Why You Should Watch….Miami Marlins

As the dawn of a new season approaches I’m filled with the annual excitement and exuberance that can only be squashed by major league ball players taking the field for the first time in early April.  I’ve also been a fan long enough to know that once the dog days of summer roll around (say around game 110 of 162) it can become a chore to get geared up to watch the revamped penny-pinching Mets take on the Astros.  Assuming my reader’s have the same struggles mustering the energy to watch such a contest, I’ve taken the challenge to make the next Mets v.s. Astros contest as exciting as possible.  Impossible you say?  Well here at BaseballBooksandBeats I plan to provide you with a few reasons to entice you to watch each of the thirty MLB squads.   With the St. Louis Cardinals getting ready to play the Miami Marlins on ESPN April 4, 2012, here are three reasons  you should watch the Miami Marlins.

Worst to First?

Yes, the Marlins finished in last place in the NL East (72-90) last year but this is the team I’m most excited to watch in 2012 (outside of my Tigers of course).  As the Phillies roster continues to age and the injurys to their stars keep piling up the Marlins have a chance to compete in 2012 thanks to the clubs many new additions.  This offseason the Marlins joined the free agent party early and often spending more money than Jay-Z & Kanye balling in Paris.  Ownership knew that for the Marlins to go from worst to first in the NL East they will need to overcome last years deficit, having finished 30 games behind the Phillies, while drawing fans to their shiny new ballpark.  Their offseason may have put them in a position to accomplish both feats.  They opened free agency signing Jose Reyes (2011 WAR 6.2), a lightining rod at the top of the order and on the base paths. Next, the Marlins focused on improving their pitching staff signing for Whitesox ace Mark Buehrle (2011 WAR 3.4) and former Padres closer Heath Bell (2011 WAR .5).  The Bell signing was a bit curious based on the size of the contract (3years/27M) considering the closer coming off of a down year.  It’s evident the Marlins paid for Heath Bell the shut down closer of 09-10 (avg WAR 2.2) rather than the 2011 version.  Assuming everyone does what ownership expects of them theve added about 11.8 wins to their 2011 record.   Adding approximately 12 wins is not gonna cut it in the NL East but you must remember the Marlins played a substantial amount of 2011 without two of their best players.  The Marlins will be able to integrate a healthy Hanley Ramirez into the lineup who posted a WAR 7.4 in his last healthy season and Josh Johnson (2010 WAR 6.3), their ace starting pitcher that missed 2011 with a shoulder injury.  We’ve now added 25.5 wins to the Marlins 2011 total, 4.5 wins shy of the 2011 Phillies.  Look for the Phillies to regress from their 102 wins in 2011 due to the injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, both of whom will start the season on the disabled list.  The team is also a year older and may struggle without their two run producers in the lineup.  If that’s not enough to make up the 4.5 win gap the Marlins are also adding the foul mouthed, entertaining but damn good manager, Ozzie Guillen to the mix.  All that said I’m excited to watch the Marlins attempt to dethrone the Phillies in 2012.

The Artist Formely Known As….

For those that do not know in 2011, the Miami Marlins had a 21 year old right fielder that was built like a tight end and hit like a linebacker who went by the name of Mike Stanton.  It’s now 2012, and Mike has changed his name to Giancarlo.  The Marlins won’t mind the name change so long as Giancarlo hits like Mike who’s power second to none.  In 2011, his first full season Giancarlo hit 34 home runs.  Baseball Reference website compares players throughout history of similar age and names that compare favorably to Stanton include Miguel Cabrera and Justin Upton.  Entering his age 22 season Giancarlo has yet to reach his peak, and assuming he stays healthy his numbers will most certainly rise.

