Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2430 games too early, but here's an MLB Season Prediction

Guess what?

The MLB regular season starts tomorrow.

Guess what else?

Brad Lidge is injured.  I know, you're surprised.

Guess what else else?

I'm gonna throw out some predictions for the standings at the end of the season as well as postseason predictions.  No stats, no rationality, just straight gut feeling.  Here we go:

AL East
Red Sox:  96-66  (7 game improvement)
Yankees:  91-71  (4 game dropoff)
Rays:  90-72  (6 game dropoff)
Blue Jays:  83-79  (2 game dropoff)
Orioles:  75-87  (9 game improvement)

Boston added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, not to mention getting a bunch of guys back from injury.  The Yankees and Rays didn't do anything but lose guys in the offseason, and both bottom-feeders are improving but can't compete with the big boys.  Best division in baseball right hurr.

AL Central
Twins:  91-71  (3 game dropoff)
White Sox:  90-72  (2 game improvement)
Tigers:  83-79  (2 game improvement)
Royals:  70-92  (3 game improvement)
Indians:  68-94  (1 game dropoff)

I'm really high on Francisco Liriano this year for the Twins, and they've got a healthy Justin Morneau and, well, that Mauer guy.  The Sox added Adam Dunn and the Tigers added Victor Martinez, so they'll be fine, and the Royals have the best farm system in the league right now and I see them using that to get a couple wins.

AL West
Rangers:  86-76  (4 game dropoff)
Athletics:  85-77  (4 game improvement)
Angels:  77-85  (3 game dropoff)
Mariners:  63-99  (2 game improvement)

Yes, the Rangers lost Cliff Lee, but they only had him for half the year and he didn't do very well in Texas anyway!  I think Josh Hamilton falls back to earth a little, though, and that allows the solid young pitching of the A's to get into the conversation but fall short.  The Angels don't really have much going for them, and the Mariners offense has to be better, right?

NL East
Braves:  94-68  (3 game improvement)
Phillies:  92-70  (5 game dropoff)
Mets:  81-81  (2 game improvement)
Marlins:  77-85  (3 game dropoff)
Nationals:  72-90  (3 game improvement)

Color me concerned about the bullpen depth without Brad Lidge and the 3 and 5 spots in the lineup minus Chase Utley and Jayson Werth.  I know I predicted 97 wins earlier, but the injuries are already mounting.  The Braves have yet another early-season Rookie-of-the-Year candidate in 1B Freddie Freeman, who could combine with Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla for a solid 80 homers this year.  Not to mention they've got some nice bullpen arms.  The Mets are going to hit just fine this year, although not having Johan Santana will hurt.  The Marlins lost Uggla, and Josh Johnson had the injury at the end of last year.  The Nationals added Werth, but not having Steven Strasburg, Adam Dunn, or prospect Bryce Harper (at least for a while) will have them saying "wait 'till next year".

NL Central
Reds:  87-75  (4 game dropoff)
Brewers:  84-78  (7 game improvement)
Cardinals:  81-81  (5 game dropoff)
Cubs:  78-84  (3 game improvement)
Astros:  76-86  (no change)
Pirates:  60-102  (3 game improvement)

The Reds' rotation will be solid and Joey Votto will help keep them afloat, while the Brewers adding Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum will allow them to surge towards the top of the division, but falling short.  The Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright for the year and will have to deal with the Pujols drama all year, and that's gonna drain on them.  The Cubs and Astros are, you know, whatever, and the Pirates use some of those young position players to move up in the world a little.

NL West
Giants:  87-75  (5 game dropoff)
Rockies:  84-78  (1 game improvement)
Dodgers:  82-80  (2 game improvement)
Padres:  80-82  (10 game dropoff)
Diamondbacks:  67-95  (2 game improvement)

The Giants can still pitch (although they might be a little tired), but their rag-tag lineup won't be able to pull off what it did last year.  The Rockies will be solid but won't pitch well enough, and the Dodgers will just be inconsistent despite a big year from Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw.  The Padres lost Adrian Gonzalez and had an unexpectedly great year last year, and I think they'll fall way back to earth.  The D'backs bring up the rear, and I gave them a little regression-to-the-mean bonus.


Division Series
Phillies over Reds, Giants over Braves
Yankees over Twins, Red Sox over Rangers

Championship Series
Phillies over Giants
Red Sox over Yankees

World Series
Red Sox over Phillies

Yes, the World Series is super-cliche, but I just can't see the Phils' pitching or the Sox' lineup getting neutralized over the span of a seven-game series.  Sadly, the Phils' lineup won't be able to hold its own and the championship experience of Lester, Beckett, and Lackey will prevail in the end.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Getting a Grip by Griping

So about that whole "best week of the year" thing...

