Archive for February, 2015

The Weighting Game

The Red Sox just never got it right last year. The defending champions stumbled out of the gate and limped to their second last-place finish in three seasons. So it’s no surprise, at least to me, that they responded with a vengeance in the offseason.

They traded for Wade Miley. They traded for Rick Porcello. They dumped struggling Will Middlebrooks and signed the best bat on the market, Hanley Ramirez, to a long-term deal to restart the offense. But the most risky, and at least in my opinion, the worst decision, was to sign Pablo Sandoval to big money to be a cornerstone at 3rd base.

Sandoval is the very definition of a clutch hitter, if such a thing exists. He’s a three-time World Series champion, owns a World Series MVP trophy, and has a career postseason batting average of .344. This guy comes up big when it matters most. We all know that.

But his focus and commitment have been questioned throughout his career. His regular season numbers are mediocre, he has huge lapses in concentration throughout the long season, and he’s had struggles with his weight his entire career. So it must have been pretty concerning when Pablo showed up to camp looking like he spent the entire winter at Burger King.

This has to be concerning to the Red Sox. I know some might say that Sandoval’s weight is no big deal, and that he’ll step up when it matters, like he always does. But the regular season is a long grind, and you have to get to the postseason before you can make an impact there.

You might say that his weight issues didn’t stop the Giants from winning three championships, but Boston is a very different team from San Francisco. The Giants were built on pitching and defense, and getting timely hits when it mattered. That’s the exact recipe of success for a player like Sandoval. The Red Sox, on the other hand, are going to have to have consistent offense all year round to win the AL East. Their pitching just isn’t strong enough to carry a bunch of mediocre hitters throughout the grind of a season in the more offense-centered American League.

If I were the Red Sox, I would tell Sandoval that I expect him to drop 25 pounds by opening day. That gives him around six weeks, which is plenty of time for a professional athlete to drop weight. They have the best equipment and trainers that money can buy.

Boston made a big commitment to Sandoval. It’s time for him to return the favor and show that he’s committed as well.

Please Go Away

Wasn’t 2014 a great baseball season?

The World Series was awesome and came down to the final out. The Royals’ postseason run was amazing to watch. Derek Jeter’s farewell tour was both fitting and well deserved, and Bud Selig finally stepped down after years of ignoring small-market teams.

But the best part of the 2014 season?

Alex Rodriguez was nowhere to be found.

© New York Post
© New York Post

I must admit, I thought this was the end for A-Rod. I figured there would be no way he could return after taking an entire season off. I thought his steroid riddled body would finally break down and his crappy skill set would be gone for good. But no, that glorious day will have to wait.

Seriously, is there a bigger clown in baseball in the last 30 years than this guy? He cheats the game, cheats on his wife, cheats the Yankees out of buckets of cash, and cheats us fans at the opportunity to see him limp out of the game unceremoniously after his one-year suspension.

The latest line of garbage is that A-Rod wants to meet Brian Cashman and the Yankees face to face, to “clear the air.” How he can say this with a straight face I have no idea. The Yankees have tried everything in their power to get rid of him, short of eating the $150 million or whatever is left on his contract to make him go away. Maybe it’s worth it?

I don’t know what he has to gain from continuing to embarrass himself like this. Is money really THIS important to him? So much so that he would be willing to endure the sandstorm of jeering and ridicule heading his way this year? Or could it be that he desperately wants to break baseball records so that he can taint them in some form of “revenge” against everyone?

Whatever it is, I guess one good thing comes from all this. He’s giving baseball fans all around the country one last chance to tell him how we really feel about him. It’s the Alex Rodriguez farewell tour.

Much like his chances of being voted into the Hall of Fame, let’s just hope it ends quickly.

The Problem Is Choice

As we fast approach the 8th annual thefoulline.com fantasy baseball draft, I’ve come across some difficult decisions in my prep work. A lot of players are frighteningly similar in average draft position, skill sets, and production. It’s on you to make the choice of who you want to be on your team. Sounds easy, right?

