AL East Position Matchup: Second Base

Another day and another position ranking, today I will look into second basemen. First, I analyzed catchers, with Baltimore’s Matt Weiters coming out on top. Next, I analyzed first base, with the Red Sox MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez filling out the top slot. The AL East’s star position has to be second basemen. It contains 3 of the top second basemen, and two legitimate MVP candidates, who are becoming the face of their respective franchises.

The rankings are as follows:

1. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
2. Robinson Cano, Yankees
3. Ben Zobrist, Rays
4. Kelly Johnson, Blue Jays
5. Brian Roberts, Orioles

This has been by far the toughest decision to make in the position rankings. I know every Yankees fan will disagree, as any loyal fan would, but hear me out on this one. Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano have been very similar in terms of offensive impact in the past few years (barring Pedroia’s injury shortened season in 2010). While displaying virtually exact career AVG (Pedroia .305 vs Cano .308), Pedroia has consistently reached base at a higher rate (.373  Career OBP vs Cano’s .349). Cano may be able to put up more HR’s and RBI’s than Pedroia, but Pedey has consistently put up many more steals and runs. Cano’s extra RBI’s can mostly be contributed to his spot in the batting order. Last year, 94.9% of his at bats were taken from the 4 and 5 spots in the order, while 77.3% of Pedroia’s at bats were taken from the 2 spot in the order. Yes, Pedroia’s extra runs can be mostly contributed to his spot in the order, but his steals and baserunning are still much better than Cano’s. All offensive prowess aside, Pedroia definitely has an edge on the defensive side ( 2 Gold Gloves in four eligible seasons vs Cano’s single Gold Glove during his 7 seasons). Also, Pedroia has a better fielding percentage and zone rating. Perhaps the most telling fact is WAR (wins above replacement), in which Pedroia 8.0 2011 rating, clearly outshines Cano’s 5.6.

Despite this argument, it should be noted that if either team had the choice, they would not switch second baseman with the other team. Pedroia is a true Red Sox player, never afraid to get his jersey dirty, while Cano is a Bronx Bomber, provided unheard of power from second baseman position since the sloppy fielding former Yank Alfonso Soriano.

Next up is Ben Zobrist, who is a great player for the Rays, but overshadowed by Cano and Pedroia. Zobrist has the talent to fight for the top second basemen spot in any other division. He has the potential to contend with Cano and Pedroia, but his inconsistency gives him the third ranking. He displayed incredible numbers both last year and in 2009, but his steep dropoff in 2010 (.239 BA and a 63.0% HR decrease) leaves room for concern.

Filling out the fourth spot is Blue Jay second baseman Kelly Johnson. Kelly was acquired by the Jays from the Diamondbacks last year in a trade for Aaron Hill and John MacDonald. Johnson has been even more inconsistent than Zobrist, but should give the Jays a good option at second as long as his average stays up. I see him providing about a .275 average and 20-25 HR’s in his first full year at the Rogers Centre.

Lastly, the Orioles have the oft injured Brian Roberts slotted in as their starting second baseman. Although Roberts was once regarded as a top second baseman, those days are gone after only playing 98 games in the last two years combined. Whether he gets injured again and Robert Andino fills in for him remains the true question. Both will provide similar offensive output and show good speed on the basepaths. I don’t see the credentials to rate either one above any of the other second baseman in this stacked division though.

For Catcher rankings, click here.
For First Baseman rankings, click here.

 

AL East Position Matchup: First Baseman

As a follow up to yesterday’s post ranking AL East catchers, today I will rank the first basemen of the division. As expected, the first base position provides a lot of power for all five of these teams, but no player is as well rounded as the Adrian the Cat.

The rankings are as follows:

1. Adrian Gonzalez
2. Mark Texeira
3. Carlos Pena
4. Adam Lind
5. Chris Davis

Gonzo needs to be number one here. He was a legitamate MVP candidate last year, which is incredible considering his massive HR drought to start the 2011 season (1 HR in all of April). He’s got a great glove and I expect him to increase his HR total (2nd lowest of career), while maintaining similar RBI production. Although I do see a drop from his career best .338 batting average, I see Gonzo being a force in the middle of the Sox lineup and a MVP contender to start the season.