Emilio Bonifacio

I love watching speed on the base paths.  It can come in the form of stolen bases, legging out a triple or an exciting play at the plate, whatever it is, I’m all in.  With power numbers down all over baseball teams with players that can create runs with their speed have a leg up on the competition.  Few managers take advantage of team speed as well as Marlins manager, Ozzie Guillen, which has me excited to see how he uses Emilio Bonifacio.  Emililo doesn’t hit for much power but all Ozzie is asking of his young center fielder is to get on base so the team can take advantage of his speed.  Getting on base is something Bonifacio did well last year .296/.360/.393 and may improve as he enters his age 27 season.  Look for Bonifacio to continue to get on base and improve upon his 40 stolen bases in 2011 with Ozzie at the helm.


Why You Should Watch….St. Louis Cardinals

As the dawn of a new season approaches I’m filled with the annual excitement and exuberance that can only be squashed by major league ball players taking the field for the first time in early April.  I’ve also been a fan long enough to know that once the dog days of summer roll around (say around game 110 of 162) it can become a chore to get geared up to watch the revamped penny-pinching Mets take on the Astros.  Assuming my reader’s have the same struggles mustering the energy to watch such a contest, I’ve taken the challenge to make the next Mets v.s. Astros contest as exciting as possible.  Impossible you say?  Well here at BaseballBooksandBeats I plan to provide you with a few reasons to entice you to watch each of the thirty MLB squads.   With the St. Louis Cardinals getting ready to play the Miami Marlins on ESPN April 4, 2012, here are two reasons  you should watch the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Corner Outfielders

If you were starting an all underrated squad you could start in St. Louis and fill both corner outfield spots.  Matt Holliday has been a stud for a long time, yet excelling in Colorado and Oakland is not the typical recipe for notoriety.  Batting behind Albert Pujols, playing for the Cardinals was supposed to make Holliday as a household name yet his skills still tend to go unnoticed outside of St. Louis.  An argument can be made and won on the premise that for the past 5 years Matt Holliday has been the best left fielder in baseball.  Based on fangraphs WAR (wins above replacement) Holliday leads all LF’s in WAR by 6 wins over the past 5 years.  Narrow the scope to the last 3 years and Holliday still comes out on top beating out Ryan Braun and Josh Hamilton, the two left fielders that won the MVP award in that same time span.  How’s that for underrated?  Part of Holliday’s anonymity may be related to the fact that he does everything well.  He hits for average, gets on base, and can hit for power with a career slash line of .315/.388/.541.  Entering his age 32 season, nagging injuries have become an issue but when healthy he rakes.  In the first half of 2011 he hit .324/.418/.577 before lingering injuries (the guy missed time when a moth was stuck in his ear) slowed his production.  When Holliday is healthy he is must see tv.

Entering his age 35 season, Carlos Beltran is putting the cherry on top of what could very well be a Hall of Fame career.  Beltran no longer runs like he used to as evidenced by the decline in his stolen bases, and has missed a substantial amount of time in his career to injury.  Yet and still, when on the field he puts up all-star numbers, which is why the Cardinals signed him this off-season to a two-year contract.  Using fangraphs as a reference, he has a career WAR of 61.7.  Assuming he contributes at a similar rate to 2011 (WAR 4.7) over the life of this contract his career WAR will rise to 71.1.  Prior to 2011, Beltran played the majority of his career in center field.  With a WAR of 71.1 his career fits in nicely between two center fielders already in the Hall of Fame, Billy Hamilton (68.9) and Duke Snider (71.7).

Although many Mets fans can’t shake the image of Beltran striking out without swinging the bat to end the 2006 playoffs, Beltran’s playoff numbers are eye-popping.  In four playoff series (22 games) Beltran has hit .366/.485/.817, with 11 home runs and 31 runs scored.  If they Cardinals make it back to the playoffs in 2012, Beltran should serve as a nice replacement to King Albert.

The Young Guns

Prior to the 2011 World Series I wrote about two players to watch on the St. Louis Cardinals.  One ended up winning the World Series MVP by hitting the winning home run in Game Six and the other posted an OPS of 1.154 with 3 World Series home runs.  Follow the link for insight on David Freese and Allen Craig.  Two Cardinals young guns worth watching.