In a perfect world, all the players you’re considering drafting would have career seasons. The hitters would all hit .300 with 30 HRs and 115 RBI, and the pitchers would all win 15+ games. But of course that’s not the case. As we all have found out the hard way, one of the players you’re considering will have an MVP-type season. The other will spend 10 weeks on the DL. You have to navigate the minefield and make choices that won’t sink your season before the first pitch is thrown.

Three years ago, Dave wrote a post called Weapon Of Choice where he went into detail on this very problem. It’s time for a follow-up. Here are some of the choices that I’ve found myself facing.

Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw?

Who’s number one? That’s the decision facing Dennis and his October Boys as he secures the first overall pick for the 47th consecutive season. This choice boils down to your base philosophy in building a fantasy baseball team. Do you go with the best pitcher in the world, or the young phenom who finally secured his elusive first AL MVP last year? A year ago, this was a no-brainer. But Kershaw has put himself so far ahead of every other pitcher that you have to stop and consider the advantage he gives you over the field. Add in the fact that Trout seems to be regressing, as his OPS, OBP, batting average, and SBs have all plummeted, and you have a real decision to make. But at the end of the day, there are far fewer elite hitters than elite pitchers, and that makes Trout the pick here. But I can’t fault anyone for going the other way.

Felix Hernandez, David Price, or Chris Sale?

We all know what Clayton Kershaw brings to the table, but who’s the second pitcher off the board? All these guys are strong candidates, and all have things that set them apart. Felix Hernandez piles up the innings and strikeouts but has had trouble securing wins on a mediocre Mariners team. David Price is probably the best workhorse in MLB at this point, throwing an absurd 250 innings last year, while leading the majors in strikeouts and having an amazing walk rate. But he’s a little too hittable and seems to have trouble keeping his ERA down. Chris Sale is probably the most dominant of the three, but he can never seem to have a fully healthy season and has trouble piling up the innings needed to be an elite fantasy ace. If you’re willing to take a chance that Chris Sale could finally exceed 225+ innings, you could have the AL answer to Clayton Kershaw, but Felix Hernandez is the guy here. Safe, dependable, and more wins coming with an improved Mariners offense.

Andrew McCutchen or Giancarlo Stanton?

Again with a who’s number 2? This time it’s in the outfield. Nobody broke out in a bigger way than Stanton last year, cranking 37 jacks, 105 RBI, with a .290 batting average and a career-high 94 walks. Still just 25 years old, on an improving Marlins team, the sky is the limit, right? Maybe. He still has an issue staying healthy, only playing 150 games one time in his career. McCutchen, meanwhile, is an absolute rock, finishing in the top 5 in H2H points leagues for three straight years. Personal experience, last year I took Ryan Braun instead of McCutchen because I wanted Braun’s 40 HR, 30 SB, .315 BA upside. You know all the rest. McCutchen dominated, while Braun was a shell of his former self and was off my team by mid-May. Stanton has the upside to be the best hitter in fantasy baseball, but if you’re picking in the top 5, safety has value. McCutchen is who you want here.

Corey Kluber or Johnny Cueto?

Both these guys broke out in a big way last year and will be drafted in the mid 2nd round. But who can you trust? Can you trust either? The answer is yes… It’s Corey Kluber. This may be a bit of an upset, but Kluber is someone I’m targeting in all my mocks. He’s a 1st-round type arm with a 2nd-round price tag because people just can’t get behind “one-year wonders.” (See RA Dickey, 2012.) Kluber is no fluke. All his advanced numbers are legit. He’s a strikeout pitcher with supreme control who piles up innings. Maybe I’m biased here, but I just can’t get behind Johnny Cueto. He’s burned me before, multiple times, and I just keep waiting for that strained dreadlock or whatever stupid injury he misses six weeks with. Kluber and Cueto have nearly identical average draft position, and most people will lean Cueto. But trust me, you’re gonna regret it…

What decisions do you find yourself stuck with in your mock drafts? Let us know! Try not to pick the wrong guy on draft day (a talent I seem to have mastered), because it will leave you scrambling and making decisions that hurt your team in the long run to make up for short-term losses.