Texeira is one of the most overpaid players in baseball. He was the third highest paid position player last year (fourth overall). He earned $23.125 million, while Adrian was the 14th highest paid first baseman in the MLB and earned every penny of his $6.3 million. The sad part (for the Yankees) is that they have Texeira and his .248 batting average (from last year) signed into a no trade clause until 2016. I’m the first to admit he is a good hitter, and he’s a player every pitcher is afraid can take them yard any pitch, but he has been unwilling to make any adjustments during his struggles as a Yankee. He’s been known to have struggles adapting to the huge shift that opposing teams put on him as a pull hitter (Sox fans- think David Ortiz during his slump of 2010). Don’t get me wrong, Texiera plays great defense and hits 30+ home  runs a year, but any “elite” hitter that earns that much money and then hits .180, .148, and .167 in the last three postseasons, respecitvely, loses all respect in my vote.

I think Pena is starting to decline a bit with his power, which is why I thought about giving Lind the slight edge over him. Despite this, Pena has an uncanny ability to get on base (his OBP is regularly about 130 points better than his BA) and displays underrated defensive skills. Lind hasn’t been consistent enough to warrant the third spot in rankings. Last up is Chris Davis for the Orioles. Davis was a big time prospect a few years ago for the Rangers, and displayed some good power for them in his first two years in the bigs. Since joining the Orioles, Davis struggled with a shoulder injury. He was a good prospect but hasn’t panned out the last few years, so hopefully he can find the power stroke hes been missing lately.

For Catcher rankings: Click Here.

 

AL East Position Matchup: Catcher

Spring training is around the corner and it looks like all the rosters are pretty much set in the MLB. I will begin to evaluate how the Red Sox matchup against their four counterparts in the AL East in different positions.

First up will be catcher (remember this is primarily based on projected starters):

1. Matt Wieters, Baltimore
2. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays
3. Russell Martin, Yankees
4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox
5. Jose Molina, Rays

Wieters was a no brainer here in the first slot. He was a can’t miss prospect since he was drafted 5th overall in 2007. He is not the superstar people once believed after a monster first year in the minors (.388 BA), but he provides decent pop (22 HR’s last year) and won a Gold Glove last year.

The next three were tough to call. I went with Arencibia next after his breakout campaign last year. He provided a bad batting average, but hit 23 Hr’s and had 78 RBI’s in 129 games in his rookie season. Arencibia is still a pretty raw talent, but with his good arm behind the plate and incredible power, he should have a pretty decent career. Third on the list is Russell Martin, who is not the player he was in the beginning of his career with the Dodgers. He has battled through knee and hip injuries since he broke out as a youngster in ’06-’08. He has had a declining batting average since ’08, although he saw in increase in HR and RBI’s for the Bronx Bombers last year. Even though Martin says he is healthy this year, I find it hard to believe he is a better option than Arencibia.

The Red Sox and Saltalamacchia are rated fourth due to the muddled cloud over the position and also an attempt to not be biased in this column. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the clear number one on the roster right now, although I think Ryan Lavarnway is the better long term solution. The Red Sox also signed Kelly Shoppach over the offseason, which confused me in terms of Lavarnway’s spot on the team. First off, Salty had a huge year for the Red Sox last year. He was a low risk young guy who had an incredible amount of confidence issues (to the point of him struggling to complete throws back to the pitcher). It looked like he found the stroke and confidence that he had as a good prospect growing up in the Braves farm system. Salty and Varitek combined to be some of the worst at throwing out runners last year (25.1% and 23.1%, respectively), and Shoppach should provide some defensive help. The true value of the Sox catcher situation lies in how they deal with Lavarnway. Lavarnway is a 6-4, 225 prospect with a very solid baseball IQ, which is very important behind the plate. The Yale-alum has average catching skills, but has a solid bat and could even provide some help from the DH spot. Sox fans immediately fell in love with Lavarnway when he provided 2 HR and 4RBI’s in a must win game on the second to last game of the season last year in which the Sox won 8-7. This was real impressive in such a high pressure situation in his rookie year and hopefully he will get a chance to build on his progress throughout this season. Also, as an end to the Red Sox section, I see Jason Varitek’s roster spot on the Red Sox gone. I hope they treat him in a similar manner as the Patriots with Kevin Faulk, by keeping him in the organization as a leader but not taking up a valuable roster spot with his declining abilities.

Lastly, the Rays are clearly the bottom of the pile here. I see them making some changes either in the season or during these last few weeks before camp. Right now they have 36 year old Jose Molina slotted behind the plate and he has never even had more than 268 AB’s in a season. Most Sox fans remember him from his days as a Yankees backup. He provides some help defensively (threw out 32.4% of runners), but it is always a good sign for opposing pitchers when he is in the on deck circle.

Stay tuned for more position evaluations throughout the next few weeks.

