two of our 2010 preview brings us to the National League Central…
one of the stranger places in baseball.
What I expect in 2010: 89-73, playoffs
they did in 2009: 91-71, playoffs
personnel changes: Let’s face it… the question here was
all about Matt Holliday and whether they’d keep him or would be
looking for outfield help to replace him. They got him to stay…
think they will eventually keep Pujols… and the rest of the moves
count as gravy. And it’s not a bad gravy… Brad Penny should be
a solid back-of-the-rotation guy for them. (And given his past
history, he certainly could toss up a surprise 15 wins or maybe
even chew up 190-200 innings. (Would you believe he pitched 173
innings between Boston and San Francisco last year?)) The trouble
is that in acquiring Penny they lost Joel Pineiro… the idea you
should understand simply being that the Cardinals generally don’t
seem to add or lose talent, they rotate it. (Yes… rotate. Holliday
today could be considered… perhaps a slight stretch and increased
dollars… what Rolen and Edmonds were yesterday.) Considering there
was a very real concern that Holliday would leave, Bay would stay
in Boston, and St. Louis wouldn’t attract any free agents… well…
Holliday and Penny isn’t a bad result for them.
expectations: Last year Wainwright and Carpenter combined
to give them a simply outstanding beginning to their rotation.
And while these two are once again fronting the staff, let’s not
forget that Carpenter isn’t that far removed from health and durability
concerns. (In the past eight seasons, I’m guessing Carpenter has
made about half of the number of starts you would hope for.) In
other words… alot of stuff went right for St. Louis in 2009, including
the post-Holliday-acquisition surge.
2010, Penny is being projected as a contributor to the Cardinals
pitching. In 2009, he was given every opportunity to contribute
for Boston and didn’t. So, effectively, his 2010 efforts are based
on his 2009 National League efforts and prior history. My guess
is that he’s ok… but he’ll have to be since the Cards aren’t exactly
deep in starting options.
and Pujols… well… geez… yeah, they have offense.
and Carpenter should approach about 40% of the team’s victories
this year. Yes… they need around 38-40 from the combination to
make the playoffs, and I actually think they’ll get that if both
guys make virtually all their starts. (Last year they got 36 wins
from the pair out of 62 starts.)
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): The Cardinals
are a very good National League team. They have a little bit of
everything and a handful of superstars to separate them from the
rest of this division.
the good news.
trouble begins when you start considering team depth and the ability
to react to bumps and bruises.
have zero ways to replace Wainwright, Carpenter, Holliday or Pujols
if any of them miss significant amounts of time. My guess about
Carpenter and 8 years of starts a few paragraphs ago? I was darn
close. 2001 thru 2009 he made 172 starts. 32 a season would be
256. He’s averaging just over 21… and 21 a year is exactly what
he’s averaged in 6 years with St. Louis. (In 2008 and 2009 he
combined for exactly 32.)
don’t see strong enough pitching to expect any winning streaks.
(For example… check out Boston and you’ll quickly get the idea
that a couple of 10-game winning streaks are quite possible. But
here, after the big three, it kind of becomes hit and miss… hot
and cold.) If they start out slowly, or fall behind by 5 games
or so, I don’t see how they can get hot and make that up. They
simply don’t have the horses for it.
What I expect in 2010: 85-77
they did in 2009: 80-82
personnel changes: I can’t say I love what the Brewers
have done… but I have to admit, it’s pretty interesting. Jim Edmonds
and Scott Schoeneweis are, in my view, signings with low risk
with high reward possibilities. Doug Davis and LaTroy Hawkins
could help this club in 2010. And since they were ready to severe
ties with J.J. Hardy, trading him for Carlos Gomez isn’t a bad
move. Heck, I even like that they got rid of Mike Cameron and
Jason Kendall. Instead of a big splash, check out these moves
and a couple of others, and you’ll see that Milwaukee might be
in a position to have several small pieces make a significant
expectations: This club is going to score runs by the
truckload. By the time we get to August, the only NL club that’s
better at it should be Philadelphia. Yup… the Phillies… and that’s
umm… after that they’ve got nothing. Opposing lineups are going
to love seeing the Brewers take the field, because they should
light up Milwaukee’s staff brighter than the sky over the Statue
of Liberty on the Fourth of July.
of course… you’re expecting Randy Wolf and Davis to be this season’s
version of Carpenter and Wainwright. I think the pair will be
good… and will benefit tremendously from the offense supporting
them… but I don’t think either will be getting any votes for awards
at the end of the year.