The 24-hour span between Saturday and Sunday evening was a terrible one for my various NCAA Tournament brackets, with the following teams that I needed to win in many of my brackets losing in the Round of 32:  1-seeded Pitt, 2-seeded Notre Dame, 3-seeded Syracuse, 3-seeded Purdue, 4-seeded Texas, and 11-seeded Gonzaga (admittedly not that sad of a loss).

These losses came either in heartbreaking fashion due to a late-game snafu or by way of a blowout.  I'm not sure which is worse, frankly, because a close loss is an emotional nightmare but a blowout makes you feel like an idiot for picking them in the first place.

Let's take a look at the carnage.

That's the Pitts

Syracuse/Marquette: This wasn't that dramatic, and a close loss to a team in your conference is not that surprising, but it's just so awful to watch the team you have in the Final Four in a couple brackets go down in the following fashion.  Syracuse threw out this sequence of possessions in the last 2 minutes of the game following Marquette making a 3 to tie the game at 59:
59-59, 1:46 left -- turnover
59-59, 0:52 left -- turnover
59-62, 0:19 left -- missed 3-pointer (didn't get the rebound)

The moral of the story is to not trust the top Big East teams in the NCAA tournament unless they won the conference tournament (see UConn this year and West Virginia last year).

Texas/Arizona: While this game wasn't so critical and really not much of an upset (unless you consider that Texas was not too long ago the top team in the country), Texas blew it after making a nice comeback late in the game.  I mean, seriously?  A five-second violation on an inbounds play when you're up 2 with 13 seconds left?  And then you not only let Derrick Williams get to the rim for a game-tying shot, but you FOUL him just softly enough so that it will count but not hard enough to impact the shot?

As if that wasn't hard enough to watch, Texas had just enough time to get down the court for a layup, but J'Covan Brown decides that this was a nice time to not get a good shot off, and then Texas gets the rebound and appears to be fouled right as the buzzer sounds?  Freaking brutal.  At least I had them losing to Duke in most of my brackets, but it's another reason why you shouldn't put all your bracket eggs in one basket.  Especially if that basket is as inconsistent as Texas was this year.

Pitt/Butler:  Speaking of top Big East teams, if you haven't seen the end of this game, do it.  I don't think you'll ever see a game end like this again.  Two inexplicable fouls in the last five seconds of the game that swing the tide of the game in entirely different directions.  After thinking about it, Butler's Shelvin Mack (who committed the first foul) was the more heinous offender, because there is NO REASON WHATSOEVER for him to be physical with the ballhandler at that point, given that any foul would have given Pitt two shots to at least tie the game.  In the case of the rebound after the missed free throw, there's a lot on the line when it comes to that board because if Pitt manages to wrestle the ball away from Butler they can jack up a quick shot and maybe win the game.   The end of this game just tore the spirit right out of me, and I suppose I should blame myself for not seeing something like this coming with Pitt, who I had going to at least the Elite Eight in at least five of my brackets despite a history of underachieving under Jamie Dixon (who loses, on average, 0.3 games prior to what his seed would predict).

Notre Dammit!

There really isn't much to be said about the games individually, but the games involving Notre Dame and Purdue that had them as higher seeds by 8 (2 v. 10 and 3 v. 11) resulted in losses by an average of 16 points.  Again, I had one of the two of them in the Elite Eight in every one of my brackets, and I had ND in the Final Four in the bracket in which I was doing the best in the pool that actually mattered.  Yes, Purdue had just suspended one of their top defenders and was facing a hot and disrespected VCU team, and yes, Notre Dame relied too much on outside shooting to be considered a worthy contender, but come on, man!  Both teams had top-flight upperclassmen as their leading scorers and had no business losing to anyone but each other.

The State of the Brackets

As of right now, my brackets have 30, 32, 33, 35, 32, and 27 correct picks out of 48 possible (in order of importance of the pool).  At least I can take some solace in the fact that the best bracket on has only 42 out of 48, a bit lower than the usual amount at this point.  It's just so frustrating to deal with because every expert thought that this year would be crazy, and yet the first round yielded just 7 out of 32 possible upsets (and that includes wins by 9 Illinois and 10 Florida State).  Maybe the Sweet Sixteen will yield some crazy upsets that will vindicate me slightly.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March Madness: So aptly named, it's scary

It.  Is.  Time.

