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Mathematical Eliminatory 2017

Discussion in 'MLB Discussion' started by cannonball 1729, Sep 9, 2017.

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  1. cannonball 1729

    cannonball 1729 Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    Wait - is it really that time of year again? It looks like it's time to get this puppy cranked up. You all know the drill; one by one, we'll bid adieu to the each of the twenty teams who simply weren't playoff material, starting with the two that were mathematically eliminated last night:

    [​IMG]


    Expectations were low for the Phillies this year, and the Phillies certainly delivered. Unlike last year, where the Phillies miraculously played well for fifty games to start the season, the 2017 Phils only took about a month to show their true colors, as a 12-12 start quickly gave way to 5-23 stretch that dispelled any illusions of mediocrity, and by the time the All-Star Game rolled around, the Phillies were the only team in the majors who still hadn’t recorded 30 wins. In fact, the only thing standing between the Phillies and a historically awful year may have been the Braves; take out their 12-4 record against the Braves, and the Phillies would be sitting at 41-84.

    Of course, none of this was a surprise. Two years ago, after Ruben Amaro, Jr. became the first person ever to be demoted from GM to first base coach, new GM Matt Klentak sensibly decided that the Phillies’ way forward would be a complete tear-down, so he cleared out most of his veterans in trades and waited patiently while untradeables like Ryan Howard played out their contracts. Now, they have as close to a clean slate as one can have in baseball, with a paltry $5.8 million in contract obligations to their 2018 team and just one player (25 year-old Odubel Herrera) whose contract extends past December.

    As is the case for most rebuilding teams, the Phillies' major league club served two purposes this year; it was 1.) a kindergarten where young players could figure out how the major leagues work, and 2.) a holding pen for fringy, rebounding, or rehabbing major leaguers who might get hot and then flipped to a contender at the deadline. The Phillies had pretty decent success with the second one, as fliers on Joaquin Benoit, Howie Kendrick (.329 BA!), Jeremy Hellickson, and Pat Neshek netted the Phillies a bevy of prospects at the deadline. (Fliers on Daniel Nava and Clay Buchholz were less successful - especially the latter, who only pitched 7.1 innings this season.) For the first one...the youth movement wasn’t quite the unequivocal success of last year when the farm teams won at a nearly .600 clip, but that’s to be expected; after all, transitioning to the majors is hard (unless you’re Rhys Hoskins, apparently). The important thing for the Phillies is that a core is beginning to emerge, as Hoskins, Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, Aaron Altherr, and Nick Williams have all demonstrated that they can satisfactorily hit major league pitching. The pitching is still a fiasco, as most of the starting pitchers not named Aaron Nola aren’t yet any good, but most of them are also under the age of 26 and would still be in Triple A on most teams.

    One way or the other, the future is finally taking shape, and after years of watching Ruben Amaro drive the team into the ground, the denizens of Citizens’ Bank Park can start to dream about what the next good Philly team might look like. Of course, that team is still probably a few years off, and there are still a few remaining years of the kindergarten/holding pen Phillies between now and then, but hey - one doesn’t undo seven years of mismanagement overnight….

    Philly last made the playoffs in 2011. Their last world championship was in 2008.


    [​IMG]


    Ladies and gentlemen...your runaway winner for Most Disappointing Team of 2017!

    The defending wildcard-game winners were already off to a rocky 6-10 start when Madison Bumgarner decided to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Jeff Kent’s infamous motorcycle/”car washing” injury with a bike injury of his own. Sadly, Bumgarner wasn’t doing anything quite as exciting as Kent’s ill-fated wheelies when he lost control of his dirtbike; even more sadly, the initial prognosis of 6-8 weeks was far too optimistic, and Maddy ended up being shelved until the All-Star Break.

    Now, losing an ace for three months is certainly difficult for a team, and it obviously puts pressure on the rest of the staff to step up. Giants pitchers however, decided instead to play a game called, “Who can do the best impression of a #5 starter?”, a contest wherein Jeff Samardzija, Matt Moore, Johnny Cueto, and Matt Cain all put up ERA’s north of 4.30 (they were all over 4.50 until a recent "hot" streak) at a combined cost of $60 million for the season despite playing in a gigantic park where home runs are more of a theoretical concept than an actual thing that happens. Madison has been his usual self since his return, but even the Great Madison Bumgarner can only pitch once every five days (during the regular season, anyway), and there’s not a whole lot he can do when the other four starters (five if you include Bumgarner replacement Ty Blach and his 88 ERA+) are in the midst of an ongoing quest to put baseballs into McCovey Cove.

    The good news, if it can be called that, is that the pitching staff wasn’t really squandering the work of the lineup because the lineup wasn’t really doing any work. It’s probably not enough to say that the hitters have been bad; their 82 OPS+ is easily the worst in the NL. Other than Buster Posey (who is doing his usual superhuman Posey thing), Brandon Belt (who was doing his usual Three True Outcomes thing until his concussion), and perhaps Joe Panik and Denard Span, the lineup has been abysmal, led by the massively inconsistent Hunter Pence (month-by-month BA: .266/.190/.310/.186/.290/.167), Gorkys Hernandez (who hit .175/.261/.223 for April and May before finding his stroke in June), and Brandon Crawford (.225/.266/.369 pre-ASB, .287/.350/.463 after). So bad has been the Giants offense this year that the Giants even decided to give Kung Fu Panda another try; the results from Pablo can’t really be described as good (his 0-39 streak made national baseball news), but he’s at least managed to keep his belt from exploding, which is progress.