I think this club is in an amazingly similar position this year
to what they have been in recent years… they need to acquire a
player or two, and if they don’t they’re going to fall just short.
(By the way… lights on Jeff Suppan for a moment. Dude is owed
$14-plus million this year and may not be in the starting five.
So if you think the Brewers can just absorb some contracts this
year in the hopes of making the playoffs again, there are obstacles
in the way. They already have dollars they may want to dump.)
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Ok… let’s
say the Brewers step into the hot tub time machine and get some
solid performances from Wolf, Edmonds, Hawkins and hey… look…
it’s Gregg Zaun!
division is not slammed closed.
problem though is that pitching is not on the market. Halladay
has been traded. Felix Hernandez signed an extension. There aren’t
many free agents in waiting that clubs seem prepared to drop.
Where could we find a starter for them? Let’s play blue sky a
bit like we played with the Mets.
Haren or Brandon Webb from Arizona? Doubtful, but I like the way
Buchholz from Boston? Possible, especially if we build around
Prince Fielder in return (which could happen, since we know Boston
might find Adrian Gonzalez too expensive and Milwaukee might just
be interested in getting some low cost talent for once instead
of getting players they lose right away). Of course, this one
doesn’t work too well because then Milwaukee needs to get some
offense back in the lineup, and Buchholz might not be any better
than Wolf or Davis. (And, come on, I don’t think anyone expects
Boston to find Gonzalez too expensive.)
Perez from the Mets? See? See what we’re looking at? This is where
we arrive. When you combine what might be available along with
what the Brewers realistically have to send in return while trying
to remain competitive you get Oliver Perez. Oliver Perez!
Gil Meche will make it to the market (if he does his impression
of 2007 and 2008 early in the year I suppose that one is possible).
Doesn’t matter. The Brewers are not finding a Sabathia this season.
I don’t think we’ll see a Lee or a Halladay out there. It would
have to be a Roy Oswalt wants out type of situation… and try as
I might, I can’t find a true ace worth the cost.
drop Suppan’s contract and you can afford to pay some people to
stay… so there’s no true desperation here. Unfortunately it’s
also a bit short of what they would love to see.
What I expect in 2010: 84-78
they did in 2009: 83-78
personnel changes: I don’t know what to think. They got
rid of Milton Bradley (and there was much rejoicing), but took
back Carlos Silva (hmm… pretty shaky since 2005, but a switch
to the National League might be helpful). Jeff Gray was a nice
pitcher in 2009… in a really limited sample size of 24 games and
26.1 innings, and he’s 28-years old. Is Xavier Nady a player that
puts fans in the seats? Nah. And there you have the Cubs switching
from 2009 to 2010 in a nutshell. Xavier Nady… nah.
expectations: I remember a couple of years ago, I was
listening to a sports show where the commentator said that we
should not be upset or surprised with NFL quarterback Quincy Carter
being Quincy Carter. The point being that regardless of what the
Dallas media-hype built up around him… despite the projections
and expectations… all Quincy Carter did was deliver exactly what
everyone should have expected from Quincy Carter.
with me… the same Quincy Carter was actually drafted by the Cubs
just under 15 years ago. Yes… seriously. You shouldn’t be surprised…
I told you in the NL East column I’d be doing the homework and
bringing you something different in perspective and information.)
I look up and down this Cubs lineup, of course I’m tempted to
expect the potential of big things in 2010… sleeping giants awakening
from their slumber and all that.
I have to ask… in the end, why should I expect Ted Lilly to be
more than Ted Lilly? Am I really so crazy as to think Lilly can
be Jon Lester or Tim Lincecum?
2009, Lilly delivered a 12-9 record with a 3.1 ERA. That was off
of 170 innings pitched (and, since I need a place to mention this,
he’s going to be out for about the first month in 2010, so 170
innings might be a good marker for him as a target for this season
as well). Now if you check out his strikeouts and walks, consider
how misleading wins and losses can be (especially with the 2009
Cubs), you might get the impression that Lilly is pretty darn
good. And… honestly… he can be. But he’s not great. He’s going
to win more than he loses, be at or just under 4 for his ERA,
and he’ll last at least 6 innings in every start. That’s just
expect Lilly to challenge Lincecum, Santana, Halladay, etc. for
the NL Cy Young award? Anyone expect more from Lilly than average
you shouldn’t either.
means this staff will be led by Carlos Zambrano. (Are you expecting
him to be an ace? He needs to be for the Cubs to be successful.)