A Slight Cure to the Super Bowl Hangover: Beanpot ’12

While all of New England feels like they got ran over by a bus, four local college hockey teams take the ice today in the first round of the Beanpot. Although nothing will fix the feelings every Patriots fan has, the Beanpot provides classic New England hockey. BU matches up against Harvard in the first game, while BC goes against Northeastern in the second game. BU took down Harvard in an overtime thriller in their only matchup this year, while BC has beaten Northeastern in all three games played this year, all by one goal a piece. I’m expecting more of the same in the Beanpot. I expect some good, close games, but I’m predicting a BC vs BU final here, going with the 1st and 2nd place teams in Hockey East. Although BC is 2nd in the Hockey East this year, they have won the last two Beanpots. Despite this, BU is the hot team heading into the tournament and is my favorite to pull through and win it.

 

MLB Playoff Expansion Hits Road Block

Bud Selig’s office missed the February 1st deadline to have finished a proposed schedule to send to the players association. Talks have not ended and it still looks like a decent possibility that the MLB will be able to expand to two wild card teams in both divisions, but they have encountered many more scheduling issues than anticipated. There are a ton of different issues, but long story short is they need to figure out how to fit in the extra wild card matchups in between the end of the season and start of the ALDS. The real problem comes from scheduling tiebreaker games between first place and wild cards (which becomes much more important now), rain out makeup games, and also, to do everything in compliance with TV contracts.

This is huge news for Red Sox fans. The day they announced a possible expansion of the playoff format was like Christmas day for every fan of the AL East (yes, even Orioles fans). If the MLB is unable to figure out this situation soon, it will be detrimental to the playoff hopes of each the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays. All are in position to be top teams in the MLB again, with the Blue Jays not far behind. As we all remember last year, the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs with 90 wins and the Braves failed to make the playoff on the last day with 89 wins. In the proposed situation, both would have made the playoffs. Also, this is an important proposition because it awards teams for coming in 1st place, by forcing wild card teams to use their best starters in a one game playoff, while 1st place teams get more resting time.

In other news for the Red Sox, the Nationals have agreed to a one year contract with Edwin Jackson, who was widely believed to be the best free agent pitcher left on the market. Talks look like they are winding down between the Red Sox and Roy Oswalt as well. It looks like we will be heading into spring training with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Bucholz at the front of our rotation. The Red Sox will then have Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves, and an island of misfit toys duke it out and try to fill the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation.

Deadly Riot at Soccer Game in Egypt

Over seventy fans were pronounced dead and hundreds of other fans were injured Wednesday at a soccer game in Egypt. Apparently one of the top clubs in their league was upset and chaos ensued. Riot police failed miserably to intervene and the mess got worse and now at least 74 paid their life due to this. This is horrible and shocking news.

I know soccer games are known to get wild over in Europe and Africa, but this is ridiculous. Fans threw rocks, sticks, and chairs while storming onto the field. It was the deadliest incident at a soccer match since 1996 and definitely sets back soccer in Africa. I really don’t understand how some people think and can be that violent over a simple game.

Thoughts and prayers go out to those wounded in this tragic incident.

X Games Roundup

Since its been a couple of boring days for the Red Sox, I decided to write about the X Games over the weekend. Some of the events I was really disappointed by, but there were two things that I was glad I got to see.

Sunday in the day was a snowmobile jumping competition. The very first guy I watched (Heath Frisby) did a front flip on his snowmobile. My friends and I were in awe of how cool it was, but also how psychotic the guys must be. Then the announcers said it was the first front flip ever landed and about twenty guys celebrated for the next minute and a half. I thought it was cool and all, but not warranting all that celebration.

Sunday night was where I was really interested. Every year I make a point to watch the superpipe competition and see if anyone can push Shaun White off the gold spot in the podium. Run after run guys tried to outdo Shaun, which made the event that much better. Guys push their limits and you get to see great tricks, but the majority couldn’t complete their run without wiping out or messing up somehow…except for the flying tomato. Guy is a straight baller. Skinny pants might be a bit soft, but he always put on a show in that event and does it flawless. What I liked most was his victory lap, his last run in which he was already guaranteed gold. Instead of taking it easy (with his hurt ankle) and taking a joy ride for the fans down the pipe, Shaun pushed himself to the perfect run, getting incredible air on every jump. He was awarded the first perfect score (100) in X Games history.