    Anyway, put bad starting pitching together with bad hitting, throw in some fielding woes (the Giants are 21st in baseball by UZR/150)....and you end up with a team that's 17.5 games out of the wildcard by the All-Star break and 30 games out of the NL West lead by July 24 (and 37.5 out of the division today). It's worth noting that the Giants have never finished more than 42 games behind the division or league leader; if the Giants have a rest-of-September that's more than five games worse than the Dodgers, they will break a franchise "games back" record that has stood since 1899.

    So what do you do if you’re a team with the third-oldest opening day roster, no starting pitchers behind Madison Bumgarner (and $150 million still owed to Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto), two hitters, and a bottom-ten farm? Well, step 1 is obviously to keep Maddy away from the dirt bikes. (That’s probably the easy part.) As far as step 2….that’s a good question. The Giants have enough money to paper over a whole lot of mistakes, and, as we’ve seen from the Angels this year, the gap between contender and disaster is a small one in baseball, especially when your team has a superstar or two. San Francisco’s best bet, though, is simply to wait until the calendar turns to 2018 - the Giants seem to have an awful lot more luck in even years…..

    The Giants last World Series victory was 2014.
     
    #1 cannonball 1729, Sep 9, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2017
  2. E5 Yaz

    E5 Yaz Transcends message boarding Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy
     
  3. LogansDad

    LogansDad Member SoSH Member

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    One of the Annual Best Threads on the Site TM. Thanks!
     
  4. santadevil

    santadevil Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    I love this thread each year. Thanks CB, your writing style always perks up my day
     
  5. uilnslcoap

    uilnslcoap Member SoSH Member

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    Thanks as always. Delighted annually.
     
  6. cromulence

    cromulence Member SoSH Member

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    These writeups are always really well-done. They read as if they were written by someone who's been following the team all season, which is pretty damn impressive considering you do it for twenty teams. Looking forward to more eliminations now.
     
  7. John Marzano Olympic Hero

    John Marzano Olympic Hero has fancy plans, and pants to match Dope

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    Man, this is great. Thanks!
     
  8. Al Zarilla

    Al Zarilla Member SoSH Member

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    Cannonball, thanks for the Phils and Giants summaries. I had no idea Madbum's wipeout was at the same time of year as Jeff Kent's. Kent was also a "can do no wrong guy" around here, like Madbum. I always liked Brandon Crawford and happy to see he's hitting better lately. Maybe some of the Olde Town Team guys can get it going better again too. Thanks for the yearly saga!
     
  9. jon abbey

    jon abbey Shanghai Warrior Dope SoSH Member

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    Wow, the Mets might be the 3rd team eliminated, how far the mighty have fallen.
     
  10. StupendousMan

    StupendousMan Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    Thanks, CB! These mini-histories of each team's season are a wonderful way for a casual fan like me to catch up on what happened.
     
  11. cannonball 1729

    cannonball 1729 Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    Thanks all for the kind words! It's always fun to see the community of elimination watchers come out for this thread.

    Anyway, Colorado's hot streak claimed another victim last night (and sadly for Mr. Abbey, it wasn't the Mets)....


    [​IMG]

    One of the open secrets about the Reds is that their method of team construction is basically Rockies-lite. Whether it’s because of the park or simply happenstance, the 21st century Reds have never had shutdown pitching; instead, their goal has always been for the pitchers to fend off opposing hitters just long enough for the Reds’ lineup to bludgeon the opposition into submission. During their run of success in the early 2010’s, this method basically worked (apart from that time they were no-hit in a playoff game), as their middling pitching staff would hold the line while Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Shin-Soo Choo and others unsheathed their bats and got to work.

    Unfortunately, thanks to the teardown/rebuild, both the hitting and the pitching have slipped a little bit. Now, for the hitting, that isn't so bad, as the lineup this year is still pretty formidable; Joey Votto is still one of the best hitters in baseball, Zack Cozart and Eugenio Suarez broke out this year in a huge way, and scrap heap pickup Scooter Gennett finally remembered how to hit a changeup. Reds hitters may not be tearing up the world in contact hitting, but when they do hit the ball, it goes awfully far - their home runs and isolated power have spiked from bottom ten last year to top ten this year. They’re getting better-than-average production from most of their positions, which obviously translates to a better-than-average lineup.

