teamster for his entire career. My wife is currently a school teacher employed by a state school, however, she is not a member of the union as the union does not support teachers at the school where she has employment. My only membership in a union was for about 2 years in high school at a local retailer.

Some of the rhetoric I've heard and my responses

1. If I walked into my bosses office and demanded higher pay and better benefits, I'd be looking for a job.

This maybe true, but collective bargaining doesn't allow it's participants to march into their bosses office and demand those things either, as a matter of fact, they typically only get to negotiate those things when their contract is up.

2. Public servants should be rewarded based on performance rather then collectively.

I didn't realize this was the average person's decision to make. Electing to join a collective bargaining organization requires you to put aside performance based bonuses, it's the trade off, unless of course your organization is savvy enough to negotiate that somehow into the contract. This one also perplexes me in the sense that they think the government would be any better then companies for 'rewarding' performance. I'd love to ask the people that use this as an argument about how much they trust corporations to do the right thing by their workers.

3. Public servants make too much money, the unions hold the state hostage in negotiations.

I might agree with this logic if we didn't constantly find areas where the states invest millions of taxpayer dollars on outdated programs, unneeded contracts, and a variety of other expenditures. The fact is the states and the localities have been part of each and every one of these contract negotiations, in the end if the public servants are making 'too much' the only people to blame would ultimately be the negotiators who failed to do their job.

4. I don't have a union, why should anyone else have one.

This is similar to number 1 above. The fact that you don't have something, likely has to do with your choice of profession, just as you can change jobs like a public worker can, you can also choose to go into a line of work with unions or attempt to organize your workplace.

Final Thoughts

I cannot for the life of me understand how individual citizens have come to begrudge other citizens of their rights to join a union and feel it's somehow right for our government to remove those rights. Why in the world shouldn't a group of employees have a right to collectively bargain? There's not one argument I've heard that tells me why someone shouldn't be allowed that right. The government can't even answer that question, all they are saying is that this would lead to balancing their budget. Doesn't that mean there is something wrong here?

Anytime the government decides they need to infringe on something already in place, my ears perk up. Isn't the fact that the government has failed to successfully negotiate with these groups the real issue? If you want to control salaries for employees you have a chance every couple years. You know how you do that? Negotiate better. This is failing leadership at it's best. The government can't successfully complete a task that's a part of their jobs so they decide to just legislate the problem away. This isn't how it's supposed to work. Which is why I ask all of those in favor of this bill, why would you support a government that acts in this manner? Our expectation from our elected leaders should be for them to do their jobs correctly, supporting the government in situations such as this, just tells them it's alright to fail and then legislate the problems away. That's not the type of leadership I want in office and I think most people would agree.

Just a couple of footnotes, most of my argument here assumes that our leadership is telling us the truth and their intent is to balance the budget, not to bust unions or cater to the anti-union lobby. I think there's a better then average chance that this issue is being driven by these reasons, but for arguing the issue, I didn't want to get involved in that and I think there is plenty of reason to oppose this issue without getting into either side of the political spectrum.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March updates

It's been a very busy month, which is the reason I just haven't gotten around to blog updates. I thought I'd drop in and give a quick summary of what's going on though. I'm in the midst of trying to plan the family's first Disney vacation, which is taking much more time then I expected, as every time I make a decision on a part of the trip (where to stay, dining plans, etc) I'm still left with another one. It doesn't help that I'm currently overwhelmed with information from fan sites and forums as well, as that just means I have more things to read for my idled brain.

I also had my first practice with the new band last Saturday, although after practicing with them, I fear my initial thoughts that I had from the auditions in November are true. It's just not a group I fit well with, it's a combination of things, but personality and musical interest mismatches are the biggest hurdles (and pretty much the most important thing for a hobby like this). I think before it goes any further I need to put an end to it. I just can't put my heart into something that I'm not excited about and I can find nothing exciting about singing with this group at the moment.

Outside of those activities, I'm trying to get back on track with a workout schedule, the 20th high school reunion is less then a 100 days away and I'm behind schedule on getting back in spring shape. I'll have some more thoughts on the reunion and my annual depression (i.e birthday at the end of the month).

Hope things are going well wherever you are.