Wednesday, September 18, 2013

NL North Preview

Up next is the NL North, home to the Expos and resurgent Cubs.

LAST YEARS RECORD: 60-102, last place

LAST YEARS PREVIEW: The team was seemingly abandoned as of during the pre-season, and in doing so the Reds have lost their pitching staff, and their best slugger (Pascual Brito to Detroit; .272/.348/.559, 6.6 war, 127 rc), and their best pitchers in Wiggenton and Roosevelt. It was a disappointing offseason for the Reds and their fans. Was this the plan, or Cincy just drop the ball? With $57 budgeted for players, but only $33 spent they can still make some surprise moves to shore up the team.

OUT: Edinson Ciraco, Duke Duvall, Sammy Taylor

IN: Tony Baez, Sammy Corino, Daryle Smith, Lonnie Sierra

PREVIEW: The Reds were only slightly better than predicted. The pitching staff was still horrid, but the youngsters stepped up. Rookie of the Year Keith Blevins tore up the NL (271/.353/.593 line, .404 wOBA, and 7.4 War.) while young pitcher Ugueth Pulido more than held his own (1.31 WHIP, 3.82 fip, 185 ip, 141 k). Spike Smoltz has become the ace of the staff Rookie Tony Baez joins the rotation and replicate Pulido’s success. Pitching will be much better this year.
The offense is led by the aforementioned Blevins, Josh Justice needs to rebound from his sophomore slump, Kevin Miller posted a 4.5 War, Yuuta Gang had a .346 wOBA/2.2 War. The dead weight was cut, and more young reinforcements move in. Veteran Jude Leslie will help out, as will rookie super hitter Kiki Calles (a liability at catcher), and possible ROY Marco Denny will make some noise. Don’t sleep on the Reds this year.



LAST YEARS PREVIEW: The Cubbies lost 91 games due mostly to giving up 877 runs. The franchise hasn’t allowed less than 800 runs since season 16. Without an attempt to shore up the pitching staff, the Cubs will probably struggle again this season.

OUT: Jude Leslie, Stu Witte

IN: Sid Sherman

PREVIEW: The Cubs made great strides in their second year under littlejim. The glaring weakness that the team hasn’t been able to overcome is poor pitching. As mentioned last season the team hasn’t allowed less than 800 runs since season 16, and that streak continues. This year 856 runs. Their offense was superb, and scored 818 runs the BEST in the National League.
So, it’s obvious what needs to happen. Right? Wrong. The Cubs have the pitching. It’s HOW they are used, and WHO is playing defense behind them. Look, the slugging thing is great. But sluggers don’t win ball games. Ball players win ball games. I kind of feel bad for the pitching staff (especially Vernon Broadway…traded for and would start on most teams even if he can only get 80-90 pitches, but instead he gets 41 appearances in 90 innings).
The offense looks great. But the fielding situation is in shambles. Hammond (6.6 war) had to play five spots. Descalso played RF, but barely makes minimum at 1B. Hicks is a below average 1B…and had 4 negative plays. Gonzales is catching, but doesn’t meet expectations. Dee Perry is playing SS (and held his own…barely). Alvarez played 2B, and while he has range he is missing the minimum on glove, arm strength, and accuracy. OUCH. Reagan played LF…he’s a 1B and his 11 negative plays proves it. I could go on but I’m out of space. Don’t expect much if these things can’t be fixed. This team could be GREAT, if only they had defense.


LAST YEARS PREVIEW: Ssauve had a plan for the Expos, and they have now morphed into one of the premier clubs. Could this be the year they take the hardware back to Montreal? The loss of Jolbert Ortiz to Tampa Bay (he says he was tired of the cold ass weather, and sends his regards from his yacht), is a huge dent in the most powerful offense in the league. Former #2 overall pick (season 19) Vicente Delgado will be eagerly awaiting his call to the big leagues. The Expos are the most well rounded team in the NL, but do face steep competition. This is now a veteran team, and young starters are no longer getting better. Still, they have the most talent and are the overall pick to win the NL.

OUT: Virgil Valdes, Donaldo Granados

IN: Hugh Taylor, Justin Lidge

PREVIEW: Jolbert Ortiz sold his yacht and booked it back to Montreal mid-season, “I missed home.” He simply said. He put up a .304/.382/.627 line in 231 pa, so it looks like he was happy to be back in his winter jacket.
The Expos held off father time, made some slick trades to have reinforcements. The offense had a severe drop off (only 749 runs scored), but the pitching solidified and almost led the Expos to the World Series.
The offense should be back in high gear with the addition of the Braves best player, Justin Lidge. Lidge posted a 5.8 War (but did so with a .331 BABIP…so is this sustainable). Plus another full year with Ortiz. This year, Grandos (a replacement level player, 0 War) was traded for replacement level pitcher Hugh Taylor (over 5 FIP). And not to be left out…TED SIMPSON GOT AN EXTENSION (so much for that idea). The Expos are better this year. Look out NL.
PREDICTION: 96-66, Division Winner

Milwaukee Brewers (NL)
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LAST YEARS PREVIEW: The Brewers have remained consistent, and are always in contention. With a little bit of offense, the Brewers could return to the playoffs. It’s still unclear what the Brewers are going to do for pitching. Looks like the scrap heap all-stars. They hope that the “little bit of offense” comes in the form of Aramis Jacquez.

OUT: Pat Chang, Jolbert Gomez, Al Santana, Julian Torres, Greg Hewson, Sean Nixon

IN: Fred Wolf, Phil Sweeney

PREVIEW: The Brew Crew took a step back last year and this needed renewed passion from bison8. Humberto Johnson and Lonny Castro return as the lone starters for a pitching staff that was actually decent at 726. Fred Wolf joins up as the big third starter. The big problem was scoring runs.
Jolbert Gomez was shown the door after a dismal performance (0.9 War, 49 RC), and similar disapoitnments by Pat Change and Al Santanta. Julian Torres was let go despite improving and had looked like an 80 run player.
From the outside looking in, not much has been done to help this team. The pitching should remain even, but unless bison has a few cards up his sleeves to help the offense I’m not sure what is happening.


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