MLB Throws Magic an Assist

When two billion dollars is spent its usually not the spender that is that is doing the celebrating. Unless of course you are a part of the Magic Johnson-Stan Kasten investment group which just dropped a ton of cash for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Prior to their purchase, the Dodgers were run by a dysfunctional owner who openly defecated upon Dodger fans. On his path to destruction, the previous owner clouded years of tradition and goodwill, and was on the verge of puling off what was once considered unthinkable. Entering 2012, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (say that three times fast), however brief, were able to wrestle the headlines and LA fans from the Dodgers. The Angels were on their way to becoming LA’s team. Then Magic stepped in, and with some help from both Kasten and Bud Selig, the Dodgers found themselves back at the apex of the LA baseball scene in the hearts and minds of the fans and media.

We are a couple of days removed from the announcement of the sale and already expectations for the Dodgers return to glory are as high as a Magic Johnson sky hook. Almost simultaneous with the announcement mainstream media touted Magic Johnson as the saviour of the Boys in Blue. The reports were that a 2 billion dollar price tag made the Dodgers the Yankees of the West. With Magic on board the Dodgers would soon be a perennial playoff contender making a run at all the big free agents. Hell, a few reports already had the Dodgers signing either Cole Hamels or Matt Cain in 2013, more than 9 months before they actually become free agents. My enthusiasm for the Dodgers return to glory is much more tempered and any on field success the Dodgers realize I will attribute to Stan Kasten’s involvement rather than the Magic Man. This is not a shot at Magic, it’s just that Kasten has done it before, having worked as President of the Atlanta Braves during their rise to prominence in the 90’s. This is Magic’s first foray into the world of baseball, and Johnson will be the first to admit roster construction is not his forte.

While I won’t join the chorus and proclaim that Magic will bring Showtime to the Dodgers, there is one aspect of his involvement that has me very excited. Major League Baseball has never gone out of its way to promote their individual athletes. In the inner city, the fallout from MLB’s reluctance to follow the NFL and NBA’s star generated promotion has been tremendous. Inner city youth no longer desire to become the next Jackie Robinson. They have traded Willie Mays dreams for Lebron and Cam Newton realities. The inclusion of Magic Johnson into the once private and exclusive “Billionaire Boys Club” of MLB owners signals to me that baseball realizes it needs a Rebirth of Cool and Magic is the perfect guy to lend an assist.

Magic understands the ins and outs of marketing/promotion in the inner cities of Los Angeles. At a time when business owners refused to invest “in the hood” Magic built successful movie theaters in the same neighborhoods others feared. While others sat on the sidelines Magic doubled down and brought not only TGI Friday’s to the hood but he also brokered a deal to build over 100 Starbucks, many of which thrived in the inner city. Magic’s purchase of the Dodgers means the team will have a presence in the inner cities of LA, and where the former point guard goes others tend to follow. Case in point, can you imagine Matt Kemp, the Dodgers star center fielder, denying Magic’s request for the two of them visit the local Boys and Girls Club to promote the Grand Old Game. The answer is simple, Kemp will follow! Now can you imagine any other big league owner visiting ANY inner city on purpose. I can’t, and this is what has me excited. For a long time MLB has operated from a lily white model that sought to maintain the status quo. It appears as if MLB is ready for a change. They threw the Magic man an assist, let’s see what he does when he is the one receiving a beautiful pass.


Why you Should Watch…Oakland A’s

As the dawn of a new season approaches I’m filled with the annual excitement and exuberance that can only be squashed by major league ball players taking the field for the first time in early April.  I’ve also been a fan long enough to know that once the dog days of summer roll around (say around game 110 of 162) it can become a chore to get geared up to watch the revamped penny-pinching Mets take on the Astros.  Assuming my reader’s have the same struggles mustering the energy to watch such a contest, I’ve taken the challenge to make the next Mets v.s. Astros contest as exciting as possible.  Impossible you say?  Well here at BaseballBooksandBeats I plan to provide you with a few reasons to entice you to watch each of the thirty MLB squads.   As the 2012 season opens up in Tokyo on March 28 it appears we have our work cut out for us, but I accept the challenge.  My goal is to make you want to watch the Seattle Mariners v.s Oakland Athletics live from Tokyo Japan.  Up next 2 reasons why you should watch the Oakland A’s.