    But then….there’s the pitching. Good lord. It’s one thing to say that the Reds lead the NL in runs allowed by almost 50, or that they’ve given up almost 30 more homers than anyone else in the senior circuit, or that they have ten more walks than the second-place Marlins, or that their 84 ERA+ is worst in the league, or that the staff is putting up a collective 5.28 ERA in a non-steroid era, but….I’m not sure that all of this fully encapsulates just how harrowing it has been to watch Reds’ pitching over certain stretches this year. In June, the starters allowed a .954 OPS to opposing teams - as Joe Posnanski recently noted, Jeff Bagwell only OPS’ed .948 over his career, so every opposing hitter in June was basically a Hall of Famer. The rotation is a mess; of the seven starters who started ten or more games, three (Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, and Amir Garrett) have ERA’s over 7, and the only person to spend the entire year healthy and in the rotation (Tim Aldeman) has posted a 5.41 ERA. The bullpen has been marginally better (i.e. there’s a good closer and a couple of decent though fungible arms), but they’ve also been prone to stretches of absolute awful; in the month of September, for instance, they’re allowing the opposition to OPS at a .924 rate, basically turning every opposing hitter into David Ortiz (.931). Reds pitchers have given up 6 or more runs in nearly half (72) of their games, and they’ve given up 10 or more runs 22 times this season, including one six game stretch just after the All-Star break where they hit double digits four times. Whatever synonyms you want to come up with for terrible...they all apply to the Reds hurlers.

    Anyway, the Reds are yet another rebuilding team with all of the hallmarks that we've come to expect: lots of young players, a disinterested fanbase (14th in the NL in attendance), the crusty, profane manager (Bryan Price, the man who once launched into a media tirade that contained no fewer than 77 f-bombs), the real-life Willie Mays Hays (Billy Hamilton), the Wild Thing reliever (Michael Lorenzen, he of the 100 mph fastball and 11 wild pitches), and, of course, the guy who uses a religious ritual to help him hit a curveball (Scooter Gennett, who draws a Jesus fish in the dirt before every at-bat.). If you feel like you’ve seen this movie with an Ohio team before, well, it’s not going to end in a pennant this time. (At least not for another few years.) But in the meantime, the Reds at least have a new TV deal in place, a top ten farm, some offense, Joey Votto, and one guy who’s really, really fast.

    The Reds last made the playoffs in 2013, when they lost the wilcard game to the Pirates. Their last World Series title was in 1990.
     
    #11 cannonball 1729, Sep 13, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
  12. jon abbey

    jon abbey Shanghai Warrior Dope SoSH Member

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    Actually the Reds are still alive for the NL Central, and evidently they are using your post as a rallying cry. :)
     
  13. jon abbey

    jon abbey Shanghai Warrior Dope SoSH Member

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    Oh, maybe they're not depending on how many games are left between CHC/STL/MIL, but from a pure add their losses to the division leader's wins standpoint, they're still at 161.
     
  14. jon abbey

    jon abbey Shanghai Warrior Dope SoSH Member

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    Ah yeah, those three teams still have 14 games left between them, so indeed they are eliminated and I am wrong.
     
  15. cannonball 1729

    cannonball 1729 Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    Sorry, man - the dream is gone. Let it go..... :)
     
  16. Lose Remerswaal

    Lose Remerswaal Leaves after the 8th inning Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    I'm glad you concentrated on the Reds pitching. Back a few years ago when we had a SoSH bash in Cincy, I was asking locals who the best Reds pitcher of all time was. If I asked 10 people I think I got 10 answers and none of them were without a few "hmmm"s
     
  17. Kliq

    Kliq Member SoSH Member

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    A couple of years ago didn't you do a day by day vote for the best hitter/pitcher for each team? IIRC Eppa Rixey was the Cincinnati choice (I believe I voted for the immortal Will White). Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, for teams that date back to Reconstruction, have a pretty lousy history of pitching.
     
  18. Lose Remerswaal

    Lose Remerswaal Leaves after the 8th inning Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    I believe I did do that. And I didn't keep records of the winners so I'll take your word on Eppa Rixey. That series was inspired by my visit to Cincy.
     
  19. cannonball 1729

    cannonball 1729 Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    Oh wow - I hadn't really thought how far back the pitching woes went. I limited my statement to "21st century" in the writeup because the 1990 team had the Nasty Boys bullpen and Jose Rijo, but that year was kind of an anomaly, wasn't it? Even the '75-76 teams only had decent pitching.
     
  20. Lose Remerswaal

    Lose Remerswaal Leaves after the 8th inning Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    Rijo was definitely considered as one of the greatest Reds' pitchers of all time. Jose Rijo.
     
  21. InstaFace

    InstaFace MDLzera

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    Given the fraction of this site who watched, masochistically, throughout the 1997 Red Sox season, led by ace Aaron Sele (5.17 FIP) and closer Heathcliff Slocumb... oh, we know.
     
  22. mt8thsw9th

    mt8thsw9th anti-SoSHal SoSH Member

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    Is that a bad thing? Prior to his injury that cut him down in his prime, he was a top 5 pitcher in the NL. His 1990-1994 ERA+ (149) was 2 points off Greg Maddux' mark over the same stretch.
     