I know… Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano could do
nice things. In short… there are pieces here.
trouble is… most of them have expectations for big things when
their records indicate otherwise.
if you want further proof… Marlon Byrd. Once again Chicago spends
the off-season acquiring an outfielder that is really going to
deliver offensively and turn this thing around. (Because… you
know… previous signings Soriano and Fukudome have the pitchers
in the NL Central awake at night.)
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): In this
case, alot of things could go right.
isn’t that far removed from a season when he won twice as much
as he lost, and that was with a worse ERA than 2009. If Zambrano
can return with just a decent season, they could present a tough
duo for opponents by August. Silva gives them something they haven’t
had for a while… the possibility of depth. Sure… their pitching
drops off after Ryan Dempster in the three spot. But Dempster
and Lilly weren’t bad in 2009, the team was. So if Silva offers
anything and Zambrano bounces up a notch or two emotionally (in
a good way)… well, we’ve got happy times at Wrigley.
the injuries away and get some production from the batting order,
club could run off streaks of wins and leave St. Louis in the
What I expect in 2010: 77-85
they did in 2009: 78-84
personnel changes: For a club looking to move anyone
on their roster, they actually accomplished very little. And yet…
that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Why? Ok… you’re a GM. Quick…
if allowed to pick any player from the Cincinnati roster, name
one you would take. See? You can’t really think of one… can you?
No fair saying “hold on”… no fair pausing a moment and then shouting
out “Bronson Arroyo” and hoping I don’t laugh at the suggestion…
that’s the point. If you want a first baseman, you’re calling
San Diego, or maybe dusting off the address book to find the number
for Milwaukee. (You’re not immediately thinking about Joey Votto…
even though he wouldn’t be a bad thought.) If you want a pitcher,
you might call Boston. (Although, being fair, winning the Aroldis
Chapman sweepstakes might prove very nice indeed.) If you’re the
New York Yankees and you want something for free, history proves
you’re calling Pittsburgh. But there just isn’t much of a reason
to call Cincinnati. They’re not likely to part with what they
do have, and everything else isn’t worth the call. And that creates
a secondary problem… since nothing is there right now, it’s not
exactly an attractive landing spot for free agents. And… yet another
problem, an independent one compared to our first two… they don’t
suck, so they aren’t looking to overpay anyone to come experience
a summer in Cincinnati. When examining personnel changes, add
all of this up to mean… no trades, no free agent signings, and
places like Kansas City more likely to overbid for the middle-of-the-road
roster fillers. They brought in Orlando Cabrera. They made a trade
you and I don’t care about. Done.
expectations: I’ve seen people saying that this is a
club on the verge of breaking out and having a solid season. Thing
is… I’ve heard that about the Reds every year since they traded
for Griffey… and I mean, heard it every year. And it sure seems
to me that all of those stud players that were supposed to assist
in realizing that successful season back then… including Griffey…
are now playing for other organizations or will be watching this
season on television.
Bailey and Arroyo should give them decent pitching, but even with
good things to say about Cueto I can’t say any of them strike
me as dominating, take the team on their back starters. (The first
year in the majors usually eats players like Chapman for breakfast.
How about if we don’t write him down for a 20-9 season? That ok?)
if we haven’t seen this enough in the division, we even have an
aging veteran expected to deliver big things… ladies and gentlemen,
seems a bit disorganized to me. I can’t recall Dusty Baker being
a great manager of young talent, and this club needs to get alot
from its young talent if they’re going to get within range of
a winning record. I can’t recall Dusty Baker getting alot from
unexpected sources, and this club… well… you know.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Let’s go
back to Cueto.
two seasons he’s averaged around 170 innings and way too many
walks. He also comes into this season fresh off of turning 24,
and he can put up around 7 strikeouts per 9 pitched.
Votto gives them some reliability at the plate, and with Rolen
pairs up nicely for some decent defense on the corners. Suddenly
I’m listening to accusations I’ve been too skeptical. I mean…
Jay Bruce could come around too… right? (Defense… pop in the batting
order… hmm…) Sure… I could see this club getting enough surprises
from young players to add to realistic expectations and actually
win more than they lose. But… wait, new paragraph…
Reds have a young player named Yonder Alonso. He’ll be about 23
when the season starts and has been delivering very good numbers
in the minors. (Good average, high on-base, not a ton of power
though.) Funny thing is… he plays first base. Hey… look at that…
just like Votto! (Who happens to be one of the Reds best players.