Arrival of the Demigod

The term Demigod is typically reserved for mythological figures whose one parent was a God and the other human, not baseball players.  That being the case it appears we may have our first demigod appearance in Major League Baseball and he plays for the (drum roll please)…..Oakland A’s!  Before you flood the comment box with corrections, I’m aware that both of Yoennis Cespedes’ parents are human.  I’m  just having some fun at the expense of the A’s incumbent center fielder Coco Crisp.  You see, soon after Oakland signed the 2011 star of the Cuban League, center fielder Yoennis Cespedes, Coco Crisp immediately laid claim to his spot in the outfield.  “I’m going to make all the plays.  If someone feels there’s someone better than me, its hard for me to believe.  Unless he’s a demigod come down from the heavens, no one is going to outshine me in center field.”  Come down from the heavens Cespedes did not but he should be given every opportunity to unseat the incumbent this year in center field.  Historically center field has been a defensive position yet 2011 was Coco Crisp’s worst defensive season in the outfield since his rookie year.  Entering 2012, Crisp’s age – 32 season, and coming off of a below average 2011 one could justly assume that Coco is not the A’s center fielder of the future.  Cespedes on the other hand is entering his age – 26 season and could very well be the A’s center fielder of the future.  While I have no idea how his success in the Cuban League will transfer to the Major Leagues, baseball men much smarter than me project him to carry about a .275 batting average with plus power.  This would be a vast improvement over Crisp’s all glove no bat reputation.  Cespedes’ bat and age make him the demigod Crisp feared  and I will be watching to see how well this half god plays center field in 2012 and beyond.

Manny Being Manny

While his physical skills have eroded and he is no longer the greatest right hand hitter in the game, how can you not be looking forward to the return of Manny being Manny.

If we can get one more Manny moment out of his stint with Oakland, it will be well worth the 50 game suspension for PED use we had to suffer through to get there.


Why Would You Watch…Seattle Mariners

As the dawn of a new season approaches I’m filled with the annual excitement and exuberance that can only be squashed by major league ball players taking the field for the first time in early April.  I’ve also been a fan long enough to know that once the dog days of summer roll around (say around game 110 of 162) it can become a chore to get geared up to watch the revamped penny-pinching Mets take on the Astros.  Assuming my reader’s have the same struggles mustering the energy to watch such a contest, I’ve taken the challenge to make the next Mets v.s. Astros contest as exciting as possible.  Impossible you say?  Well here at BaseballBooksandBeats I plan to provide you with a few reasons to entice you to watch each of the thirty MLB squads.   As the 2012 season opens up in Tokyo on March 28 it appears we have our work cut out for us, but I accept the challenge.  My goal is to make you want to watch the Seattle Mariners v.s Oakland Athletics live from Tokyo Japan.  Up first 3 reasons why you should watch the Seattle Mariners.

Jesus Montero – Catcher or DH?