  23. grantb

    grantb Couldn't get into a real school Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    This is all very true, but ignores the stint Luis Castillo had in the majors before being shut down due to innings limits. In his 15 major league starts, he averaged just under 6 innings/start with a 3.12 ERA, 1.075 WHIP, 9.8 k/9 and 3.06 K:BB. Sure he gave up a fair number of HR, but he also was promoted straight from AA and never looked back. His stuff is nasty and I wouldn't sleep on him being an impact pitcher next year/going forward.
    Here's him facing Trea Turner earlier this year:
     
  24. cannonball 1729

    cannonball 1729 Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    Next team down:

    [​IMG]
    For the last decade, the White Sox have been the Charlie Brown of the major leagues. Apart from the occasional home run acquisition, nearly everything they’ve done has backfired spectacularly, and every time it looks like they’ve done something good, Lucy pulls away the football (er, baseball). Open up the checkbook to sign Adam Dunn to a big contract? He’ll go and have the worst season by a position player in 50 years. Trade for James Shields? Watch him allow 21 runs in his first three starts. Hire a young promising international scouting director (David Wilder) right when all of the teams are exploiting the international scouting pipeline? Don’t worry - that scouting director will set up a system to skim bonuses in order to fund his nightclub in Arizona. High draft picks? Go ahead and plan your future around Gordon Beckham - if that doesn’t work, you could also grab Courtney Hawkins for the outfield. (I hear he can do a backflip!)

    Such has been the plight of the White Sox. Ever since the White Sox were bounced by the Rays in the 2008 ALDS, they’ve been largely lost at sea, making a bunch of lateral moves or downgrades with the occasional stunner thrown in. In 2010, they swapped out a manager with a talent for saying stupid stuff and getting runners thrown out on bases (Ozzie Guillen) and replaced him with one (Robin Ventura) who didn’t really have any appreciable skills other than perhaps an uncanny ability to preside over veteran players having historically awful years. They watched the core of the 2005 team get old, and tried to supplement them with free agent disasters like Jeff Keppinger and Moneyball star Mark Teahan, as well as trade disasters like Mr. Shields. They whiffed on nearly every position player draft pick - as Baseball Prospectus gleefully loves to point out, the last 10 WAR position player the White Sox drafted was Aaron Rowand, who retired six years ago. And somewhere in there, they signed Jose Abreu to a bargain contract and drafted Chris Sale. It’s been a strange decade.

    Anyway, the good news is that after years of indecision about whether they’re buyers or sellers, this year’s White Sox finally threw in the towel and commenced with the rebuild in earnest. Gone was ace Chris Sale, flipped to the Red Sox for a quartet of prospects. Gone, too, was Adam Eaton, sent to Washington for three youngsters. The old farm director was replaced by Royals’ player development assistant Chris Getz. Robin Ventura was fired at the end of the 2016 season, with former Cubs’ skipper Rick Renteria taking his place. At the deadline this year, the White Sox dealt half of the team, parting ways with Jose Quintana, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings, and Melky Cabrera; in their places, the Sox acquired eleven youngsters and (for some reason) Tyler Clippard. In August, they added Miguel Gonzalez to the outgoing mail, and, as inexplicably as he arrived, Clippard was traded for a PTBNL or cash.

    So what does your team look like after you’ve traded away nearly everyone over the age of 30 except for Jose Abreu and James Shields? Well, you can probably guess. The hitting was third from the bottom in runs scored, a product of just below average hitting (97 OPS+) and bad situational hitting (.238 close and late, .243 with two out and RISP). The lineup does have some pop in the middle; Jose Abreu kept doing his Jose Abreu thing, while Avisail Garcia shortened his swing so that he could catch up to fastballs and, as a result, finally had that breakout that everyone was waiting for. As for the rest of the lineup...well, the only position players past the age of 27 are Abreu and backup catcher Kevan Smith (who is 29), so their struggles aren't really a surprise.

    As bad as the lineup was, though….the pitching was so much worse. Much like the Reds team that many of you read about yesterday, the White Sox led the AL in both HR allowed and walks allowed, showing a rare combination of both wildness and hittability. The starters had a special penchant for putting the Pale Hose behind early; starters on the White Sox combined for a 33-68 record, and the Sox trailed after five innings (78 times) far more often than they led (50 times). This is not to let the bullpen off the hook of course, because the bullpen was also bad, but the bullpen was entrusted with fewer save opportunities than any other team in the majors, and while the ‘pen’s save percentage was fourth-worst in the AL, White Sox relievers inherited more runners from starters than any other relief corps in the AL.

    As is the case with every rebuilding team, there are still quite a few questions to answer. The pitching obviously needs work (and Carlos Rodon needs to stay healthy), and the lineup needs a couple more years of experience, but there are probably a whole lot of answers sitting in their top-3 farm system. GM Rick Hahn has had a few missteps in the first four years of his tenure, but his last year’s worth of moves (post-August 2016) have been pretty sensible, and he’s put the team in good position to come out of the rebuild with a contender. Of course, getting prospects is only the first part of building a contending team, and it will be interesting to see if Mr. Hahn has learned from his veteran acquisition mistakes when the White Sox reach the “supplement the core with veterans” part of the process. Maybe he can keep a picture of James Shields around the office to guard against complacency....

    The White Sox last won a World Series in 2005.
     
  25. Ford Frick's Asterisk

    Ford Frick's Asterisk Member SoSH Member

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    My favorite part of the White Sox season came a couple weeks ago, when Avisail Garcia tried to get Trevor Bauer to throw him fastballs by yelling at him and apparently questioning his manhood... I guess Garcia gets his rules from the same unwritten book that C.C. Sabathia does. Bauer struck him out on three breaking balls and barked back to Garcia that he could go sit down now.

    If the White Sox show an ability to polish off their prospects, and the Twins manage to find some starting pitching to add to Jose Berrios, the AL Central might be interesting again by 2020.