We are right in the middle of my favorite week of the year, the time between Selection Sunday and the end of the second round of the NCAA tournament.  Well, I guess it's the third round now, since they're calling the opening four games the first round now.  Whatever.

Since I'm fairly confident that this blog is not reaching the number or type of people that I would consider potentially damaging to my bracket championship hopes (other than my mom, of course, but she would hear my opinion about it anyway), I'm going to ramble a little bit about what I see in this year's 64-team field and what I think will go down.  Note that, yet again, I'm disregarding the other 4 teams.  Take a hint, NCAA officials.

I'll look at the four regions one at a time, noting the teams that, after hours of looking at different sources of info on the matchups and seeding issues and all that, are most likely to perform particularly well or poorly as compared to their seed expectations.

On to the Beasts of the East...

1 Ohio State vs. 16 Texas-San Antonio
8 George Mason vs. 9 Villanova

5 West Virginia vs. 12 Clemson
4 Kentucky vs. 13 Princeton

6 Xavier vs. 11 Marquette
3 Syracuse vs. 14 Indiana State

7 Washington vs. 10 Georgia
2 North Carolina vs. 15 UC Santa Barbara

Sleeper: I think that a combo of Kentucky and Syracuse should suffice here, with Kentucky being the less likely of the two in my opinion to come out of the East due to their core players being so inexperienced.  Both have experienced coaches, but 'Cuse has a tough defense, more "veterans," and that whole Big East thing.

Wild Card: People keep mentioning Washington as the team that's going to spring the 7/10 vs. 2 upset that has happened all but one of the last ten years, and I'm drinking the Kool-Aid as much as I can be expected to.  They won their conference tournament, have a solid, experienced point guard in Isaiah Thomas, and won two games last tournament.  Not to mention that top teams that missed the tournament last year (of which Carolina is one) tend to underachieve.  However, UNC's talent level and the fact that Washington could just as easily lose in the first round make picking the Huskies a risky proposition.

Double-Digit Seed That Could Make A Run : It's gotta be Marquette.  They won a couple of games in the Big East tournament to get to this position, and they have an experienced coach and a decent matchup just in terms of the fact that 11-seeds do win a fair amount of first round games.  Then, if they face Syracuse in the next round, the massive parity that exists in Big East competition from game to game could show its face and allow the Golden Eagles to squeak to the Sweet 16.

Elite Eight and Final Four Representatives
1 Ohio State vs. 3 Syracuse, with Ohio State moving on.  Just too good of a combo of outside shooting and inside presence.


1 Duke vs. 16 Hampton
8 Michigan vs. 9 Tennessee

5 Arizona vs. 12 Memphis
4 Texas vs. 13 Oakland

6 Cincinnati vs. 11 Missouri
3 Connecticut vs. 14 Bucknell

7 Temple vs. 10 Penn State
2 San Diego State vs. 10 Northern Colorado 

Sleeper:  When a team that is ranked number 5 in the country in terms of total offensive and defensive efficiency and was once a cinch number 1 seed is now a 4, it's clear that Texas is the not-so-darkhorse in this bracket.  They have top young talent in Jordan Hamilton and J'Covan Brown and a coach with tournament experience (if shaky results) in Rick Barnes.  Not to mention that Duke was a tenuous choice as a 1 seed to begin with.

Wild Card: Another team that could pull off some big wins or lose in the first round is Arizona, who has played inconsistently and didn't really play a tough schedule, but has a top pro prospect in Derrick Williams that could carry his team.  Texas ended the season on a much weaker note, so a weak performance or loss to Oakland in the first round could pave the road for the Wildcats to make the Sweet 16.

Double-Digit Seed That Could Make A Run: The fast-paced, pressing style of Missouri could make a Cincinnati team that has not experienced the Big Dance lately uncomfortable, not to mention that there is no way that the Big East is as good top-to-bottom as it seems.  On the same vein, there's probably a reason why no one was expecting UConn to do this well this year, and I don't know if Kemba Walker can help the Huskies to 5 wins in 5 days and then try to keep up the intensity and quality of play for two more games.

Elite Eight and Final Four Representatives
1 Duke vs. 2 San Diego State, with Duke taking it down thanks to the re-addition of Kyrie Irving to their lineup and having had a couple of games earlier in the tourney to acclimate him.


