Will Leitch at Sports On Earth has written an article on “The Most Tortured Fans in Baseball.” He erroneously selected the Cubs fans as winners (losers?), just because they haven’t been to a World Series since 1908. Well hell at least they have been to one, and they’ve even won two. Boo hoo you snivelling crybabies. Man Up! As for the second-ranked Cleveland Indians, just being in Cleveland does justify some sympathy, but even they aren’t in the same game with the Mariners just because they haven’t been to the World Series since 1948. There are players from that team that are still alive! We don’t even know if any of the Mariners first World Series team members have even been born yet! Here’s what he has to say about fans who can’t even do better than third place in losing.
“3. Seattle Mariners. Last title: None. World Series: None.
The Seattle Mariners have never made the World Series. Other than them, only the Washington Nationals can say that, and they’ve been around for less than a decade. (We’re severing the Expos connection for the sake of clarity and continuity.) This is sort of unbelievable: the showcase event of the whole sport, and the Mariners have never been there in any of their 36 years. It’s not like they haven’t had some great teams, particularly the 2001 team that won 116 games. (The year after A-Rod left.) That six-year stretch of Mariners greatness — in front of rabid, packed crowds — ended up with three fruitless trips to the ALCS, despite Hall of Famers pretty much everywhere you looked. For my money, the Mariners are the great, under appreciated, tortured fanbase in sports.* And that World Series rarely has looked further away than it does now.”
* Right, then why do you rank us just #3? Now I finally know where that old saw “You can’t win for losing” comes from.
You can read this whole farce here.
AL West Commentary
The Angels need some of their namesakes to watch over Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. The sad truth is that the Angels absolutely need their two highly compensated stars to start giving a return on their investment. There’s almost no hope at this point that either one will actually be worth all of the money they’re receiving, but this isn’t another Wells situation, at least not yet. Hamilton was, of course, a mess in his first season in California, but still managed roughly league-average production with 21 homers and 1.9 WAR.
Pujols is more of a concern, because while he had a .329 wOBA in a league that averaged .318, if you compare him only to designated hitters, he’s below average (.335). This is quickly looking like one of history’s all-time worst contracts, but the hope is that after eight full months of rest his troublesome left foot will allow him to at least be a mild asset in 2014.
The Angels won 78 games despite the fact Hamilton struggled and Pujols and Weaver missed much of the year. With healthy seasons from all three and the continued excellence of Trout, that’s the core of a winning team. With a few shrewd moves, they can compete with the A’s and Rangers. —Based on an article by Mike Petriello of ESPN [Insider needed and recommended]
Mariner’s potential off-season targets
Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports only ranks Ellsbury as the 5th best free agent, saying: “Jacoby Ellsbury, CF: In 2011, Ellsbury hit 32 home runs in 660 at-bats. Over his other 2,252 at-bats, he has 33 homers. Ellsbury is going to get his $100 million-plus from someone, no question, and he’s going to play a solid center field and steal a lot of bases at a remarkably efficient clip. But outside of that 2011 season, he has one full year with an OPS+ over 100 (this season, at 114, which was 64th among the 140 who qualified for the batting title) and a skill set that, should it follow his predecessors-in-speed, will slope downward starting, oh, about now, at 30 years old. Maybe Ellsbury is the exception or maybe 2011 wasn’t an outlier. If not, this has disaster written all over it.” —Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports
Scott Feldman (RHP Orioles – Age 31): Feldman took a one-year, $6 million deal from the Cubs last winter coming off a season in which he went 6-11 with a 5.09 ERA for Texas. He has a much better ERA this time around, though his peripherals are about the same, and he should get a raise and a multi-year deal as a result. 2013 stats: 12-12, 3.86 ERA, 132K/56BB in 181 2/3 IP. —By Matthew Pouliot at Hardball Talk
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports thinks this year’s free agent crop is not as bad as some suppose, and the lucky players will make millions. How many millions is the question? He set off to determine that with the help of an agent and a GM that were not involved with any of the players. Robinson Cano is obviously the top specimen available, but the numbers 2, 3 and 4 players are of potential interest to the Mariners. Here’s how Heyman leads off.