    *
     
  26. cannonball 1729

    cannonball 1729 Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    Ok...*now* we get to the long awaited....

    [​IMG]


    Mets fans may not have been given a good team to root for, but at least they were given an interesting riddle to ponder: If Mr. Met has four fingers, which one is the middle one?

    As much as sportswriters like to flog the joke about how Mr. Met’s ill-considered gesture might be emblematic of the Mets lost season, the better emblem for the season might be a one coming up (repeatedly) on a six-sided die. (Of course, the number one is indicated by a single finger, so perhaps Mr. Met was prophetic after all.) The Mets, as currently constructed, are forced to play a game of injury roulette every year; much like the Rockies of Tulo/CarGo vintage, the Mets’ franchise is built around a couple of extremely talented but extremely injury prone players. Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Jacob deGrom are the kind of rotation that every team dreams of having - young, cost-controlled, and capable of dominating both a season and a short series. Unfortunately, the Mets can only dream about such a rotation as well, because in real life, their rotation was derailed by injury, failed rehabs, and more injury. Syndergaard tore a lat just days after refusing an MRI and insisting he was fine. Harvey still hasn’t fully come back from Tommy John surgery - this year, he was just a tick under replacement level, meaning that he was more valuable to the team while on the DL than he was on the mound. Matz has been plagued by injuries throughout his professional career. Only deGrom, who hasn’t exactly been the paragon of perfect health in his career, was able to stay on the field and take the ball every fifth day.

    Of course, there were other gambles that failed, too. The Mets gambled that Daniel Murphy wasn’t a middle of the order hitter and let him walk in free agency. They gambled in honoring Thor’s refusal to undergo an MRI. They gambled that they had enough pitching depth, shipping insurance policies Gabriel Ynoa and Logan Verrett to Baltimore in the offseason. They gambled that Asdrubal Cabrera’s already suspect fielding wouldn’t decay even further as he passed 30, that Jose Reyes’ dead-cat bounce last year was a real improvement, that David Wright might be able to stay healthy this year, that Matt Harvey wouldn’t bring sex toys into the locker room, and that ballboys would learn how to get out of the way of a flyball. Some of these gambles were ill-conceived, some of them were sensible, some of them made the team more interesting to follow, and some of them made the team harder to root for (who wants to root for a domestic abuser like Jose Reyes?)...but every single one of them turned up snake-eyes.

    The result of all these failed gambles was a spectacular collapse, as last year’s wildcard-game runner-up and 2015’s World Series 2nd-place finisher was pushed out of the playoff picture by Memorial Day, the team’s aspirations falling victim to losing streaks of six and seven games before the end of May. The DL this season read like a novella, as time lost by Syndergaard, Matz, Harvey, Wright, Wilmer Flores, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Zack Wheeler, Travis d’Arnaud, Neil Walker, Lucas Duda, Seth Lugo, Josh Smoker, Jeurys Familia, Brandon Nimmo, Asdrubal Cabrera and several others made it difficult to tell whether the team at Citi Field was supposed to be the Mets or the Las Vegas 51s. Worse, nearly every prognosis by the Mets medical staff turned out to be overly optimistic by a factor of two, to the point where translating from Mets’ Medical Time to Actual Time became a running joke among Mets fans. Thanks to the loss of Ynoa and Verrett, the Mets were forced to roll out anyone who had an arm attached for pitching duty, scouring the system and the league for AAAA players like Rafael Montero (5.05 ERA in 15 starts), not-ready pitchers like Chris Flexen (7.68 in 8 starts), and ghosts of playoffs past like Tommy Milone (8.42 in 5 starts and 3 relief appearances). By midseason, they had thrown in the towel and traded most of their veterans for prospects, and by mid-August, they had pushed past Atlanta and begun to make a run at Philly’s place in the cellar.

    The bad news is that the Mets, as a franchise, are kind of stuck. They have an extremely talented roster that absolutely can’t stay healthy, headlined by one of the most intimidating pitching staffs in the game. If the pitchers can do what everyone expects that they can do, the Mets have enough money that they can fill the rest of the roster with decent players, especially since they’ve offloaded so many veteran contracts this season. If not, well, there’s not a whole lot the Mets can do. The fate of the 2018 Mets may well be out of the hands of the front office; next year’s success or failure may just come down to whether the Injury Gods choose to smile upon the Mets….or give them the finger.

    The Mets last won a World Series in 1986.



    [​IMG]

    The Tigers are a mess - and an interesting perspective on what the future might hold for the Red Sox.

    You might remember that Dave Dombrowski took over right at the bottom of the Tigers’ last down-cycle - in fact, the 2003 Tigers (his second year at the helm) were the losingest team in American League history. Somehow, though, Dave built that team into a pennant winner in just three short years. What’s interesting is that, unlike other MLB rebuilds we’ve seen recently, Dombrowski didn’t rebuild through the farm; very few of the key players on the 2006 World Series team were young (basically Verlander, Granderson, and Joel Zumaya...and Jeremy Bonderman if we’re using a generous definition of “key player”). Instead, most of the roster was made up of free agent signings and trade targets like Kenny Rogers, Magglio Ordonez, Pudge Rodriguez, and Carlos Guillen.