1 Kansas vs. 16 Boston U.
8 UNLV vs. 9 Illinois

5 Vanderbilt vs. 12 Richmond
4 Louisville vs. 13 Morehead State

6 Georgetown vs. 11 USC
3 Purdue vs. 14 St. Peter's

7 Texas A&M vs. 10 Florida State vs.
2 Notre Dame vs. 15 Akron

Sleeper: Again, both the 3 and 4 seeds (Purdue and Louisville) could qualify here.  The Boilermakers struggled a little down the stretch, but JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore have stepped up their game this year and could co-carry this team in a similar way to what Kansas State did last year with Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente.  Louisville has pretty much the same qualifications as Syracuse for a nice run, but they seem to have an easier run to the Sweet 16 thanks to not having to play a Big East team that knows their defensive strategy well.

Wild Card:  Georgetown is (allegedly) getting back their star player Chris Wright, without whom they went 0-4 down the stretch.  If he’s back to full strength, they could win two or more games against a potentially reeling Purdue team and a familiar foe in Notre Dame.  If not, they could be eliminated in the first round, which they know the pain of well (cough, cough, Ohio University).

Double-Digit Seed That Could Make A Run:  The most common 11, 12, or 13 seed first-round upset pick I’ve seen this year is Richmond over Vanderbilt.  They won the Atlantic 10 tournament and have a star player in forward Justin Harper, and past experience has shown me that despite the Big East’s reputation, they tend to bow out earlier than expected in recent tournaments, and Louisville could pull a repeat of two years ago, when they were a 1 seed and lost in the Sweet 16.

Elite Eight and Final Four Representatives
1 Kansas vs. 2 Notre Dame, with Kansas winning.  Kansas has too much talent depth, and I’m not really that confident in the Fighting Irish getting that far anyway.


1 Pittsburgh vs. 16 UNC-Asheville
8 Butler vs. 9 Old Dominion

5 Kansas State vs. 12 Utah State
4 Wisconsin vs. 13 Belmont

6 St. John's vs. 11 Gonzaga
3 BYU vs. 14 Wofford

7 UCLA vs. 10 Michigan State
2 Florida vs. 15 UC Santa Barbara 

Sleeper:  I could see any of the 3-6 seeds, and even the 10 seed (with the Tom Izzo Factor) taking down this bracket.  However, all have their issues: Kansas State has been up and down all year, Wisconsin bowed out embarrassingly in the Big Ten Tournament (33 points in a game, really?) and faces a tough Belmont team, St. Johns has the tournament experience issues similar to Cincinnati and just lost one of their starters to a knee injury, BYU hasn't been the same since Big Brandon Davies (at least that's what the ladies call him, knowmsayn?) was dismissed, and Michigan State really isn't their usual self.  If I had to pick one to be the most likely to represent the region, it would have to be Wisconsin, who has a solid defensive team with an efficient offense.

Wild Card:  Frankly, this could be any of the above teams, and I think I will go with Kansas State because they could lose in the first round to a feisty Utah State team or win a couple games and possibly upset Pitt if Jacob Pullen takes over like he has towards the end of this year.

Double-Digit Seed That Could Make A Run:
 This could also be one of a couple teams, but I think that Michigan State is my bet because they have a coach that has made 6 of the last 12 Final Fours and has a couple key players returning from last year's Final Four squad.  Additionally, the 2 seed they would play, Florida, is probably the weakest 2 seed in the field.

Elite Eight and Final Four Representatives:  
1 Pittsburgh vs. 2 Florida, with Pitt taking it down and finally living up to their seeding under Jamie Dixon.  I know, there's a lot of upset possibilities in this bracket, but I just see too much downside for most of those teams and not enough of a reason to take down the top two seeds.


1 Ohio State vs. 1 Duke
1 Kansas vs. 1 Pitt

Yes. Chalk.  I know.  It's just really hard to pinpoint a team to replace these guys.
I see Duke playing Kansas and Kansas winning the National Championship for the second time in four years.

And just for arguments' sake, I could see any of the following teams getting to the championship game instead of these guys:

4 Kentucky
3 Syracuse
4 Louisville
2 Notre Dame

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Projecting the 2011 Phillies, Part 2

In Part 2 of Part III of my baseball predictions pieces, I'm going to check out that famed Phillies pitching staff and see what the Four Aces, combined with a depleted lineup, can do in the 2011 regular season.

To start, I'll look at the 2010 seasons for each of the five starters in the Phillies' rotation, and see in which direction they're trending and where I think they'll end up after 2011 is out.  After that, I'll assess the effect on the bullpen, and how all of that impacts the total amount of runs allowed (and wins accumulated) for this team.