 

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Surprise! Another Sh*t Signing For Red Sox

In other news over the weekend, the Red Sox signed John Maine. Pretty upset I even have to write this article. It’s more or less the same as this blog or this blog, but even more frustrating. John Maine hasn’t even pitched in the majors since May 2010.

Even though they only signed him to a minor league contract, its another move from the organization I don’t agree with. I may just be frustrated with this move because I always thought this guy could “break out” for my fantasy baseball team and just never broke out. Year after year and waiver wire pickup after waiver wire pickup he would let me down.  He was a decent pitcher for a couple years, but that was back in ’06 and ’07. He’s been plagued by injuries throughout his career and has had his most troubles since shoulder surgery in 2010.

Maine had a stellar 7.43 ERA in the minors last year until he quit the team in June, saying he might retire. Stay hot Ben Cherington, yet another supergood transaction.

This article can be summed up pretty easily: John Maine is not the solution for the Red Sox pitching problems. They really need to stop wasting time trying to bring in guys like John Maine and make a serious attempt at fixing their rotation.

TOB$ Time: Toss Up Round 2

Monster free agent signing in the MLB yesterday. Prince Fielder joined Miguel Cabrera and the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander in Detroit. I thought two things when I saw this signing. First, was HOLY SHIT. This was simply due to Fielders NINE year $214 million dollar contract. I can’t believe the Tigers agreed to  such a long contract with a 27 year old guy like Prince.

Second thing I thought of (and the point of this article) was that this has created one of the best 3-4 batters in a lineup in a while. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder have a chance to do something real special over in Detroit. I immediately thought of Manny-Big Papi for the Red Sox in 2004 and 2005. They were the best in business (maybe steroids had a bit to do with it) and they were a force for years. More importantly, they were consistent and incredibly clutch, clutch enough to break an 86 year old curse.

Here is the 2004 and 2005 seasons in stats for Manny and Ortiz and Feilder and Miguel Cabrera’s individual stats for last year:

GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP
Manny 2004 BOS 152 568 108 175 44 0 43 130 82 124 2 4 0.308 0.397
Ortiz 2004 BOS 150 582 94 175 47 3 41 139 75 133 0 0 0.301 0.38
GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP
Manny 2005 BOS 152 554 112 162 30 1 45 144 80 119 1 0 0.292 0.388
Ortiz 2005 BOS 159 601 119 180 40 1 47 148 102 124 1 0 0.3 0.397
GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP
Cabrera 2011 DET 161 572 111 197 48 0 30 105 108 89 2 1 0.344 0.448
Fielder 2011 MIL 162 569 95 170 36 1 38 120 107 106 1 1 0.299 0.415

Before anyone gets on my case, I understand Prince just came from a pretty good 3-4 punch on the Brewers with Ryan Braun, but Miguel has never batted around the type of talent Prince has, thus inflating his stats in future years (and no Victor Martinez, who batted behind Cabrera last year, does not count). Braun has had the protection of Prince for 5 years and I like to think this has influenced his stats a great deal. Don’t get me wrong, he is a great player, but I like Miguel Cabrera as a hitter more than steroid boy Braun.

After throwing up this comparison, in some ways I feel stupid. The numbers from Ortiz and Manny are jaw dropping. That’s all that can be said. Granted they may have had some help from a few friendly needles up their ass, but those numbers are rediculous. I think Cabrera will have an incredible year this year and Fielder might even have a better year in hitter friendly Comerica Park, but who knows if they can touch Manny and Papi’s numbers. The big factor will be whether they can win a couple World Series rings together, like the former two led the Sox to do.

Ross Joins Red Sox Nation

After Carl Crawford’s surgery on his wrist last week was announced, the Red Sox suddenly had a glaring weakness in outfield depth. Ben Cherington has clearly been in the process of addressing this issue for the past week. When the Sox dealt Marco Scutaro last weekend to the Rockies, they freed up $6 million for free agent acquisitions.

Cody Ross joins the outfield and immediately brings depth to all positions in the outfield. Ross is mostly known by baseball fans for his performance during the 2010 postseason, where he was named MVP for the San Francisco Giants after hitting five home runs, two off Phillie ace Roy Halladay. Ross provides a much needed righty bat in the lefty heavy Red Sox lineup. He should have a crucial role in the Red Sox outfield and at least be a platoon right fielder with Ryan Sweeney. Hopefully his batting numbers will improve since he will be playing in his most explosive offense in his 10 year career.

Although this is a great move for the Red Sox organization, I’m still hoping they make a big splash in the market for starting pitchers. I’m pulling for Roy Oswalt, but we will see how everything plays out in the next few weeks.