Like Neo said throughout the Matrix trilogy, “The Problem is Choice.”

MLB Offseason Review

Hey everyone, Dan here.

Ever since the San Francisco Giants recorded the final out against the Kansas City Royals in the World Series last year, this date has just been flashing in my head…. April 5th… April 5th….

Despite the winter seeming to drag on forever, the Super Bowl is now over. And that means we are officially on the fast track to baseball’s opening day. But that’s not to say that the winter didn’t produce some real highlights. This was perhaps the most crazy, active, and wild offseason in baseball in the last 20 years. But who put themselves in the best position? Who gutted their team? It’s time for thefoulline.com’s official offseason review!

The Nationals Don’t Need Any More Pitching

So what do you do if you lead Major League Baseball in ERA and get knocked out of the postseason because you scored 9 runs in 4 games? You make upgrading your offense the goal of your offseason, right? Nah, you go out and give Max Scherzer $210 million. The Nationals go with the “you strengthen your strength” approach and it gives them the strongest MLB rotation since the 1995 Atlanta Braves. If they can get anything close to what Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman are capable of, Washington has to be considered the World Series favorite.

The Padres Want to Be Relevant Again

Finish last in the majors in runs? No problem. Add Matt Kemp? Check. Add Justin Upton? Check. Add Wil Myers? Check. The Padres GM gets a gold star for his offseason, taking big steps to rebuild this team and energize a franchise that hasn’t been interesting in a long time. The real kicker here is that they managed to completely rebuild their offense without giving up a single one of their top three prospects. New Padres GM AJ Preller looks to be a rising superstar in the GM ranks.

Cole Hamels Is Still a Phillie… For Now

I expect this to change. The Phillies have nothing to gain from keeping Hamels. They’re easily the worst team in that division, and it would serve them well to get Hamels’s contract off the books and bring in some young talent to fully start their rebuilding process. Add Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon to the list of Phillies players that need new homes in 2015. I still think the Hamels deal gets done. The Phillies will lower their price as the season approaches. Prediction? Hamels is pitching in Fenway Park in 2015.

Billy Beane Has Either Lost His Marbles, or He’s Five Steps Ahead of Everyone

So is Oakland trying to contend, or trying to rebuild? I’m lost here. They trade their best player, Josh Donaldson, for prospects, then turn around and flip their #1 prospect to Tampa Bay for Ben Zobrist. They sign Billy Butler for $30 million, but then flip away Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and Derrick Norris. I know Billy Beane has entered into the Bill Belichick territory of “trust him no matter what,” but even I can’t figure out what he’s doing. I think I’m gonna go watch Moneyball again.

The Red Sox Retool; the Rays Restock

The two best teams in the AL East in 2013 both tanked to the bottom of the division in 2014. The Red Sox rebuilt their entire rotation and the left side of their infield. I’m not a huge fan of Pablo Sandoval, but leaving AT&T Park can only be good for him. I think Hanley Ramirez loses a lot of his value moving away from shortstop, but there’s no debate, if he’s healthy, his bat will tear up Fenway Park. I don’t think the Red Sox are done. In a division that’s really up for grabs in 2015, a Cole Hamels trade could make the Red Sox favorites to take back the AL East crown.

The Rays dealt away several fan favorites, lost Joe Maddon and Andrew Freidman, and hired the youngest manager in the Major Leagues. But this was necessary. Tampa Bay went all out trying to win a World Championship in 2014, and it failed miserably. Now it’s time to get younger, rebuild the farm, and take a new approach to contending. This will be a down year for the Rays, but they’re not quite in full rebuilding mode yet.

What did your team do this offseason? Are they contenders or pretenders? Let us know what you think of how your team’s winter went. Spring training is right around the corner, and I think 2015 is going to be the best year at thefoulline.com in a long time.

Pitchers and Catchers report in 12 days!