A note on the stats I'll be looking at:
I'm using the Left-on-base percentage (LOB%), the percentage of runners that a pitcher strands on base, as another metric for a player's likely trend for next year.  The league average is around 72%, with higher numbers representing a particularly effective year and lower numbers representing a particularly ineffective year.  Pitchers who have big deviations either way tend to move back towards the middle the next year.
I'll also be using the xFIP stat, which is similar to the Fielding-Independent-Pitching that I used in my pitching preview post a couple weeks ago, except that it is slightly adjusted to be more predictive of future success.  An xFIP that is significantly lower than a pitcher's ERA indicates that he pitched better than ERA would indicate, and the reverse indicates that he was not so good.
My expected Run Support per 9 Innings (RS/9) is based on the 4.4 runs per game that I expect the Phils to put up, and is slightly adjusted based on the fact that I would expect Joe Blanton to get better run support facing fifth starters than Roy Halladay facing aces.

And now, on to the horses...

Roy Halladay
The 2010 NL Cy Young winner, Halladay was an instant stud at the top of this rotation, throwing 250 regular season innings and winning 21 games, posting an ERA under 2.50.  The high innings count worries me for a guy in his mid-thirties, as well as the fact that his ERA was about 30 points lower in 2010 than what he had put up in recent years.  In terms of run support, he received almost 5 runs of support per 9 innings, which seems a little high considering he should be facing the other team's ace more often than not.

2010: 250.2 IP, 21-10, 2.44 ERA, 2.92 xFIP, 82.7 LOB%, .290 BABIP, 4.95 RS/9
2011: 230 IP, 19-10, 2.75 ERA, 3.00 xFIP, 79 LOB%, .295 BABIP, 4.20 RS/9

Cliff Lee
A member of the Mariners and Rangers last year, Lee started on the disabled list and proceeded to pitch very well for the Mariners despite receiving little run support.  When he got traded to the Rangers, he struggled a little bit and this inflated his ERA slightly.  His abnormally low LOB% and high home-run rate, as well as a move to the weaker National League, should boost his numbers, but I'm hesitant to expect a huge change thanks to a small ERA - xFIP difference, an unusually low xFIP last year, and particularly low walk-rate and high strikeout-rate in 2010.

2010: 212.1 IP, 12-9, 3.18 ERA, 3.23 xFIP, 67.9 LOB%, .287 BABIP, 4.45 RS/9
2011: 220 IP, 16-10, 3.20 ERA, 3.29 xFIP, 70 LOB%, .295 BABIP, 4.30 RS/9

Roy Oswalt
Oswalt's record with the Astros before he came to Philadelphia was 6-12 despite an ERA in the 3's, and he ended the season with an ERA in the 2's and a 13-13 record.  That speaks for itself.  Another aging guy, I can't see him repeating his .253 BABIP or his low 2010 ERA relative to his xFIP, but facing weaker opposing pitchers should help his win total.

2010: 211.2 IP, 13-13, 2.76 ERA, 3.45 xFIP, 77.8 LOB%, .253 BABIP, 3.15 RS/9
2011: 200 IP, 15-11, 3.25 ERA, 3.55 xFIP, 75 LOB%, .271 BABIP, 4.40 RS/9

Cole Hamels
After a tumultuous 2009 campaign that followed a great 2008, Hamels had a very nice year in 2010, seemingly dispelling the psychological demons that had plagued him in the past.  Hamels did so without showing a drop in opponents' BABIP, although his LOB% was pretty high.  I wonder if the whole "Four Aces" thing will impact his psychological state, or if the fact that he will likely be the fourth starter will take some pressure off him as Halladay and Oswalt did last year.  Certainly, I expect his run support to be much better this year, giving him a more respectable win-loss record.

2010: 208.2 IP, 12-11, 3.06 ERA, 3.43 xFIP, 82.7 LOB%, .289 BABIP, 3.49 RS/9
2011: 200 IP, 15-9, 3.29 ERA, 3.51 xFIP, 79 LOB%, .291 BABIP, 4.50 RS/9

Joe Blanton
Big Joe was the opening-day starter for the A's in 2008 and is now the fifth starter for the 2011 Phillies, without really showing any difference in his ability.  I think he's being vastly underrated this year, especially since (as I wrote in my pitching article) he experienced a lower xFIP than ERA, low LOB%, and high opponents' BABIP last year.  I expect his run support to be worse than last year given the team's decreased output, but his numbers should look pretty good for a 5 starter.

