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    Friday, March 29, 2013

    Knee-Jerk Reactions: More Mega Deals, This Time with Buster Posey

    And the massive contracts continue to roll in. Following in the steps of Adam Wainwright and Justin Verlander, Buster Posey has signed a $167 million, nine-year deal (Andrew Baggarly). Verlander remains the largest deal signed on today, but those two deals are still a combined total of $347 million guaranteed (not counting Posey or Verlander’s $22 million options, or the sorta-less-than-mega $32 million deal Paul Goldschmidt also signed today).

    Knee-Jerk Reactions: Justin Verlander Tops Adam Wainwright's Mega-Extension

    Adam Wainwright isn’t the only ace to sign a massive extension this week; he’s not even the one with the biggest deal now. Justin Verlander just signed the largest deal for a pitcher in history, signing through 2019 for $180 million. He was already under contract through 2014 with $40 million left on his deal, so this is more a $140 million over 5 year set up (with an $22 million option for 2020). How does it compare to Wainwright’s, or the rest of the league?

    Wednesday, March 27, 2013

    Knee-Jerk Reactions: Cardinals Extend Adam Wainwright

    With less than a week until opening day, the Cardinals finished a last-minute extension with Adam Wainwright, according to Ken Rosenthal. And not just any extension; a massive 5 year, $97.5 million deal. My first instinct was more or less “that’s a lot of money for a 31-year old”, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad deal. But a 31-year old a year removed from Tommy John surgery? Could Wainwright still live up to that deal?

    2013 Predictions: AL Central

    Despite producing the AL pennant winner, the AL Central was pretty clearly the weakest division in baseball last season. It was the only division without a 90-game winner, and it had the lowest average record despite the only two 100-game losers both playing in the NL Central. And even then, one of those two teams (the Astros, of course) moved to the AL West, leaving the AL Central the far and away favorite for “worst team in the majors”.

    And yet, the AL Central may again produce the AL Pennant winner. If you had to bet on any one team to make the World Series, the safest bet is usually to go with the team with the easiest path to the playoffs. Whether that’s good or not, it means the AL Central deserves as much attention as any other division. Do they actually deserve it this year though?

    Monday, March 25, 2013

    Kyle Lohse Signs with the Brewers (and I Just Finished My NL Central Predictions...)

    The Brewers have signed the last remaining major free agent, getting starter Kyle Lohse for $33 million over 3 years. And I just finished previewing the NL Central, too. How does this mess up these predictions?

    Not too terribly, actually. I originally had them as a fourth-place, just below .500 team. Now? I guess I’d put them at just over .500, in the same camp as the Pirates. Maybe with some good luck, they can make the NL Central a three-way race.

    Lohse had a career-year in 2012, posting bests in ERA (2.86), Fielding Independent Pitching (3.51), K/9 (6.10), BB/9 (1.62), innings (211), and WAR (3.6, Fangraphs). That’s a little worrisome for a 34-year old pitcher, but I think he has at least one more season in him as a solid number two or three starter. I’m a little more skeptical of how his 2014 and 2015 seasons will be, but for a Brewers team that had Marco Estrada as their number two yesterday, it’s hard to argue this isn’t an improvement for 2013. And $11 million per year doesn’t seem like a wild overpay.

    Like I said yesterday, the Brewers will almost certainly post a strong line-up again, barring injuries. They led the league in runs scored last year (776, 11 above second place St. Louis), which leaves them room to be good even if they fall off. Anything that helps them improve on their 733 runs allowed (thirteenth in the NL) is good. Losing a draft pick, especially to a rival in St. Louis, will hurt with their rather thin farm system. However, the Brewers as they are currently constructed are still in a win-now mode. If I thought they were an 81-win team yesterday, this would put them in the neighborhood of 84-86 wins, and from there, it’s just a few breaks to be in contention.

    Still, I’m standing by my predictions from yesterday. I think this makes Milwaukee a just-over .500 team, and I’ll still bet on the Pirates’ upside to top that. If anything, this will take wins away from the Rangers or Indians in my predictions (those are where I had been predicting him to land). Still, I do think it’s a good, sensible move for the Brewers to make.

    2013 Predictions: NL Central

    We continue our prediction series by heading westward, this time touching on the NL Central. 2013 will represent the first time ever the NL Central has had only five teams, with the Astros moving on to the AL West. That probably means several lost wins for all of these teams, but I still expect the top two teams in this division to match the top two from the NL East for best teams in the league (with maybe one NL West team thrown into that mix for good measure, but I’ll get to them later). With that, what exactly can we expect from those two teams, as well as the other three?

    Wednesday, March 20, 2013

    2013 Predictions: NL East

    For Round 2 of my 2013 predictions, we’ll stay on the East Coast and jump leagues to the Senior Circuit. I would say the NL East is right there with the AL East and West in the running for best division in baseball, in part due to the strength at the top. The bottom is weaker than in either of those two, which probably drags it below them, but I would still say it’s the cream of the crop in the National League. So, starting with last year’s division winner, what can we expect in 2013?