    This team-building model was emblematic of what the Dombrowski era would look like in Tigertown - great veteran acquisitions, no farm. Dombrowski was decent at finding free agents to sign, but he absolutely excelled at finding other teams’ players to target. In fact, much of the Tigers’ success was based on this later attribute; players that came to Detroit at the behest of other GM’s during the Dombrowski era included Max Scherzer, David Price, Dmitri Young, Jhonny Peralta, Doug Fister, and, of course, Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers rode these acquisitions to an AL Central dynasty, reeling off four consecutive division titles from 2011-2014 and a forgettable World Series appearance in 2012.

    The undoing of the DD era, and the problem with the current iteration of the team, was/is the abysmal farm system. As of now, the Tigers haven’t drafted a 10 WAR player since 2008 (although the immortal Drew Smyly might finally break that mark next year!), and Detroit's farm has been consistently ranked in the mid- to high-20’s for over a decade. Worse, Dombrowski hollowed out the system in an attempt to get one more pennant before the core got too old, strip-mining what little of a farm they had left for a 2015 rotation that never really materialized. With no remaining farm, Dombrowski was left shuffling veterans for other veterans, which is a far more risky proposition; when the tactic failed, Dombrowski was out of a job.

    The problem now is that GM Alex Avila appears to have all of Dombrowski’s weaknesses but can’t match his strengths. Clearly, he still hasn’t fixed the farm system, as the Tigers’ farmhands still rank in the bottom five. However, Avila has whiffed on most of his free agent signings, giving $110 million to Jordan Zimmerman (5.64 ERA over two seasons), $16 million to Mike Pelfrey (5.07 ERA last year, DFA in March), and $11 million to Mark Lowe (7.11 ERA, DFA in March). Another signing, Justin Upton ($132 million), had a bounce-back, All-Star season this year after last year’s disappointment; of course, his lack of performance last year is one of the reasons the Tigers missed the playoffs. Moreover, Avila’s trades haven’t yet been anything to write home about; Avila traded for K-Rod and his $13 million, 2-year contract last year, then DFA’d him in July, and this offseason, Avila dealt starting center fielder Cameron Maybin (whom he acquired the year before in a surprisingly successful trade) for a Double-A prospect who has a live fastball but no command or secondary pitches.

    Incidentally, if you happen to notice a seeming lack of big signings and big trades in the last paragraph...that brings us to Avila’s other failing: his penchant for inaction. Last offseason, after announcing that nearly every player on the roster was on the table, the Tigers largely stood pat; the biggest move they made (besides DFAing Pelfrey and Lowe) was trading Maybin and not replacing him with a center fielder. Now, if you’re wondering why an old team that has no farm system and missed the playoffs last year would stand pat, well, you’ve got a whole lot of company over at Blessyouboys.com. Rather than sell off or make a run for a title, Avila simply held a number of players past their expiration dates for no apparent gain, including Ian Kinsler (OPS dropped over 100 points this year), Victor Martinez (OPS dropped over 120 points this year), and Miguel Cabrera (OPS dropped 220 points this year). A season of losing seems to have finally spurred Avila into action, as he sold JD Martinez, Justin Wilson, Upton, Justin Verlander, and his own son at the various trade deadlines. However, 18 months of trade inaction have taken their toll, as several veterans are now largely untradeble, and one wonders what kind of a package the Tigers could have gotten if they'd traded Verlander in December, when he almost won the Cy Young, instead of in August, when he was just another decent pitcher with a big name and an ERA just south of 4.

    The good news is that a rebuild can be done quickly if the team has resources and can spend them smartly on free agents and veteran pickups - for proof, look no further than the Tigers of last decade. The bad news is that a.) a quick turnaround like that is really hard to do, b.) the Tigers’ exec who is most capable of doing it doesn’t work there anymore, and c.) the current inhabitant of the GM position hasn’t yet shown any identifiable general managerial skills. So….good luck, Detroit!

    Detroit last made the playoffs in 2014. Their last World Series championship was in 1984.
     
    #26 cannonball 1729, Sep 15, 2017 at 7:13 PM
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017 at 1:55 AM
  27. cannonball 1729

    cannonball 1729 Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

    Messages:
    2,314
    The AL Central is so bizarre - just when one team looks ascendant, the dominant team collapses. The Tigers got good just when the Twins started losing 90+ games, then the Royals got good when the Tigers were falling apart, then the Indians got good when the Royals fell into mediocrity.
     
  28. cannonball 1729

    cannonball 1729 Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

    Messages:
    2,314
    Yesterday we added:

    [​IMG]

    For most of the 2000’s, the Padres were one of the most nondescript franchises in sports. Their mascot was (and is) a person in a person costume, their star player was a closer with a sub-90’s fastball, their two managers were competent but seemingly interchangeable former players with BB initials, and their team president was fired so often that it may as well have been a rotating position. The Padres were, if you will, the McDonalds of the major leagues - thoroughly mediocre, not known to do anything particularly well….and yet sometimes, when things got late and the other teams had closed up shop, they were the only ones left. (The Padres still hold the record for worst playoff team ever - the 2005 NL West “winners” went 82-80.)