2010: 175.2 IP, 9-6, 4.82 ERA, 4.06 xFIP, 69.1 LOB%, .321 BABIP, 5.94 RS/9
2011: 190 IP, 13-8, 4.40 ERA, 4.20 xFIP, 72 LOB%, .305 BABIP, 4.60 RS/9

As for the bullpen, I figure that the loss of Chad Durbin as a reliable long reliever should be offset by the addition of Cliff Lee, thus reducing the need for middle relief.  I don't see much of a reason to think that the Phils' bullpen will perform about as well as it did last year (a perfectly average 4.02 ERA), so I'm basically going to ignore it and assume constancy from last year.

Based on the ERA and innings-pitched expectations that I have for the starters, I expect about 390 runs allowed by the starters in about 1040 innings.  The remaining 400 innings should go to the bullpen, and assuming a 4.10 ERA (a slight increase from last year, just to be conservative), that's a total of 570 runs allowed, a 24-run reduction from last season.  With a net change of about -40 runs when you take into account runs scored and allowed, that should equate to about 4 lost wins.

My record predictions indicate that the starters will go 78-48 this year, while the Phils' starters went 70-48 last year.  The remaining decisions that went to the bullpen last year (27-17) should be quite similar this year, which would seem to indicate around a 22-14 bullpen record this year.  That means we would be looking at a 100-62 season for the Fightin' Phils, which is a three-game improvement from 2010.

Taking the middle road of my two approaches, it really seems like the Phillies will do pretty much exactly the same record-wise as last year.  Since 97-65 was good enough to net the best record in the majors last year, I figure that's not too shabby.  Let's just hope that the addition of Cliff Lee is what will get them over the top once the playoffs come around.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Projecting the 2011 Phillies: The Lineup

On to part III of my little foray into baseball statistical projections, a prediction for the Phillies' 2011 season...

(Well, actually, we're going to split this into two parts: one for the batters, and one for the pitchers.  There's a lot to talk about here, after all)

I just wanted to point out before I go anywhere that I am obviously using a considerable amount of my own intuition in making these predictions about the Phillies' individual stats.

What we're looking at here is a means of predicting the individual stats for the Phillies' lineup and starting staff (I figure that the bullpen is going to be a wash, which you may disagree with, but the addition of Lee should lessen the impact of the bullpen anyway), and predicting the overall output of the team in terms of runs scored, wins, and all that.

In my predictions for 2011, I will assume that players will miss some time but will not miss a significant amount of games (aka at least 600 plate appearances -- as a reference, Placido Polanco missed 30 games and had 600; of course, he benefited from batting second).  To spread my risk, I'm going to conservatively estimate each player's play time, since I'm sure someone will miss games but I don't know who that will be.

Going through the batting order (excluding Jayson Werth, who's no longer in Philly), here we go:

Jimmy Rollins
He missed almost half the year, but his .243 batting average was almost 20 points lower than what he had been averaging since 2008.  However, his walks were up and his strikeouts down, so there is some indication that his plate discipline has improved enough to show a reasonable rebound.  Additionally, his .246 BABIP was more than 20 points below what he had been putting up the last couple years, so the combination with increased play-time continuity should give J-Roll a reasonable improvement in 2011.

2010: 394 PA, .243 BA, .320 OBP, .374 SLG, .246 BABIP, 8 HR, 48 R, 41 RBI
2011: 610 PA, .250 BA, .323 OBP, .375 SLG, .250 BABIP, 10 HR, 72 R, 60 RBI

Placido Polanco
Yes, he missed some time, but not enough to really worry about it; he's old.  It turns out that Polanco had a year that was almost entirely equivalent to what he had done in the last few years.  Therefore, there really isn't a reason to project him for anything different.  One thing to keep an eye on is where he will be in the lineup this year, as his right-handed bat might be used in the middle of the lineup to split up Utley, Howard, and Ibanez now that Jayson Werth is gone.  That might give him a couple more RBI's and a couple fewer runs, I would imagine.

2010: 602 PA, .298 BA, .339 OBP, .386 SLG, .312 BABIP, 6 HR, 76 R, 52 RBI
2011: 610 PA, .296 BA, .337 OBP, .385 SLG, .310 BABIP, 6 HR, 70 R, 55 RBI

Chase Utley
Utley was another one of those guys that missed a bunch of games, and he already has issues with knee tendinitis this year.  The Phillies don't appear to be bothered so much by this, and if Utley can stay on the field at something like 80 percent, that's better than the alternatives (yes, that's you, Wilson Valdez).  He might suffer from reduced output during this season, but it's better than nothing.