With nothing left to prove in Triple A, prized catching prospect Jesus Montero is finally going to break camp as a Major League ballplayer.  In 2011 Montero gave Yankee fans a small preview of his hitting prowess with a stat line of .328/.406/.590 in 18 major league games.  Small sample size you say?  Well his two seasons in Triple A produced a similar stat line .289/.351./.493.  Needles to say, the kid can flat-out hit.  In 2012 Montero will be taking his talents to Seattle.  By trading pitching phenom Michael Pineda to the Yankess the anemic offense of the Seattle Mariners was able to add some much-needed punch to their lineup with the addition of Montero.  Barring injury his bat will be in the starting lineup Opening Day, and the only remaining question is will he be taking his glove with him.  Jesus Montero is listed as the starting DH on the Seattle Mariners website yet he spent his two years in Triple A as a defensively challenged catcher.  In order to maximize their asset Montero needs to be behind the plate for the Mariners in 2012 and beyond.  As a DH (a purely offensive position) Montero’s bat is on par with the many other DH’s.  The DH position as a whole in 2011 had a stat line of .268/.342./.431, not far from Montero’s Triple A numbers.  The catching position on the other hand has historically been heavy on defense and light at the plate.  The stat line for all catchers in 2011 was .245/ .314/.390.  For Montero to replicate his Triple A number’s as a big league catcher he easily becomes one of the top 3 backstops in the game.  So why isn’t Montero penciled in as the Mariners Opening Day catcher?  Scouts are concerned with his defensive ability as a catcher and have questioned his ability to throw out would be base stealers.  They had the same questions about Mike Piazza and Jorge Posada.  I say maximize your asset as there are very few teams with a power hitting catcher behind the plate.  A slugging DH is a much easier position to fill in an everyday lineup.

Emergence of Dustin Ackley

The second pick of the 2009 draft made a huge splash in 2011, his first season with the Mariners.  Playing 90 games, the Mariners second baseman posted a OPS+117 (OPS+=OBP+SLG adjusted for park effect & era).  Comparing Ackely’s first year with those of the top second baseman in the game today make Ackley must see t.v.  Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano posted an OPS+112 and 106 respectively their first full year in the majors.  As a rookie, Ackley led the Mariners with a .348 OBP% and his .417 SLG% was good enough for second on the offensively challenged team.  Look for Ackley to continue his assent into the upper echelon of two baggers as he is still years away from his prime.

The Fall of Ichiro?

Prior to 2011 Ichiro Suzuki was the model for consistency.  In each of his 10 MLB seasons Ichiro amassed over 200 hits, a plus .300 batting average, and at least a .350 OBP%.  If hardware is what you prefer Ichiro has that too: 10 straight All-Star game appearances, 10 Gold Gloves, a Rookie of the Year and an MVP award.  And if you’re ever asked the trivia question: who holds the record for most hits in an MLB season you can probably guess the answer is Ichiro Suzuki (262 hits).  For some reason Ichiro the Great stumbled in 2011.  With a stat line of .272/.310/.335 this was his first season with 200 hits, no All-Star game appearance, and no Gold Glove.  Heading into 2012, Ichiro’s age 38 season, many are citing his age as the cause of his eminent downfall.  Hell even his manager is questioning what his “fading star” has left, having already announced that Ichiro will be removed from the lead off spot in the batting order for the first time in his Mariners career.  I’m a little more reluctant to throw dirt on Mr. Consistency’s casket.  As one of the purest hitters of my time I don’t know if father time has caught up with Ichiro but in 2012 I will be watching.


Why Would You Watch….

Ah yes, today is the day.  Pitchers and catchers have begun to report which means one thing to millions of baseball fans….Opening Day is just around the corner.  As the dawn of a new season approaches I’m filled with the annual excitement and exuberance that can only be squashed by major league ball players taking the field for the first time in early April.  I’ve also been a fan long enough to know that once the dog days of summer roll around (say around game 110 of 162) it can become a chore to get geared up to watch the revamped penny pinching Mets take on the Astros.  Assuming my reader’s have the same struggles mustering the energy to watch such a contest, I’ve taken the challenge to make the next Mets v.s. Astros contest as exciting as possible.  Impossible you say?  Well here at BaseballBooksandBeats we plan to provide you with a few reasons to entice you to watch each of the thirty MLB squads.   As the 2012 season opens up in Tokyo on March 28 it appears we have our work cut out for us, but we accept the challenge.  We will make you want to watch the Seattle Mariners v.s Oakland Athletics live from Tokyo Japan.