    Monday, March 18, 2013

    2013 Predictions: AL East

    With the season just around the corner, I wanted to begin previewing how the season will go. I like to be pretty in depth with my predictions, looking at last year and then what will be different. With that, I looked at each team’s major changes (drawn from this article, although I was kind of hoping Kyle Lohse would be signed by now to give me a complete sense of the additions) and basically what else will be different.

    I know I already wrote about the AL East, but this will give a chance to (A) write a non-Orioles-centric article, and (B) test out a new format. So with that, let’s look at the teams, starting with last year’s division winners.

    Monday, March 11, 2013

    International Baseball, Part 3

    I apologize for the shorter updates as of late; a combination of a full schedule and a fairly large project in the works has kept me busy. However, I would like to keep following this story, partly because the growth of baseball abroad fascinates me and partly because I’ve loved following the World Baseball Classic.

    The Netherlands and Italy are doing a great job of keeping it interesting, too. Italy shocked Mexico and Canada to make the top eight, while the Dutch team has knocked off the last two runners-up in Cuba and Korea. The latter gets to face two-time champ Japan next, although both teams are guaranteed to advance to the final four. You could even argue that Puerto Rico, another top quarterfinal team, is something of a success story given the hit baseball’s popularity there took after it was added to the draft.

    I’m still rooting for the United Sates, but I can’t say I would be unhappy if any of the teams left won. If Italy or the Netherlands win, though, it really helps out my ideas from the first column.

    Thursday, March 7, 2013

    Trivia Time: Best Position Players of the Decades, 2000-2012

    Just a short sequel/follow-up to the article from other day, I decided to make a Sporcle quiz of the top players of the rolling decades from 2000-2012. I think it strikes a good balance of including obvious players and ones that you should know, but might not remember. So check it out! 

    Like all my past Sporcle quizes, it's been added under the appropriate tab on the site heading.

    Tuesday, March 5, 2013

    International Baseball, Part 2: 2013 World Baseball Classic

    As an update to my piece last week on international baseball, the World Baseball Classic is well under way. I’ve been too busy to watch any of the games unfortunately, but I’ve loved following the games so far.

    As the more relevant note, both Brazil and the Netherlands know their fates for the next round. Brazil was unfortunately swept out, even after holding their own against heavyweights Japan and Cuba. They even led Japan until they allowed three runs in the top of the eighth.

    The Netherlands went the exact opposite direction, becoming the first team to move on to the next round thanks to a win against Australia and an upset of Korea. This marks the second straight WBC they’ve done this, after upsetting the Dominican Republic to move on in 2009. This is definitely something MLB should work with; I would say a 2017 pool possibly based in Amsterdam (or somewhere equivalent) might be in order.

    Stay tuned, as Pool C and D start this later this week. Pool C is more or less the pool of death (if you ask me), as it features European team Spain going against power houses Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. Pool D will feature Italy playing the continental North American triad of Mexico, Canada, and (my [admittedly biased] favorite team) the United States.

    Top Ten Players by Decade 2000-2012, at a Glance

    So last week, David Schoenfield wrote about Jimmy Rollins and his chances to make the Hall of Fame, noting that he was one of the top ten players from 2003 to 2012, going by WAR. That was surprising, but it made me wonder: how good is it to be one of the top ten players in a decade?

    Well, I mean, it’s obviously good. But what effect does it have on someone’s Hall of Fame chances? Well, one thing that I disagreed with was that Schoenfield only used a specific set of years-namely, decades that started in years that ended with a 3. As in, 2003 to 2012, 1993 to 2002, and so on. You need to use rolling decades; 2003 to 2012, 2002 to 2011, and so on. That will give you the full scope of who you’re dealing with.

    So, with that in mind, what do the top ten batters in Fangraph’s WAR over a decade typically look like?

    Friday, March 1, 2013

    International Baseball: Growth in Europe, Brazil, and the World

    Well, I was working on a response to another ESPN piece, but this one will be quicker and require a little less prep. Michael Baumann writes about Alex Liddi, the first European born-and-raised MLB player from Italy, and what he means for the game and it’s future.

    Liddi is more than likely not a star, so it seems like it would be difficult for MLB to put too much on him right now. If they hype him as a sign of the game’s success in Europe and he then flops, it might have negative long-term effects.

    But what can major league teams do to ensure the overseas cultivation of the game? I think one of the biggest things would be to get a star from overseas, like the first Italian/German/Netherlands-born All-Star and hype them, like what happened with Ichiro (and later, Hideki Matsui and others). Except that was a totally different situation; there isn’t some European league making Ichiro-type players, where the best might hold their own in the pro circuit. Getting to that stage will take time.