“There’s a lot of money in this market, and especially with at least a quartet of big-market teams (Yankees, Mets, White Sox and Astros) who mostly sat out free agency the past few winters but could be real players again, that should raise the free-agent stakes — and, of course, the prices. There will be more money spent than many figure, and not only because there’s lots of cash out there. This free-agent class isn’t nearly as bad as some have speculated.
“The trick today is to predict all the hauls of the top free agents. As in past years, we’ve enlisted one unbiased agent and one unbiased GM to make their predictions. I’ve added mine, having the advantage of seeing their guesses.”
You can find all of Heyman’s appraisals here, but below I have listed Heyman’s two-through-four selections.
2. OF Jacoby Ellsbury: Agent Scott Boras isn’t going to want to settle for less than Carl Crawford, who unlike Ellsbury didn’t play center field, didn’t bat leadoff (at least at the time) and hadn’t proved he could play in Boston. But the GM contends, “At the time, Crawford was better and more durable.” No surprise, after that remark, the GM’s prediction is the lowest here. Agent: 7 years, $146M. GM: 6 years, $100M. Me: 7 years, $147M.
3. SP Masahiro Tanaka: Word is he has even more poise and presence than Yu Darvish, though perhaps not quite the talent. Darvish’s success has to help Tanaka, though. Agent: $125M ($60M posting; 6 years, $65M). GM: $150M ($75M posting; 6 years, $75M).Me: $140M ($70M posting, $7 years, $70M).
4. OF Shin-Soo Choo: His huge year made him millions … make that, tens of millions. Jayson Werth-plus is the target figure. Agent: 6 years, $110M. GM: 6 years, $110M. Me: 6 yrs, $120M.
Marlon Byrd (OF Pirates – Age 36): Byrd’s numbers may have been dismissed a bit had he finished the season with the Mets, but after a strong showing down the stretch with the Pirates and then some postseason heroics (.364 in six games, big homer in the wild card victory), he’s in much better position to get a two-year contract. Right-handed power just isn’t easy to come by. In fact, among right-handed hitters, Byrd led all free agents-to-be with his 24 homers. 2013 stats: .291/.336/.511, 24 HR, 75 R, 88 RBI, 2 SB in 532 AB By Matthew Pouliot at Hardball Talk
Baseball Best Practice
When it came to the aggressive defensive shifting that has become vogue around the majors, especially in Pittsburgh, the Cardinals moved away from the practice this season in deference to their pitchers. Don’t expect that to continue next season. “I believe in a lot of things that the numbers show in shifting,” manager Mike Matheny said. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s something we do more in the future.”
Few teams are as active or deft with the defensive shift as the Pirates, who [used it in the] National League division series to usual success. The most obvious shift a Cardinal faces is when second baseman Neil Walker moves to shallow right field and the infield slides over for left-handed slugger Matt Adams. Earlier this season, Adams stung a line drive for what he felt was a certain base hit only to see Walker standing in shallow right to make the routine catch. According to Baseball Info Solution’s defensive metrics, the Pirates had the third-best defense in the majors when it came to saving runs in the field. They took away 68 runs with their gloves. Despite setting a franchise-record for fewest errors, the Cardinals ranked 14th in the NL by allowing an extra 39 runs with their defense.
“To be honest with you, there are certain times you feel like you’re in no man’s land as a middle infielder,” Walker said. “I think there was almost a trial period through last year and kind of the before. We kind of threw some things against the wall and a lot of them stuck and some of them didn’t stick. … They’ve asked us to really fully give in to it. I think that’s something that’s going to be universally implemented in the game of baseball. But it’s going to take some time.” That’s what Matheny found when he polled his pitchers.
The Cardinals did use defensive shifts some last season, but they abandoned the shifts for some pitchers this season after a few starters said it made them uncomfortable. Using statistics provided by the front office’s analytics department, Matheny presented the case for the shift and said some pitchers still had an uneasy feeling of leaving traditional spots uncovered.
Third-base coach Jose Oquendo does a lot of the positioning based on the pitcher and the hitter, but the Cardinals did not use the extreme shifts or imbalanced infield with three fielders on one side of the bases. The push for shifts will be made next spring. “On the defensive side, we always put the priority in our pitcher’s hands,” Matheny said. “When they see some things out of the norm, it does affect them in a way. There is reason to do it, and the game is trending that direction, too. I believe there is value. The Pirates have shown that it’s worked very well for them.” —By Derrick Goold at the St Louis Post-Dispatch