Joy and Pain

Full disclosure…..1. My obsession with the Detroit Tiger’s has caused many (including my wife) to look at me sideways; and 2. as a former chubby twelve year old first baseman I’ve always enjoyed watching Prince Fielder do work.  So at 3:00 pm, January 24, 2012, when these two worlds collided one would assume that I would have gassed up the ride and personally moved our new acquisition to the D.  Yet for some reason my joy was tempered as I wondered how in the hell is this gonna work?  Fielder plays the same position as the Tigers best player, Miguel Cabrera, and the rather hefty makeup of both players body type make DH the only other reasonable position either can play effectively.  Well, the Tigers have a temporary need at DH with the injury to Victor Martinez, but he is expected to make a full recovery and penciled in as the regular DH in 2013.  Therein lies my apprehension with this deal.  For the next nine years the Detroit Tigers have roughly $338 Million dollars tied up in 1B/DH players, which happen to be the lest flexible type of players when it comes to finding another suitable position.  Then I thought damn, did my team just make a panic move (due to Martinez’s injury) that would hamper them for the next nine years?

While the Tigers will attempt to conceal their trepidation which led to Prince Fielder becoming a Tiger, their comments and the numbers say they panicked.  Today at Fielder’s press conference his agent Scott Boras confirmed that the Tigers did not enter the Fielder sweepstakes until Martinez got hurt.  Mike Illitch confirmed that he has desired to have Fielder wear the Old English D since he was a twelve year old hitting bombs out of Tiger Stadium with his famous father Cecil watching.  And Leyland confirmed my deepest fear when he stated, Cabrera, all 250 pounds of him would become the regular third baseman.  It’s as if the Tigers are attempting to fit a square peg in a round hole, or in Cabrera’s case a round peg in a square whole.  Fielder was given a nine year contract because Victor Martinez will not play in 2012 and the owner feeling the need to compensate for the loss went out and gave the object of his affection a contract that far exceeds the Tigers needs.  In doing so Miguel Cabrera, the better player of the two, will be asked to continue his optimal performance under unreasonable conditions.

Miguel Cabrera is not a third baseman, and has not been a good defensive third baseman since 2005.  In fact, the Tigers last attempt to wedge Cabrera in at third base ended after only 14 games in 2008. The defensive statistic UZR/150 allows us to measure a players defensive value at a certain position as if he played 150 games that particular season.  A good third baseman averages a score of 7, an average score is 0, and a below average score is -5.  In 2008 Miguel Cabrera’s UZR/150 score at third base was -36.8, and it’s plain to see why Leyland moved Cabrera to first base after 14 games.  Cabrera was to heavy to play third base, also known as the hot corner, in 2008 and he is definitely to heavy to play third in 2012.  Needless to say, I have little faith in Cabrera being able to lose enough weight to be even a servicable defensive third baseman.  As stated, Cabrera is very limited in the positions he can play defensively and when it doesn’t work at third base he may be forced into a DH role.  And how will that work out you ask?

While I realize it is a small sample size the numbers say that Miguel Cabrera hits better when he also plays the field.  Cabrera’s career number’s of .317/.395/.555 (AVG/OBP/SLG) resemble one who is destined for the Hall of Fame.  His number’s in the 26 games he has played DH  .230/.306/.370 reflect a player struggling to crack the starting lineup.  This is not out of the ordinary as many players find it difficult to grab a bat and hit after he has sat on the bench as his teammates were in the field.  With Fielder at first base I ultimately see Cabrera manning the DH slot in the order.  If Cabrera continues to hit at the level of a replacement player when he plays DH, the Fielder signing (which has many calling the Tigers World Series favorites) could be a nine year anchor that prevents the Tigers from competing in 2012 and beyond.

So…….what did I do the day after it soaked in the MY team signed Prince Fielder to what may likely become a team crippling contract?

I called my season ticket rep and renewed my tickets.  Remember the full disclosure, I told you in the beginning I was an irrational fan.