And… uh-oh… see what’s coming? Sure you do.) The Reds best young
major league player (Votto, 26) plays the same position as one
of their best prospects (Alonso, 22). And it has yet to be determined
how they can get both of these guys on the field at the same time.
What I expect in 2010: 74-88
they did in 2009: 74-88
personnel changes: The Astros were in a brutal spot this
off-season. Let’s face it… without a ridiculous change of their
roster, they weren’t going to compete with St. Louis, Milwaukee
and Chicago for the full season. (I suppose anything’s possible,
but we’ll get to that.) As far as personnel, that positioning
in November of 2009 means you either throw your money away trying
to sell tickets and create an attraction or, sit still while hoping
to develop a couple of players and hope folks will understand.
Unfortunately, with Roy Oswalt not getting any younger, getting
folks to understand isn’t easy. Now, all of that set out as an
explanation… voila… check it out, no real moves! They traded for
Matt Lindstrom, signed a ton of minor league deals, and stood
their ground. Can’t say it’s good… but it’s not too bad. Some
times doing nothing is the best thing of all.
expectations: Get this… with St. Louis understood as
better when healthy, but facing questions… the Astros might have
the best starting pitching in the division. Oswalt isn’t quite
past his prime years. (I know…I know… he’s 32. I’ve been watching
it happen while he’s been on the trade radar the past few seasons…
and it really hardly seems possible to think of him as on the
other side of the hill.) He’s still an ace. Wandy Rodriguez is
nicely paired with him. And then there’s Brett Myers. Come on…
in the Central, that’s not too shabby. That trio could give you
90-plus starts. Can you guarantee me 90-plus from Carpenter, Wainwright
Berkman and Carlos Lee give them some names in the batting order,
and Hunter Pence is coming along.
might be the closer when we get to April.
all of those bright spots will keep a couple of clubs behind them
in the division. Well… at least one of them behind them. But it’s
not going to be enough to keep pace with the big guns in front.
And unfortunately, while you might be able to argue that they
could spend for the right piece, I don’t know of anything in the
farm system that they could let go of to get it. And even if they
did, that piece might get them to 80 wins. It’s not getting them
to the playoffs.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): The answer
here is go wrong.
Reds could be better than I expect… which would solidify fourth
place for them. And, much like my comments about the Cardinals
being unable to support long winning streaks, the Astros are going
to struggle to win 5 out of any 10 played. In fact, they’re not
comparable to the Cardinals because they’re worse… so let’s say
they’ll struggle to win 4 out of every 10.
What I expect in 2010: 60-102
they did in 2009: 62-99
personnel changes: Obtained Akinori Iwamura from Tampa.
Signed Bobby Crosby, Octavio Dotel, Brendan Donnelly, Ryan Church
and Javier Lopez to one-year deals.
expectations: I’m too low here. This club could very
quietly approach 72 to 74 wins on the year.
I still don’t see any starting pitcher that will be good enough
to win consistently with this club behind him. Zach Duke is fine…
but look back at what I said about Milwaukee. There’s no pitching
on the market this year… Duke could bring back some good pieces
in a trade. Consider him gone.
like the way Iwamura plays… steady and solid, usually delivering
more than you would expect… and it looks like Pittsburgh has some
of that all over the place in other players as well. (Career numbers…
344 games over three seasons, with an injury last year shortening
his efforts in Tampa… have the 31-year old Iwamura at .281 with
a .354 on-base percentage. Great? No. But not a part of a good
trouble is, when you scrape away all of the filler, you absolutely
can win with Iwamura playing for you every day. But not if he’s
your star. And around the Pirates roster are lots of Iwamura-like
players… nice, not great… and there are simply no stars.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): When Andy
LaRoche and Craig Hansen went to Pittsburgh in the Manny – Bay
sweepstakes, there were some people that basically said if either
of those guys becomes what once was predicted for them, the Pirates
are better off for getting in the middle of it, because no way
were they keeping Bay long term.
things are going to go right in 2010, that’s the kind of thing
you’re looking at.
starts from Zach Duke because he didn’t get traded.
seasons from players like Brandon Moss.
efforts from Ross Ohlendorf and Garrett Jones.
reaching here, but you get the point. Generally speaking, the
worst of teams can break 60 wins and stay below 100 losses. These
Pirates are slightly better than the worst of teams. But very
rarely out of 162 chances to do so will the Pirates be putting
the better man on the mound, or sending the better batting order
to the plate.