2010: 511 PA, .275 BA, .387 OBP, .445 SLG, .288 BABIP, 16 HR, 75 R, 65 RBI
2011: 610 PA, .280 BA, .390 OBP, .465 SLG, .290 BABIP, 20 HR, 87 R, 80 RBI

Ryan Howard
Howard had a bit of a power outage last year, much of which was attributed to never fully recovering from his midseason injury.  He showed a more balanced game last year, increasing his batting average and on-base percentage while his power numbers showed decline.  However, the loss of Jayson Werth behind him in the lineup is going to hurt his stat line.

2010: 620 PA, .276 BA, .353 OBP, .505 SLG, .332 BABIP, 31 HR, 87 R, 108 RBI
2011: 620 PA, .275 BA, .350 OBP, .510 SLG, .330 BABIP, 33 HR, 83 R, 105 RBI

Raul Ibanez
Rauuuuul had a tough start to the season last year, but he did bounce back and put up a respectable stat line.  However, his age is definitely catching up to him (mostly in the power department -- his slugging percentage dropped heavily from the first couple years in Philly), although perhaps the whole contract-year thing could boost his numbers.  Again, with the lack of a proven right-fielder, just having Ibanez around is going to give this team at least some semblance of an offensive threat in the middle of the order.

2010: 636 PA, .275 BA, .349 OBP, .444 SLG, .311 BABIP, 16 HR, 75 R, 83 RBI
2011: 600 PA, .270 BA, .347 OBP, .440 SLG, .310 BABIP, 15 HR, 71 R, 75 RBI

Shane Victorino
He only missed a couple games last year, which was a unique characteristic on the Phillies.  He's improved a little bit each year and has been fairly consistent as a Phillie, and I've read that he's trying to work on bunting more to improve his on-base percentage and situational hitting.  His switch-hitting nature makes his role in the lineup flexible, so he could get moved around a bit to accommodate the issues with the rest of the lineup.  I'm expecting a pretty solid effort, with perhaps a little bit less power than he displayed last year.

2010: 648 PA, .259 BA, .327 OBP, .429 SLG, .273 BABIP, 18 HR, 84 R, 69 RBI
2011: 640 PA,

Carlos Ruiz
Carlos had the biggest year of his career last year, hitting 50 points above his career average and getting it done in clutch situations.  However, he did miss a whole lot of games, which could be said of a lot of guys last year.  Most pundits are expecting a pretty big regression back towards his previous numbers, and I can't say I disagree too much.  Ruiz' BABIP shot up 50 points from his recent averages, which indicates a probable drop-off this year.  If he can keep up his hitting prowess this year, it would be a big boost to the bottom of the order.

2010: 433 PA, .302 BA, .400 OBP, .447 SLG, .335 BABIP, 8 HR, 43 R, 53 RBI
2011: 610 PA, .280 BA, .380 OBP, .420 SLG, .305 BABIP, 10 HR, 50 R, 60 RBI

All right, so with the Jayson Werth absence, let's just look at:
The Right Field Position
Jayson Werth was an early MVP candidate last year, going through two really hot streaks and a couple really cold streaks during the season.  His worth (don't excuse the pun) was increased because he broke up the three lefty bats in Utley, Howard, and Ibanez and provided protection for Howard in the lineup.  His replacement was supposed to be Domonic Brown, but he is out for several weeks with a busted hand, and wasn't doing very well in Spring Training anyway.  Therefore, I think that I'm just going to use, as an estimate, a full season's worth of Ben Francisco as an estimate of what we'll get from our right fielder.  His stats seem to indicate that he's right around league-average, so I think it's fair to use him as a measuring stick.

2010 (Werth): 652 PA, .296 BA, .388 OBP, .532 SLG, .352 BABIP, 27 HR, 106 R, 85 RBI
2011 (Francisco): 610 PA, .263 BA, .329 OBP, .446 SLG, .296 BABIP, 20 HR, 73 R, 70 RBI

So, given these estimates, there should be around 590 runs scored between the 8 position players expected to start.  If we assume that the total number of plate appearances for the whole team over the season is pretty much the same as last year (about 6300), the other 1400 plate appearances have to come from somewhere.  About 400 of them will come from pitchers, so their output will be pretty sad-looking.  My guess would be that many of the rest of them will come from Wilson Valdez (as Rollins and Utley are injury-prone lately), and it's not so far-fetched that the rest of those appearances will be about as good as if Valdez were the one making those appearances.  Although, I would imagine that the various other pinch-hitters and such would have a little more power than Valdez, so I'm going to give these appearances a little more pop.  So, if we assume that the remaining 1400 appearances look something like this:

400 PA, .125 BA, .150 OBP, .150 SLG, .200 BABIP, 0 HR, 25 R, 15 RBI
1000 PA, .240 BA, .289 OBP, .350 SLG, .280 BABIP, 18 HR, 100 R, 90 RBI

That means that we're looking at something along the lines of 715 runs this year, a 60-run loss from last year's squad.  Of course, this is based on there being essentially the same amount of plate appearances made by the starters as last year.  This is clearly a conservative estimate, as there were a lot of injuries last year.  I would think that the number of runs would be more like 740, which would have been middle-of-the road last year.

So, there really isn't much of a problem with this lineup, now is there?  Based on my estimates, the Phils are only likely to lose about a quarter of a run per game in offensive output.  How will the pitching fare? We'll check on that in Part 2 of Part III.

Man, this is a lot of work.

Friday, March 4, 2011

In case of apocalypse, click here.

So the NFL Player's Union and the owners have extended the deadline, but there remains a real concern that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) will expire and a new one will not be created for quite some time, possibly costing the fans and players some games in the 2011 season. 

Now, I really don't know much about these negotiations, and I don't really care to, and I also don't want to be one of those guys that rambles on about how it should be pretty easy to split a $9 billion pie such that both parties are happy.  I understand that there is a degree of negotiation required here, and I just hope that both parties realize that football is always better than no football for everyone involved, so some concessions will need to be made.

On ESPN this past week, they have been asking players and analysts what 5 things they would miss most if there were no football in 2011.  OK, I'm no expert, but I am a die-hard fan of the game and there are a lot of things that I would be devastated if they were to be out of my life.  However, I'm going to overachieve a bit and go for the 6 things that I would miss the most if there weren't a 2011 football season.

6. Making fun of ineptitude
Yes, Rex Grossman, that includes you.
And Derek Anderson too.
And, for old times' sake, I'll throw in a little Dan Orlovsky.
Oh, and who could forget this bad boy. (you can skip to the 0:50 mark)
No, I didn't forget about you, Eli, but I couldn't find a video of your god-awful attempt at a slide in our first matchup this year.

5. The plays that make your jaw drop
Like this.
And this.
And definitely this.
And, if you're into that sort of thing, this.

4. The stats and records
I've always been a big fan of important sports events happening in my lifetime so that I can bore my grandchildren to death with the stories about them.  Tom Brady's 300+ consecutive passes without an interception, Devin Hester returning the most kickoffs/punts for touchdowns in a career, Chris Johnson's 2000 yard season, Adrian Peterson setting the individual game rushing record, Antonio Cromartie returning a missed field goal 109 yards for a TD...  It's just awesome following all of these pursuits.  I feel some sort of pride in the fact that I was around for all of these great accomplishments (football-wise, at least).  And we didn't even get into Brett Favre.

3. Fantasy Football
I think that everyone reading this should be at least to some degree surprised that this one isn't first, given the fact that I wrote a blog post a week about one of my fantasy leagues, and if you spend any time around me during football season you know I eat, breathe, and sleep fantasy football when it's going on.  The draft strategies, the sleepers that pan out (Dwayne Bowe, Arian Foster, Mike Wallace), the midseason pickups that drive you to victory (Michael Vick, Brandon Lloyd), the weekly opportunity to get your competitive juices flowing...  Aside from March Madness, the fantasy football season is my favorite time of year sports-wise.  And without football, what the hell am I going to do all day every day during fall semester?

2. Watching the games, drinking a Bud
OK, so I won't really miss the latter part (although I am at least qualified to drink a Bud now), but just being able to sit around on a Sunday with my roommates or my family and watch the Eagles (or whoever's on CBS) play is a great experience.  Having played so much fantasy football and Madden over the years, my appreciation for the little things in the game has increased significantly, so I am so much more compelled by the game than I was as a child.  Throughout my college career I have set aside Sunday as a no-work, all-football day; now what?

1. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat
There's no feeling quite like the euphoria of your team winning a big divisional matchup and being able to watch the highlights on TV of the team you live vicariously through putting one in the win column.  On the flip side, there is no feeling quite like the devastation of your team dropping a ten-point lead and losing to a team that never should have had any business beating you, and then not being able to stomach the TV and radio personalities incessantly talking about football when you just want to hide from the shame.  I wouldn't trade that rollercoaster for anything (although I guess an entirely euphoric sensation would work fine).