    Then Josh Byrnes was fired, and things changed abruptly. New general manager AJ Preller decided to uproot the entire team, trading away much of the farm for proven veterans in a failed attempt to become contenders, then trading away the proven veterans to try to restock the now-depleted farm. He fired Bud Black or Bruce Bochy or Bob Brenly or whoever it was that was managing the team in 2015, frustrated at Bud or Bruce’s inability to get Preller’s misfits to play together. (Of course, whoever he fired is currently managing the Rockies to their best season in a decade.) Preller began to get more and more creative in his trades, even going so far as to compose fictitious medical reports and send them to trading partners to help consummate deals. (Incidentally, it turns out that those trade partners were not fans of Preller’s fiction work. Nor was the MLB office, who gave Preller a sabbatical so he could learn to write non-fiction instead.)

    This offseason, the Padres excitement continued, as team president Mike Dee was fired for reasons that nobody surrounding the team was willing to divulge. Dee’s accomplishments included renaming the Padres’ Hall of Fame Plaza in honor of Padres’ legend Bud Selig, drafting Johnny Manziel in the 28th round of the 2014 draft, firing beloved PA announcer Frank Anthony and publicly searching for his replacement, and overseeing a series of PR disasters ranging from a badly run Filipino Heritage Night to an embarrassing national anthem snafu with the San Diego Gay Men’s Choir to an erosion of season ticket holder benefits that somehow resulted in a drop in season ticket holders during the 2016 season despite the fact that the Padres hosted the All-Star game that year. (That’s all in addition to the fact that he hired a guy who falsified medical reports.) In typical New Exciting Padres fashion, Dee departed the team, then took a position as the new CEO of Entercom - Entercom, of course, is the company that owns the Padres’ flagship radio station.

    Anyway, if that front office excitement hasn’t yet translated into on-field excitement, well, it’s probably because the on-field team still isn’t any good. After the self-inflicted disaster of the 2015 season, the teardown of the MLB squad was neither unexpected nor unwelcome. Thanks to the trades in said teardown, the farm system appears to be pretty well-stocked, but other than recent farm graduates Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe, most of the youth is of the “low minors, high ceiling” type; of top ten prospects in the system, none were in AAA at the time of the draft and only Luis Urias had reached AA. The pitching crop is believed to be particularly strong (which is good, because the pitching at the major league level is awful), but it hasn’t developed yet, and since Urias isn’t a pitcher....the pitching cavalry is probably a *long* way off.

    Whatever the reason, this year’s season was another awful one at Petco Park. After the excitement of the offseason turnover, the Padres decided to get fans pumped up for the season by unveiling a new jersey that was clearly designed by a ninety year-old who had just figured out how to use MS Paint. Clad in these new jerseys that correctly identified the team with as little color as possible, the young, bad Padres took the field for an opener that saw them lose 14-3, setting the tone for the rest of the season. The Padres have by far the worst run differential in the NL this year, probably because they’re an NL-worst 8-30 in blowouts. The lineup has two players who cracked league average in OPS+, and the rotation has one player who beat league average for OPS+ (two if you include the departed Trevor Cahill). The Padres underperformances ran all around the diamond, from closer Brandon Maurer and his 6 ERA (before the Pads dumped him on Kansas City) to last year's feel-good story Ryan Schempf (who was sent down this year after 53 games of .158 BA) to last year's feel-good pitching story Clayton Richard (now the league leader in losses). The Padres have had not one but two “message” demotions (i.e. demotions to Triple-A to “send a message” to the player) this season, as third baseman Cory Spangenberg was optioned down to the minors after spring training, while Hunter Renfroe was demoted in August after drawing just nine walks in over two months. (Of course, in Spangenberg’s case, the message may have been, “We want your free agency to be delayed by a year.”)

    Fortunately for San Diego, the Padres have been blocked from the cellar by the atrocious Giants, and they’re likely to finish with their usual low-70’s win total that they’ve been putting up every year this decade. However, the Padres are still not any good, and they probably won’t be for a couple more years. In the meantime, they'll have to hope that they can keep the fans engaged with further episodes of Days of Our Lives: San Diego Edition.

    The Pads last made the playoffs in 2006, though they lost a one-game playoff in 2007. They have never won a World Series.
     
  29. cannonball 1729

    cannonball 1729 Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

    Messages:
    2,314
    Finally getting caught up from the weekend:

    [​IMG]

    What a difference a month makes. On August 11, the Pirates were just three games out of the division lead, the scrappy, low budget NL Central team fighting to upend the higher-budget Cardinals and Cubs. (Well, one of the two such NL Central teams, anyway.) Granted, they were only 58-58 at the time, but in the early-August fog of the mediocre NL Central, any signs of life were enough to be taken seriously.

    The next day, the Pirates began a six-game losing streak during which the pitching staff give up 46 runs to the opposition. Over the next month, the Pirates would also suffer a four-game losing streak and a five-game losing streak, and they’re currently on yet another five-game losing streak. All told, since their August 11 glimpse at mediocrity, the Pirates have gone 10-23; in that time, the Cubs have gone 23-12 and the Brewers have gone 21-12. In a matter of five short weeks, the Pirates went from 3 games out to 14.5, and now the Pirates are just a game and a half away from the bottom of the NL Central.

    If nothing else, at least the Pirates have provided their fans with a bevy of weird stories this season. The Pirates began the year by losing third baseman Jung Ho Kang to US Immigration; after Kang received a two-year deferred sentence for fleeing the scene of a DUI in South Korea, he and the Pirates discovered that the commission and admission of a crime is frowned upon by those in charge of processing US work visas, and the Pirates now don’t expect to see Kang until at least 2019. In April, star outfielder Starling Marte was lost for 80 games after he tested positive for a drug (nandrolone) that nobody ever uses because it’s easily detectable and stays in the body for a long time. In August, the Pirates tried to trade reliever Juan Nicasio at the waiver deadline, only to be blocked by an unnamed “direct NL competitor”; frustrated, they simply waived Nicasio instead, at which point he was picked up by the Phillies….and then traded to the Cardinals. It seemed only fitting that in this season of creative disappointment, one of the few memorable moments was an August 23rd walk-off, tenth-inning home run by Josh Harrington against the Dodgers….in a game where the Dodgers’ starter was perfect through nine.

    Regardless, the Pirates are a relatively young (and improving) team that nevertheless continues to hang around contention. Most of the starting pitchers are under 27, and promising young players like Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, and Tyler Glasnow are graduating to the majors and starting to make their presence felt. The stars on the Pirates are few and far between; other than Andrew McCutchen, there are no position players with an OPS+ over 110, and there are no starting pitchers with an ERA+ over that same number, either. The surprising part, then, isn’t that the Pirates had a disappointing season...it’s that they were playoff contenders in the first place, especially when their major veteran acquisitions over the last couple of years have been scrap-heap finds like Francisco Cervelli, Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, and Mark “The Shark” Melancon. GM Neal Huntington has been phenomenal at building a team with veteran castoffs from other organizations, but even he can’t pull a diamond from the dumpster every year. Hopefully, with the rising young talent in Pittsburgh, he may no longer have to.

    Pittsburgh last made the playoffs in 2015. Their last World Series title was in 1979.




    [​IMG]

    The plan was to have the Braves be contenders right around the time their new stadium opened in 2017. After Frank Wren was fired in 2014 following yet another okay-but-not-good-enough season, new GM John Hart (but really his understudy and GM-in-waiting John Coppolella) began a complete tear-down of the team. Once the Braves traded away everyone not named Freddie Freeman, the Braves began to combine an aggressive building of the farm with an unusual (for a rebuilding team) willingness to take on veterans like Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis. The Braves’ goal was clearly to short-circuit the rebuilding process, shortening the wait for a contender from an Oakland-like five to seven years to a more fan-friendly two or three.

    This year, Suntrust Park opened its doors to the fans of Cobb County, along with a fancy shopping district and a wholly inadequate amount of parking. As was the plan, the Braves began to put their low-budget contenders together; they spent the offseason bringing in veterans who might make the team vaguely credible, perhaps even improving the team to the point where the words “Braves” and “playoffs” might occur in the same sentence without giggling. The pitching staff would now be anchored by a pair of quadragenarian free agent signings in Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey, and the Braves traded three players to pull Jaime Garcia from the Cardinals. Atlanta signed Sean Rodriguez to a two-year deal; then, after Rodriguez was injured in a car accident, the Braves traded for Brandon Phillips. The Braves hoped that those acquisitions, along with improvement from the youngsters and a typical Freddie Freeman season from their first baseman, might vault them somewhere into the bottom of the playoff picture for the first time in a few years.

    If that strategy didn’t succeed in bringing a contender to Atlanta, well, it didn’t really cost them anything, either. Most of those acquisitions were of the free agent variety, and those who weren’t (Phillips, Garcia) ended up being flipped for prospects, anyway. The Braves, having completed the “acquire youth” portion of their rebuild, are now in the “hopefully feisty, but not yet committed to anything” portion, where the team begins to bring in veterans - but only of the place-holding variety. Once the team starts bringing in high-priced free agents and trading for frontline starters, baseball pundits will begin to judge the team with a more critical eye; until then, they will simply point to the top-three farm system and acknowledge that a rebuild takes time.

    Unfortunately, not everyone seems to agree with this “no harm, no foul” view of the 2017 season. In August, reports emerged of a power struggle between John Hart/John Coppolella and John Schuerholz; of course, all parties denied it, but the hiring of two new executives (Mets’ exec Adam Fisher and Blue Jays exec Perry Minasian) last week certainly raised a few eyebrows. Rumors this week have even indicated that manager Brian Snitker might soon be cast aside in favor of Bo Porter or Ron Washington and that the team is currently “assessing their managerial situation.” While there was no harm in this year’s failure, apparently it didn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence, either.

    One way or the other, the future is still bright in Cobb County. It still remains to be seen whether the Braves can stop whiffing on veteran acquisitions, and it remains to be seen who will run the team, but the talent in the system means that whoever is in charge next year will have a whole lot of trade currency to play with. Of course, Atlanta fans can be forgiven if they’re still apprehensive - there’s a long way between promising and good, and besides, Atlanta fans are probably still a little shell-shocked from that football thing that happened back in February…..

    Atlanta last made the playoffs in 2013. Their most recent championship was in 1995.
     
    #29 cannonball 1729, Sep 19, 2017 at 5:21 AM
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017 at 5:52 AM

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